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  • Writer's pictureElaine Green

Airline Woes - and the failure to communicate!

Since the Covid pandemic hit us in 2020 the air/travel industry was forced to change drastically, understandably, but not for the better!

Airlines were put under huge financial pressure when the pandemic spread across the world and in their pursuit for survival they laid off many talented and experienced staff and outsourced their support to overseas call centres. It's a harsh economic reality and I don't think I blame the airlines too much for hard choices made, but it has come at a price!

It was estimated that over 62 million travel related workers lost their jobs in the pandemic. Over 400,000 of these were airline workers.

I have experienced the highs and lows of the travel industry for more than 20 years and now specialise in supporting clients and their pets travel cost effectively and safely. At the beginning of my career I had 3 years of intense career based training. I attended fares, rail, hotel and cargo training courses and all the companies I worked for had regular refresher courses to make sure all staff knew the most up to date information.

I enjoyed all of the perks the industry had to offer: fun weekends abroad, very cheap flights free hotels and more. But then two things changed the travel industry forever. The internet and 9/11.

I can honestly say 9/11 was the worst day in my professional career. It still haunts me to this day. We were working in the UK and had clients who were in the Twin Towers at the time of the terror attacks. It was horrendous! We had stranded and scared clients calling from all corners of the globe, desperate to get home. They were prepared to drive across continents to get back to their loved ones as no flights were in operation. The sadness I feel for all those directly and indirectly affected by that day will never leave me and I often think of those who lost their lives.

After 9/11 came the real surge of the internet. Up until the early 2000's travel agents, both corporate and leisure, were in high demand as the average Joe was unable to access information they required to make their own holiday or flight booking. The Internet opened a whole new option to the travel consumer and allowed them to bypass the travel agent and make their own travel arrangements.

If you are from the UK, do you remember Lunn Poly or Going Places? I worked in the city of Oxford at the start of my career in the mid 90's, there were at least three branches of both retail agents in the city along with American Express, STG, My Travel and many more. Fast forward 20 years and they're all gone. Don't get me wrong, there are still travel agents out there on the high street, but nowhere near as many!

Back to the present day and travellers need more help than ever. The internet is a fantastic resource, but there is no substitute for knowledge and skill of an experienced travel booker. Guidelines and restrictions are in constant flux and the information on the internet is often outdated and wrong. Information on the airlines' websites is not always correct and their customer service helplines are often lacking in the experience and knowledge to properly confirm your travel plans and give the right advice.

So far this week I have had three airline help desks give me incorrect, misleading or missing information regarding pet transportation. If I call a European Airline more often than not I find myself talking to someone in Asia who is reading a script. They invariably fail to advise me of critical information and often give me misinformation. There's no easy fix for this, the knowledge and experience has been largely lost from the airline industry.

A recent example was just a five minute change to a flight schedule for a pet; that increased the airport transfer time; that triggered a new regulation; that required the pet to be held overnight, thereby missing the connection. But the airline failed to inform that the pet hotel service at that airport had been shut down due to Covid restriction. A confirmed airline booking would have ended with the pet being stranded in transit, without care! Simply because of a five minute rescheduling by the airline. Had I not checked and rechecked every stage of the travel plan my client's pet would have been stranded...

Thankfully, there are still some truly amazing reservation and customer service staff who are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful! You just have to be lucky enough to get one, they are in short supply. Equally, there are still some fantastic old school agents (like me ;o) out there who can help navigate you through these stormy seas and get you (and your pets!) safely to your destination.

It is more important than ever, if you choose to organise your own travel, to have direct contact with your airline to confirm any special arrangements such as pet transport. Check, double check, and tripe check, all the information that is being given to you. Look for discrepancies and confirm the booking information. Keep records of the calls you have, and the information confirmed. If you can, back everything up with emails and have everything documented in writing!

*information from this article sourced from;

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