Recently I had the privilege of traveling to Poland for SQL Day 2013. As always the people running the conference threw a great event. For this trip I got everything booked through the conference’s travel agent to setup the flights. This is a mistake that I will not be making again. When the travel agent booked the flight it was booked via the Polish airline called LOT. They serviced it out to Lufthansa, who purchased tickets on United for me. Not in theory this should have all gone just fine as they are all Star Alliance partners. However everything completely fell apart.
As we were about to leave from Los Angeles, CA to head to Europe (via Chicago) all of my wife’s Lufthansa tickets were canceled so United couldn’t issue tickets. We were then told to contact the travel agent and have them look into it. Slight problem with this plan, the travel agent is in Poland.
So we called the United 1K desk (for people who fly way to much like I do) and had them look at everything. According to them everything looked fine, except that by now we had missed our first flight. United told us to go to Lufthansa and have them issue new flights. Thankfully Lufthansa flies from Los Angeles so we simply walked over to Lufthansa in the International terminal and talked to them. They said that everything was still screwed up and that we needed to talk to United. United then said to call the travel agent. We got ahold of the travel agent who said that everything looked correct.
Eventually between United and Lufthansa we got tickets issued for a flight 12 hours after we were supposed to leave. This only took 4-5 hours on the phone with United (and at least two United employees) and the help of two Lufthansa employees at the Lufthansa desk at LAX (and several Lufthansa employees that were called by United).
So we make our way to Poland and enjoy our time at the conference.
Friday afternoon we check out flights (we flew out on Sunday) and everything was totally screwed up even further. I was taking different flights then I was booked on before, and Kris only had a flight from Poland to Germany and no flight home to the US from Germany. Needless to say this was a problem.
So I called United and was told that because it was booked through a travel agent I needed to go through them. So we called the travel agent again and was told that everything was fine.
I called United back, again, and was again told to call the travel agent. At this point I was pretty pissed (is there a polite way to say that I lost my shit?). I told the poor soul at United that I’d spent close to 10 hours on the phone with United for just this trip, and that if he couldn’t fix it to find me someone who could. We passed me off to a supervisor who reviewed everything (this was the second supervisor that I’d spoken with for this trip, the first being when getting the mess in Los Angeles fixed). She saw all sorts of problems and immediately began making phone calls to Lufthansa and Lot to get it fixed. And thankfully she didn’t take no for an answer but instead explained the situation to the staff at those airlines and was able to get us booked on flights home, the same flights home at that.
All in all if this hadn’t been booked through a travel agent I would have ended up saving myself probably a good couple of hours of running around trying to call different people.
Personally I’ve never seen the point of using a travel agent to book flights and hotels before. I can easily enough get access to all the information for all the airlines and hotels just by looking at their websites and making all the needed reservations online. I get that in the past a travel agent would have been handy as there was no Internet to use all this with, but in the modern day I can do things faster and easier by my self with the “help” of any travel agents. And in this case if I had gone with what the travel agent had said, I never would have left Los Angeles, and if I had my wife Kris never would have made it back home.
Let my nightmare be a lesson to you. Don’t use a travel agent. Book directly with the airline and be done with it.
It isn’t like this is the first time that a travel agency has screwed me either.
After reading this, I will NOT be using an Agent for my upcoming trip.
Yeah, it’s been probably 15+ years since I’ve used a travel agent. I started doing it on my own I think with the old “SABRE” system through Compuserve. Then again, I’ve never needed to book arrangements for a conference in Poland. International conferences can add complexity. Still, I’d probably make the attempt myself first. — Tom