BUT (yes, you're looking at a big, fat "but") they are just machines, and cannot do the best job for everyone. Yes, a booking engine may be available 24 hours a day, but it will not make tentative bookings, or request seats for lower fares on a waitlist basis, or tell you jokes, or flirt with you. You should call a travel agent if you:
- would prefer to trust an agent with years of experience, who knows all the tips and tricks, and who asks all the right questions.
- don't have time to enter the same data repeatedly on every different website;
- are otherwise frustrated with the online booking tools;
- don't trust the internet with your credit card information;
- have a complicated itinerary, with multiple destinations, or open-jaws, or stopovers en route;
- want a round-the-world ticket;
- are totally flexible, are flying halfway round the world, and don't care how you get there, just as long as the price is right;
- have different people flying together only part of the way;
- have a friend who booked elsewhere and you want to be on the same flights;
- are not convinced that the machines have come up with the best option FOR YOU;
- have special requests, such as unaccompanied minors, or disabled passengers, or want to take your pet along;
- are wondering if you need a visa to visit the country in question;
- want additional arrangements, such as rental car or hotel, in conjunction with your flights;
- just want to hear the friendly voice of someone eager to please you, and by doing so manages to pay the rent and feed the kids.
A good travel agent earns his or her money by providing the service element that includes the above and more.
By Michael Dickinson
JUST Travel - Your English-language travel agency in Germany