Saying it’s a tough time for agents right now is possibly the biggest understatement of the decade. Agents are being straight out abused for something that is completely out of their control and it’s not acceptable nor cool.
“You’re a travel agent? Oh that must be a great job. Do you get to go on free flights all the time? “
Spoiler alert. The answer is no. It never was.
Yes, being a travel agent is usually an awesome job, I’ve been there and done that and it was brilliant. However, people don’t seem to understand the extent of your skills on a day to day basis and how thinly you have to spread yourself to maintain excellent service to your customers, plus business relationships with airlines and suppliers. And that’s before a global pandemic decides to waltz on in and create unmitigated chaos.
Cue sleepless nights over concerns for clients and financial worries, with the added stab in the back from the media, and the abuse from clients that were once so happy to be dealing with such “a great travel agent”.
I’m pretty sure I speak on behalf of all agents, everywhere, when I say that you are sick and tired of being verbal punching bags for pretty much everyone who walks in to, calls, and emails your store.
What happened to supporting one another through difficult times? Where did this mysterious compassion disappear to? And who’s standing up for you on the bigger stage?
Why does it have to come to this?
COVID-19 is a stressful time for everyone, we get that, but the fact that this Flight Centre post actually has to be a thing, makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Though I’m glad it was posted, because it needed to be said and frankly, should have been said publicly for all agents before now.
When we said, “enough is enough” in the post, there was so much you all wanted to get off your chest.
The common theme in the 156+ comments on the above post was that hardworking staff are being extremely mistreated on a daily basis, in person and on a number of online platforms.
Jamie, via Facebook, said “the amount of abuse I copped from a few customers was unacceptable. There have been a few times where I had to just tell them “I’m going to hang up now” and do it… While I can totally understand the frustration they are feeling (I also had to cancel a trip), I can only tell someone the information I have from the airline. I cannot control the time it takes for an airline to refund me, or for a policy to be extended to December.
“I know this pandemic is hurting people and their families, but we are people, too and we deserve respect. If someone is too heated to have a calm conversation, they need to hang up and try later.”
Jamie, via Facebook
The abuse has also got physical for some agents. Jesse, on Facebook, said, “my colleague got a chair thrown at her so this (sign) is about time”.
“Very sad indeed, girls in our Helloworld office abused over the phone demanding to see the boss for a chat re: refund from an airline who were only offering a credit at the time. Subsequently, I’m greeted with 4 men in there early 20s walking in the office, very testing times indeed. Our girls are working harder than ever for less than ever to provide the correct info every day. It doesn’t help that each airline each supplier has different conditions that seem to be updated weekly.”
Debbie on Facebook suggested they also need signs like this “for people going berko over toilet paper and hand sanitiser.” and thinks that “this is a very sad reflection on the PUBLIC, not the Travel Industry.”
At the end of the day, people are upset, and losing money is horrific. But we are all suffering, so surely a little kindness and understanding are what we need to make things more bearable.
Shouting at agents or negative media coverage is not going to speed up airline refund processes, waiver fees, reopen borders or get the virus to magically vanish.
So let’s put an end to this, shall we?
COVID-19 is nobody’s fault. Instead of pointing fingers and jeopardising the mental health of agents, let’s navigate these stormy seas together.
So, next time you walk past a travel agent, pop in and ask them how they’re going. Give them a social distance pat on the back, send them a smile, or even better, buy them a bottle of wine!
Because right now, every travel agent need a friend.
Please be kind.
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