Murray had a few rants while we were away, so now it is my turn. I feel I need to say something about “do it yourself” airline bookings vs travel agent airlines bookings. So, here it goes.
When we were in Maun, Botswana, we were checking our emails after being out of WIFI range for 10 days and found out that our flight from Maun to Johannesburg had been cancelled and Air Botswana had put us on another flight 2 1/2 hours later. Unfortunately, that new flight put us into Johannesburg after our connecting flight back to Dar es Salaam departed.
We scurried over to the Air Botswana office, explained the situation to an agent there, handed her the South African Airways flight confirmation to show her that we had flights, and the first thing she said was “We didn’t know you had these flights. If you had booked through a travel agent, the flights would have been linked and we would have known you had a connecting flight.”
She then started to get all caught up with that particular fact and I had to suggest to her that regardless how we booked the flights, the cancellation of our flight is causing us to miss the South African Airways flight and that we needed to fix the problem. I then suggested she reroute us through Gabarone, or somewhere else, to get us to Johannesburg on time. Which she did and it all turned out just fine.
So, the airlines and the web have allowed the populace to book their own flights. Almost every airline in the world has a website to book tickets on. We have booked flights on Indian airlines, Belize airlines, Tanzanian airlines and Botswanan airlines from the confines of our home. They all let us do it!
For those savvy enough to plan and book their own flights, a travel agent is a redundant service. It is also a costly service. During our early African trip planning, we had a discount travel agent give us a quote on our flights. The routing was terrible and the cost was considerably more than we could do it. WHY WOULD WE USE A TRAVEL AGENT??????
Oh, wait a minute! Using a travel agent would link all our flights together so the airline agents would know our connecting flights. As far as I am concerned, that is the ONLY reason to use a travel agent.
So, now it is up to the airlines. If the airlines allow us to book flights all over the world, they should provide a method for us do-it-yourselfers to link the flights together. It could be a simple “Comment” box that gets attached to the “locator number” that ticket agents access. This comment box would allow us to type in information such as “This Air Botswana flight AB YYY connects with South African Airways flight SAA XXX, to Dar es Salaam that departs at 12:30 on the same day.”
The airlines have to move forward and realize that more and more people are planning their own travels and booking their own flights. They have to provide a method to link together flights on different airlines. Until they do, situations such as the one encountered in Botswana will continue to happen.