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First United was dragging passengers off a plane to accommodate a crew shift; and now, less than two weeks later, American has hit a woman in the head with a stroller and a flight attendant has challenged a passenger to a fight. What is happening to the “friendly skies”?

The airlines have been trying to squeeze every thin dime from the passenger for years. Elimination of food, additional fees, fuel surcharges, and smaller seats with more rows became the norm. As passengers, we accepted it and considered it the downside of air travel. What I am guessing the airlines did not anticipate is that their paying passengers are not the only ones crammed into a silver metal tube. Their own employees are starting to feel the results of the pressure.

As I tax my own memory, the following incidents come to mind

  • The flight that was held on the tarmac for 8 hours
  • The flight where the pilot decided to preach the gospel
  • The flight where the flight attendant pulled the slide and checked out
  • The flight (well many) where the captains have been intoxicated and removed
  • The flight where they forcibly dragged a man off the plane
  • The flight where a flight attendant challenged a passenger to a fight

And let’s not even consider the lost baggage, the delayed or canceled flights because of crew fatigue, or the myriad of other non force-majeure issues passengers deal with every day. The message passengers are getting as they board a plane is that the flight crews are there because the government makes them be there.

Airline travel is a service industry like a hotel or a cruise ship. Not all of us are cut out for that—I know I’m not. And we all have bad days. But when we ask for another drink or some assistance, it seems that the request is truly putting off the crewmember—certainly not all, but a good amount.

What the airlines need to do is to mandate that all client-facing employees undergo some sort of basic customer service re-training. It can be online…at will. It does not need to be complex. After all, treating a client courteously is simple—just remember the golden rule.

OK, your move airlines!

 

So United really stepped in it this time

 

Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the latest airline screw up. United oversold a flight and needed seats for their crew to staff another plane at the destination. The solution United came up with (as all airlines will do) is to bounce a few passengers. Where United differed was that, for some still yet unexplained reason, they decided to forcibly remove one passenger causing injury and embarrassment to both the passenger and the company. We can follow along with the unfolding saga and will ultimately find out what truly happened. But all that aside, there is another valuable lesson to be learned here. Read the rest of this entry »

 

AdWeek recently had an article on social media use as it relates to travelers. It piqued my interest and I dug in and came away surprised. Hopefully we are all using social media by now. A Facebook page for your agency is as required as a website and business license. And if you are not…or if you might be slacking, check out some of these stats! Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest

 

Way back when in a and far, far away, airlines used to give travel agent certificates for free or discounted travel. One time, I had a bunch of them to use with US Airways and decided to just walk up to an airport with a suitcase and go someplace new based on the clothing in my bag—warm or cold. It was exciting. It was cool. I told the ticketing agent to just let me know the gate and not the destination. I tried to not know, but usually the gig was up when I arrived at the gate. But the serendipity was intoxicating. Fast forward to my discovery last week. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Hopefully every year you put together a marketing (and business) plan for your business. There are travel nights, travel shows, advertising, direct mail, email, Facebook ads, and Yellow Pages—well OK maybe not Yellow Pages, I have not been listed in more than a decade! But here’s a thought for you. Are sponsorships part of your overall marketing plan? If not, they should be; and here’s why! Read the rest of this entry »

When you need help, ask for it…or find it

 

Recently I became overwhelmed. I was falling behind on returning telephone calls, emails, and a final payment for a group was barreling down on me. I also had a non-travel related pressing project that was looming. While I like to think of myself as super human (and I did for a brief moment), I realized that there was no way in the world I was going to get all of this done in time. Something was going to get left behind and ignored. I needed help. But I am not in a position with my agency to hire staff. I have looked into virtual assistants in the past and could not justify the move—I tend to be one of those guys who think that no one can do a task as well as I can. So what to do? I just needed to get over this hump. Read the rest of this entry »

How to handle a fibbing client

We all are used to clients playing us against the Internet….their cousin who is a travel agent…or even the supplier directly. It comes with the territory it seems. Is it dishonest? I don’t necessarily think so. It is likely just a consumer making sure they are getting the most bang for their buck.  I bought a television a while ago, and I sniffed out Best Buy, HH Gregg, and Amazon to see if there was much difference. But every now and then, I get a client that not only shops, me; but comes out with an outright lie.
Read the rest of this entry »

New discoveries in the world of travel appdom*

Without a doubt, the travel technology we have seen develop over the past two decades has been amazing. We have gone from communicating via phone and fax to email and text. Considering we (travel agents) were one of the first industries to have desktop computers, I guess it should not be such a surprise. But that technology comes with a price as well. Certainly it has “stolen” some of our business by giving clients the ability to do some of what we used to do. And that is ok. As far as I am concerned, much of what today’s tech provides the client is what I despised doing in the first place. Now, I can concentrate on offering advice and crafting experiences rather than making sure a connection is legal and finagling with seat assignments. With that all said, I recently came across some new travel apps that impressed me and will now be in my arsenal of information provided to my clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Swinging at curve balls

When life hands you lemons; the adage says you make lemonade. You swing at a curve ball. But let’s be real here for a moment. When you get lemons, sometimes you just want to wallow in a pity party. But then, you need to pick yourself up again, reinvent yourself, and carry on. It’s called entrepreneurship and it is what we do. Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

The travel industry does not live in a vacuum

 

Hopefully as you grow your business you are taking advantage of all the mistakes people who have come before you have made. I know I have made more than my share of them. Hopefully, you are also taking advantage of the successes they have experienced. Learning from others usually is a tremendous asset to any business. But the one question I have for you is “where do you look for these warnings and inspiration?” Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a better mousetrap out there?

Facebook is such a fantastic tool for keeping in touch with old friends, new friends, and for sure colleagues that are across the globe. When a topic pops up where I feel I can contribute, I usually hop right in. And last week, a thread popped up in my Facebook newsfeed from a travel agent community and I hopped right in. Read the rest of this entry »

3 types of clients that drive me crazy

When I dive into something, I like to learn as much as possible. I may not be an “expert,” but I tend to feel I know more than the average person—after all, that is why they are coming to me. I take the time to do extra research. I ask for opinions from true experts. I learn from my mistakes and I am very willing to share my knowledge with others. Sometimes I am a fast learner and other times it takes more time to become proficient.  I am sure we are all the same! So why are there three types of customers that drive me crazy? Read the rest of this entry »

And today, I just don’t know

Usually I have a pretty decent insight into the industry and the world around me. I can usually pick out a signal when a big change is afoot with a supplier. I can look at reports and figure out what will be a “hot” destination for my agency. I can usually predict what impact on travel a poor (or rebounding) economy may have. SARS… Avian Flu… Mad Cow Disease… war… political unrest across the globe… I have been pretty good about managing the expectations for both my agency and my clients. Right now, I just don’t know. Read the rest of this entry »

We are all entrepreneurs. In that role, the critical trait we all must have, and execute well, is self-discipline. No matter if it is in our personal life or trying to make sure your travel business stays on the right track, self-discipline is critical.

It is the key to leading a healthier, happier, and more successful life. But, often times, it is elusive. I know it is for me; and I am reminded of that every time I stare blankly at a computer screen for what seems like hours with nothing to show.

I asked some colleagues what keeps them focused. Here are their thoughts. Do you agree? Read the rest of this entry »

Are you tuned up?

It’s funny how words change. Or maybe it is how we define them. Take the word “tune up.” To a musician, it may be the preparation for a concert. To a mechanic, it is all about spark plugs and filters. So, let’s cut to the chase and just say that for this week, I am talking about your website. And I am about to list some recent figures about the Internet that you will want to know. Read the rest of this entry »

Ocean Medallion: Cool or creepy?

I have to give them credit: the cruise lines are always at the forefront of the technology train. Flat screens in the cabins, digital images, sea passes. They also have been at the forefront of the customer service train as well. Now it appears that Carnival Corporation has married the two into a gizmo called the Ocean Medallion, which was released at the CES this past week in Las Vegas. I am not sure if it is incredibly cool, incredibly creepy, or a little of both! Read the rest of this entry »

Managing your 2017 goals in bite sized pieces

Happy New Year! Have you made your resolutions? What were they? Huh? Huh? I can’t help it. When a new year rolls around, I am full of energy and excitement. And I think that 2017 will bring plenty of excitement on many different fronts.

My goals are set and I am a believer in setting goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. I am also very careful to make sure the goals are attainable. Not easy goals, hard ones. Goals where I need to work to achieve. Many will be met, some will not!

Sure, I’d love to personally sell $10 million in travel this year. But that is unreasonable. So I try to keep things real in 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

Saying goodbye to a good friend of 8 years

Well, the title sounds a bit more melodramatic than reality; but hey, you’re reading. As is tradition at TRO, we are taking the last two weeks of the year to refresh, relax, and rejuvenate. New columns may be sparse as we revamp for 2017, which will be here sooner than we realize. And with every New Year comes fresh ideas; and sometimes, they replace older ones. And such is the case with the TRO Travel Agent Diary series. Read the rest of this entry »

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on

On Saturday, I attended the 117th Annual Army-Navy football game in Baltimore. It is a storied rivalry; some say the best in all sports. The Navy team had a 14-year winning streak and a record-setting season. They are scheduled to play in the Armed Forces Bowl and made the conference championship game last weekend. That game cost them two key players. Yesterday’s starting quarterback was the third stringer. Almost predictably, Navy lost. The streak was done. The bus ride home was surely like none of the ones over the past 14 years. But you know what? Navy will pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and carry on. Just like you need to do when you run into a setback in your travel business. Read the rest of this entry »

How do you refresh?

Wi-Fi has now become so generic that we expect to be able to connect anywhere from our mobile devices. For me, I tend to be tethered to a desk for work—I am not sure why, but it is what it is. I am an advocate to taking a break and getting away from it all—even for a few moments. And many times, that is just what the doctor ordered for a fresh mindset.

If we want to be innovative and generate ideas that will benefit our lives, we have to think. We need to brainstorm. And we need to relax, so our minds can formulate. Particularly now, as we look forward to a new year, a fresh perspective may be just what the doctor ordered. Read the rest of this entry »

What can travel learn from Amazon and Apple

Over the past several weeks, I have had the need to order from Amazon and Apple, and coming off of those experiences I realized that there is a good lesson we all can learn from the two giants. Typically I am not a fan of online purchasing, but in today’s environment, sometimes it is necessary. Often times it is a horrible experience, but this time—quite the contrary. Read the rest of this entry »