When your flight gets canceled, or your trip gets extended for two more nights and three more cities, who do you call? If this happens after normal business hours, your travel agency may pick up the phone – or they might forward it on to an after-hours travel specialist.
There are a half-dozen firms out there that specialize in handling calls from travelers in the middle of the night. I spoke with Shelley Cruz, General Manager of Emergency Travel Services, about this interesting cottage industry. Turns out that you can source the after-hours services separate from your travel agency, if that’s what you’d like to do. Why bother? In a word, service.
Some travel agencies are too small to justify staffing an after-hours desk. Others just don’t want the hassle of handling stranded, stressed-out travelers. What most corporate buyers don’t know is that you, the buyer, can source the after-hours provider – it doesn’t have to be your agency’s decision. If you’re not getting good service, it’s an easy switch.
All you need is a good handle on how many after-hours calls your travelers generate. Don’t know? Then they’ll want to know how much your firm spends on air travel, and how much of that is domestic versus international. The suppliers will also want to know if you have any special handling requests, like adding documentation to the call for accounting or reporting reasons.
Some suppliers may not bid on your business if your travel agency’s GDS isn’t one that the after-hours firm uses. It’s an Apple vs. Windows problem – good travel agents aren’t often productive on different platforms. Once a deal is signed, the switch can be made within a week or so. You’ll probably take longer if you need to publish a new phone number for your travelers.
Pricing is likely to be in the $15-25 range. That’s “per call per PNR”, which means you’re charged when a traveler calls and the supplier looks up his/her reservation (aka PNR). Doesn’t matter if it’s a 20-second “Which hotel am I at tonight?” or a two hour re-booking and exchange of a 5-leg around-the-world ticket. These shops will take care of your traveler when it counts.
If you’re interested, here are some of the players (I have not checked references on any of them):
ABC Corporate Services, a division of Thomas Cook
Here’s wishing you never need them, but if you do, that you’ll be well served!