I’m not sure how Travel Agents can continue to exist.
We’ve been thinking about making a Thanksgiving trip out to Florida to visit some friends and my parents. We did some research online and discovered that the tickets would cost anywhere from $600 to $1200 per person depending on travel dates. The low end was about our budget for the trip, so we weren’t thinking too hard about it.
But we both have frequently flyer miles. Mike has them from his many, many flights between Phoenix and Newark on Continental. I have them through my many, many years of charging up a storm on my American Express card. This morning, I told Mike I wanted to make a decision. Yes or no — were we going to go? It would all hinge on whether we could use miles for travel during that holiday week.
We already had a printout of the dates and flights we wanted from our Web research on CheapTickets.com (Mike’s preferred travel booking company). We picked the combination that was best for us and I called Continental’s OnePass service center to see if we could use miles for those dates. We could — but it would take 50,000 miles for each of us. We had plenty to spare — heck we seem to earn them but not spend them. So while Mike reserved our tickets and used his miles to pay for his flights, I got online with American Express and put in the point to miles transfer request for the number of miles I needed in my OnePass account (45,000). I paid $18 for this privilege and was told it would take 1 to 5 days. I did all of this while Mike was still on the phone. We got the Continental reservation number and instructions for me to call back when my miles were in the OnePass account.
That turned out to be about 30 minutes later. I logged into my OnePass account and the miles were there. I called Continental, gave them my OnePass number, and the person on the phone pushed the necessary keys to apply miles to the flight. She took a credit card number for $10. Then switched me over to Budget so I could reserve a car. Within 3 minutes, that was done, too.
So we booked two tickets from Phoenix to Ft. Myers one day with a return flight from Jacksonville to Phoenix 8 days later and got a rental car for the one-way drive. It took less than an hour to do all this and it cost us a total of about $300 and 100,000 miles.
(Since my miles are based on dollars spent and I transfered 45,000 of them, I’ll be sure to tell my Mom that my plane ticket cost $45,000.)
The trip is now officially on the calendar. That makes all the difference in the world in our household. If it’son the calendar, it’s a commitment. Until then, it’s just wishful thinking.
And with so many travel tools available on the Web and by simply calling the airlines and car rental places directly, how is it that the travel agent business survives?