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Travel agents spill: Tales of nightmare clients that will make you cringe

If you’re still a travel agent after the pandemic, you have passion, resilience and a potential shot at sainthood. Or you’re just a glutton for punishment. There are definitely good days, but there are also days when demands are relentless, changes are constant, and patience is tested to the limit. The following stories are from those days. 

If you’re still a travel agent after the pandemic, you have passion, resilience and a potential shot at sainthood. Or you’re just a glutton for punishment. There are definitely good days, but there are also days when demands are relentless, changes are constant, and patience is tested to the limit. The following stories are from those days. 

Consider this a group therapy session. Here, travel agents from around the world took to to complain about their customers who aren’t always right, the clients who, let’s face it, need a travel agent more than anyone else. Check out the site if you ever need to vent or just to remember you’re not alone when it comes to frustrating clients.

Can you dress me too? 

This agent’s client probably still has their mother lay their clothes out every morning.

  • Client: “Is it cold in Alaska?”
  • Agent: “Yes, definitely. You should bring warm clothes.”
  • Client: “So, I should bring a sweater?”
  • Agent: “You’re going dog-sledding on a glacier.”
  • Client: “…so, two sweaters?”

Travel agent from the U.S.

Don’t ask for details!

Some clients know exactly what they want and when they want it. Others… don’t.

  • Agent: “Thank you for calling [Company]. This is [Agent’s name]; how can I assist you today?”
  • Caller: “I want to book a flight to Virginia Beach for Christmas break.”
  • Agent: “Okay, and what day would you like to leave?”
  • Caller: “Oh… I didn’t know you were going to ask me that… I guess I’ll have to call back.”

Travel agent from the U.S.


Friends with benefits

This Kiwi travel agent was contacted by a friend from high school to book a huge holiday for her to the Pacific Islands. There were four couples going, plus her two little kids. The client wanted the cheapest possible flights. But we all know what cheap flights mean: usually “no changes, no refunds”. The agent very carefully explained this to their client/friend over email, took loads of notes and had the client and her husband review everything before signing. They got this email two weeks later.

  • Friend: “So, [Couple #4] can’t come any more, and [Couple #3] want to change how their names are spelled. Can you send Agent the refund for [Couple #4], and change [Couple #3] to [Name that is not their legal passport name].“
  • Agent: “Hey, so, as discussed, there’s no refund possible, and we can’t change [Couple #3]’s details as they must be their legal names.”
  • Friend: “What the h***?! You never told me that! You have to get my money back!”
  • Agent: *sends the signed emails highlighted with the clause about no refunds or changes* “Sorry, but it’s all here like we and [Her husband] agreed. I can get a refund on the hotel, but not the flights.”

At this point, the client/friend of over 20+ years goes into meltdown, half pleading, half threatening. It got even bigger with the client eventually hurling abuse at the agent. Then later:

  • Friend: *via email* “So, I rang the airline and they agreed to give us a refund.”
  • Agent: “Really?”
  • Friend: “They said we were top customers, so you should issue us a refund straight away.”
  • Agent: “Okay, well, they haven’t advised us of this, so I’ll check and let you know. It might take a couple of days.”
  • Friend: “That’s fine!”

Turns out the client was not told any of that (big shock). She also complained on the airline’s socials claiming to have refundable tickets.

As a sign of goodwill, [Couple #4]’s tickets were refunded, but with the caveat that the clients use the refund and travel within a year of the initial booking. The initial booking was made on 25 February. On 24 February, the agent gets a call:

  • Couple #4: “Hi! We thought we might use this refund!”
  • Agent: *HEAD-DESK*

Travel agent from New Zealand.

Cruise ports for all

This travel agent works for an agency that books only cruises. The agency has the word ‘CRUISE’ in its name, and ‘CRUISE’ is plastered all over its website. It’s also in the phone message customers hear before being put through to an agent.

  • Agent: “Thank you for calling [Agency]. This is [My name] speaking; how may I help you?”
  • Client: “How much are flights to Jamaica?”
  • Agent: “We’re a cruise-only agency; we do not deal directly with flights and airfare.”
  • Client: “Fine, how much are cruises to Jamaica?”
  • Agent: “It depends; there are a lot of different factors: length of time you’re sailing, what ship you’re on, where you leave from—”
  • Client: *interrupting agent* “I want to leave from Michigan.”
  • Agent: “I’m sorry, there are no cruises that originate in Michigan. Other than the Great Lakes, which cruise ships don’t sail on, Michigan is land-locked.”
  • Client: “But I want to leave from Michigan. I live there.”
  • Agent: *screaming internally* 

Travel agent from the U.S.

Always open

Despite the door to this agency being locked and the closed sign prominently displayed, a person tried to open the door. After being told the store was closed, she continued to tap on the glass door. The owner walked over to the door and opened it.

  • Customer: “Finally! Your door isn’t—“
  • Owner: “We’re closed!” *pointing to the sign* 
  • Customer: *taken aback* “How rude!”

The customer went away, but returned with her husband who ended up shattering the glass door. The woman tried to climb through the opening. 

  • Customer: “I want to make a complaint right now! Your door just cut me—“

Travel agent from the U.K.


No reply

Because travel agents should be mind readers.

  • Agent: “Thank you for calling [Travel agency]. How may I assist you?”
  • Caller: “I want to file a complaint.”
  • Agent: “All right, and may I know what is it about?”
  • Caller: “About the previous girl that talked to me.”

The last time the client had called was two months prior. She had wanted to amend check-in dates for her hotel booking (she was due to check in in three days).

  • Agent: “Ma’am, from my record, it shows that you requested to amend the date from [date in November]. However, we didn’t proceed with the amendment, as we did not receive any confirmation from your end.”
  • Caller: “What?! That’s ridiculous! I’m sure I replied immediately! Check your stupid system again!”
  • Agent: *checks again and still finds nothing* “I’m sorry, ma’am. I really don’t see any confirmation emails from you. And since it’s been two months, I will have to double check with [Hotel] about the rate and if they still have rooms on the date that you want to amend, and there might be some price difference.”
  • Caller: *starts screaming* “OH, MY GOD! I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS! So, you are going to waste another five to ten minutes of my life just because you didn’t do your job well?! And even worse, I have to pay more for your mistakes?!”
  • Agent: “All right, ma’am, please give me a minute and I’ll go through all our emails and try to locate the email that you sent us, okay? May I know which email you replied to?”
  • Caller: “You better! I think I replied to noreply@[website].”
  • Agent: *stunned for two seconds* “Ma’am, when it says ‘noreply,’ that means it’s an automated email and you should not reply to it. Even if you did, we will not receive anything.”

Travel agent from Malaysia.

It’s different in First Class

Just on closing time on a Friday a travel agency’s phone rings. It’s the wife of an important client calling to check the arrival time her husband’s flight. She is given the information.

Not a minute later, the phone rings again:

  • Caller: “I’m terribly sorry; I forgot to mention he travelled First Class. I thought perhaps…”
  • Agent: “Same arrival time.”

Travel agent in France.