I don’t care how you get here,
Just get here if you can.
— Brenda Russell, “Get Here”
Every once in a while a situation arises when you need to travel immediately to a place far away. Perhaps Aunt Mabel has had a sudden medical crisis and you really want to be there for her. This is a time when you really should use a travel agent.
Twenty years ago, the only way to get a reasonably priced air ticket was to buy a non-refundable, round trip ticket weeks ahead of departure. A one way ticket would always cost more than a round trip ticket. As a short notice traveler, the only way to get around these rules was to get a Compassion or Bereavement fare from an airline, providing your relative’s name, and the name of the hospital or funeral home which would corroborate your needs. The resulting air ticket was still costly but it was much less than the only other option, a very expensive ticket.
Now there are no Compassion or Bereavement fares anywhere but there are possible ways to get an air ticket on short notice for a reasonable price. These options are not always available for every date or destination, but a travel agent can make short work of figuring out the best option.
Anyone who has tried to book airline tickets online knows that not all airlines participate in any single website. Some airlines sell only through their own site, so you can spend more time than you want trying to compare all the details on multiple sites. Travel agents use a universal booking system which searches all the airlines and can pull up the least expensive combinations of flights on any given day.
One way fares are now available to many places. You would not necessarily need to select flights for both directions before you even start your trip. Especially with a medical emergency, the possible return date can be uncertain. With a one way purchase, you only commit to the first part of the journey and can schedule the return later on. A travel agent can quickly check whether one way fares are offered to your destination, and find the flights that have those fares in a matter of minutes.
Travel agents can quickly search flights from and to multiple airports. This can be helpful if you or the person you are visiting live near more than one airport. Having more options might yield a better price.
But the most important reason you should use a travel agent in this kind of situation is that you could benefit from the help of a dispassionate, skilled professional who does this all the time. She can work quickly on flights while you do other, important things which only you can do. Doing things you are not accustomed to while you are under duress increases the likelihood you will make poor decisions. You don’t need that additional stress!
Many of us grew up with a strong Do It Yourself ethic. I think it shows maturity to realize that we are good at some things and other people are better at many things. The trick is to know when it makes more sense to have someone else do those things for us. Everyone comes out ahead.
I hope that your Aunt Mabels and Uncle Geralds live long, healthy lives, and that you only have good news reasons for short notice travel – like when your cousin realizes he won’t be able to use his tickets to the Rolling Stones concert this weekend and he wants you to have them. Good news or bad news, call me and I will help!
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
18 April 2013