Travel Agent Marshall O’Hearn shares one of his client stories for this week’s Travel Agent Diaries entry.
My clients were booked for what was supposed to be a beautiful and relaxing trip to Sandals Regency La Toc in Saint Lucia. They were scheduled to leave on a Tuesday. Their itinerary had them flying Delta into Atlanta, for a short layover, before completing their journey to Saint Lucia. However, a Nor’easter came through and was going to hit on that same day, which would have severely disrupted their travels!
I contacted the supplier, the trip was booked through Funjet Vacations, and with no hassle at all had their flights to Atlanta changed. Now, they could now leave on Monday instead of Tuesday. However, the flight to Saint Lucia on Monday was fully booked, so they still had to fly to Saint Lucia on their original flight on Tuesday. Since they had extra time now, we changed their flight time to Atlanta for later on in the day rather than first thing in the morning. I then booked them a hotel for the night in Atlanta. There were no extra costs to change the flight itinerary, however they did have to cover the costs for their hotel stay in Atlanta.
My clients made it into Atlanta on Monday with ease. They had a relaxing evening, ready for their late morning flight out to Saint Lucia. The next morning they got to the airport well in advance expecting to get through security with the same ease, however they were stopped by a Delta agent and were not allowed to proceed to TSA security. The reason: one of them had a passport that had been “thoroughly cleaned” in the washing machine! While all of the pages were legible, the page with all of the client’s information was peeling away from the page behind it. This is a discretionary decision by each agent. So, even though they had used the same sparkling clean passport to fly multiple times prior, there was no such luck this time. My client’s called me at around 9:30 AM in a bit of a panic—as you can imagine! Their relaxing vacation in paradise was quickly falling apart.
When I got the phone call, I asked them to explain exactly what happened and why. From there, we discussed what their options were. Luckily, since they were in Atlanta, there is a Passport Agency not too far from the airport. They are able to process passports the same day at the facility, and so there was still hope! My clients went over to the Agency and went through the process of getting a replacement passport. Although not the easiest of processes, they had a brand new passport in their hands within a couple of hours!
Armed with a brand new passport, my clients were ready to continue their journey to Saint Lucia. However, by this time their flight had already left. At this point it was up to me to figure out their options, as clearly they were not going to be able to check in to their hotel that night. Within minutes they were rescheduled with Delta to now leave on Wednesday. Delta did not charge any fees for this change. Now, we had to figure out their stay at the resort.
Unfortunately, due to how late we were looking to cancel the first night of their resort stay, Sandals was still going to have to charge them the full amount for that night. However, they gave an option where if the clients could stay an extra day, they could move the first night that they were going to miss over to the back end of the stay. A quick call back to my clients had confirmation this is what they wanted to do. The issue now was to move return flights out one day.
Back on the phone with Funjet, we extended their stay at Sandals and got the information on the flights. Although Delta would not charge a change fee, they were going to charge the difference in fares, which came to $440! However, this is the best that Delta could do over the phone; Delta could potentially do even more in person at the airport. Since my clients had the time, I had them go back to the airport to the Delta desk. I let them know how much the change in fares would be currently, and that there was a chance this could be reduced at the airport. About 30 minutes later, they called me with some great news: Delta waived the change in fare fees!
Obviously, my clients were ecstatic! Their trip had been saved. All it cost them was an extra hotel stay in Atlanta, and of course some stress. In all honesty, they were lucky that the passport was rejected in Atlanta. What could have happened was that it was rejected while trying to return from Saint Lucia! There is no question in this scenario it would have taken a lot longer and more stress to get a new passport. While a stay in paradise is a dream to most, not being able to return home would likely be a nightmare!
Moving forward, I make sure to ask the condition of passports for all my clients. When they ask why, I have the perfect story to tell them (even if this one did have a happy ending!). If you are reading this and have a “questionable” passport, please do yourself a favor and get it replaced before it is time for renewal. It just may save your trip!
Pro-tip: Get yourself a passport wallet to hold your passport. Many now come with RFID blocking material, and you can get them to hold passports for the whole family. This will not only keep your passports safe and organized, but can also prevent an accidental passport cleaning!
Hello, my name is Marshall O’Hearn. I am a travel professional specializing in Caribbean and Costa Rican travel, for couples, families, and groups. My wife and I have a passion for travel. We traveled as much as we could as a young married couple, and now love traveling with our two children! For years, we would help our families and friends plan their travel. Eventually, we decided that it was time to help them professionally, and so we started Clear Water Travels!
Our mission as travel professionals is to match our clients with the vacation of their dreams. We make sure you are getting the best value based on your wants and needs. We can help you create a complex itinerary, taking the guess work out of vacation planning. Or for those with families that have never traveled before, rely on our expertise to make sure your vacation is one you will never forget!