Travel, particularly abroad, has essentially been killed for the foreseeable future. But what agents and agencies do now – at a time when virtually no one is actually travelling – could make the difference for companies when travel makes its inevitable comeback.
Retail Doctor Group CEO Brian Walker says brands risk damage for three to five years among clients who feel significantly aggrieved during the COVID-19 crisis, as customers inundate travel companies with cancellations and enquiries.
While Mr Walker said that price and convenience were two of the major drawcards for booking holidays through the travel trade, post-sales service was also vital – and some travel companies are now in a struggle to retain their reputation as customers complain about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), one target appears to have been online travel agent (OTA) Webjet, who has attracted numerous complaints from people who have been forced to cancel travel.
“No one’s answering,” customer Ailsa Purdon told AFR. “They’re just completely anonymous.
“The only communication we had with them was automated replies.”
Ms Purdon’s gripe was one of more than 800 complaints about an update posted by Webjet on its own Facebook page.
In response to the negative feedback, which mainly dealt with wait times to talk to the OTA, a Webjet spokeswoman blamed an “unprecedented” number of calls and coronavirus restrictions in the Philippines rendering its main contact centre “unavailable to take calls”.
“Every team member in Melbourne has been brought in and is working as fast as possible … customers with imminent travel plans are being prioritised,” Webjet said.
Flight Centre has received less complaints, and even praise for its employees’ handling of some situations, but some clients have apparently been disappointed with a $300 cancellation fee the agency has slugged customers who have cancelled trips and not postponed them.
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