An Inside Look at all things 3D Travel

From the viewpoint of owner, Carol-Beth Scott

Why We Don't Sell Airfare

man-and-plane

Sometimes saying no is the best answer. 

​If there is something we can do to make our client's lives better, the 3D Travel Team wants to do it. Every day of the year, 3D Team members are on call for traveling and planning clients. We wake up before dawn to modify existing reservations, make new reservations, plans and memories. Often multiple components of any vacation are not commissionable and modifications can even make existing commission go down, but everyone here takes our job as client advocates seriously. We strive to treat our clients even better than the way we want to be treated. And because we don't like to hear the word "No" we try very hard not to say it, but in the case of including airfare, it turns out no is the best kindness we can give. 

​For the first 13+ years of our agency's existence, we said a flat No to every airfare booking. Why? Because in the first few months of my very first year of owning the agency, I had a request to add airfare to a Walt Disney World booking. I'd done some class time and thought I knew airfare well enough to book it well, but I grossly overestimated my training. The price of what I quoted and what was pulled up in the initial part of the booking process changed dramatically by the end of the booking. I didn't realize pricing could change mid-booking and the increase for the large group of travelers would have destroyed 3D Travel before it began, taking every dime of my start up funds. After staying up all night in tears, I found out the fares hadn't been ticketed and I was able to cancel. I vowed to never, ever, not ever book airfare again. And I didn't.

Then in the last couple of years, we've had to deal with ads for airfare "included" in the cost of cruise and caribbean bookings from vendors we already sell. What to do? While we know the "included" airfare is truly folded into the cost of the booking, we also knew we needed to look at it as an option for our clients, because free is awfully hard to pass up. If this was advantageous for them, we needed to make it happen. 

Like everything else at 3D Travel, we methodically pursued excellence. We took over a year to learn how to book airfare with care, set up an in-house training program and even set up separate escrow accounts to protect our agents from mistakes. (Remember my beginnings....) And then we launched the option to include airfare in bookings with a wish and a prayer!

And we immediately experienced issue after issue.... after issue. None were our fault. All were problems with airfare. 

Despite our air bookings taking place with multiple cruise lines and land operators and some of them not even being "free" we saw consistent problems and very quickly the 3D Team members who had airfare booked became consumed with fixing the issues it created. Our clients were stressed and inconvenienced and so were we. All of a sudden, the desire to exceed expectations spun quickly into damage control. Instead of making our client's lives better, we'd made them worse. It was an awful feeling.

And we backtracked and rode out the pain of what we'd done. Everyone has flown now & while we still feel the sting, we also still see those ads for "free" and reduced airfare and of course, it doesn't help. Why did 22 bookings go badly in a short period of time? I mean, I'm not stupid & that much evidence certainly can't be ignored, but still. Why? I asked this question every chance I got. 

Finally, a vendor gave me a straight answer. And without throwing that person under the bus by using her name or who she represents, I'm going to share the wisdom she gave me. And no, this wasn't even one of the vendors we experienced issues with, just one of the many that offers "free" airfare promotions to get your business. I tell you that so you'll know it wasn't her excuse for what had happened to us & to our clients. 

She likened airfare in most packages and cruises as the kind of gift you receive as a child. Remember how you're supposed to "get what you get & you don't throw a fit!" so if you want ice cream and you love chocolate but your mom hands you vanilla, you're supposed to be grateful for that vanilla and not ask for more? If it didn't happen to you, surely it happened to someone around you. Maybe you say it to your kids? And while I'm all in on teaching children gratefulness as a virtue, I don't know that 3D clients need to develop that virtue as part of their vacation experience. Vacations are supposed to be a time of less stress & more joy.

She went on to tell me they're taking the airfare no one wants, rights for the consumer are few and far between and to manage the expectations of our clients we need to tell them to just "take what you can, remember it's free and hope for the best." Hope for the best! We hadn't seen much of that Best. I can tell you that!

This explained why our clients were moved without warning to separate dates that didn't even match up with their arrival, families were separated and no-frills was an understatement when it came to their care. We couldn't have been more disappointed with the service provided for our clients and now I knew why. I was supposed to preface the sale with "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." But you know what? That isn't at all in keeping with the values, integrity and level of client care at 3D Travel Company. We don't manage expectations at the bottom of the barrel. While we do safeguard our client's financial investment in their travels, it's certainly not the only value we place on their vacation. We balance this with what they receive and do our very best to make sure they don't purchase something that actually robs from the value of their vacation instead of adds to it. And that's what this "bottom of the barrel" airfare does. It does rob their joy, peace and relaxation. Basically, it takes away from all the reasons any of us travel, anyway! 

You might have been sent here from your 3D Agent as they endeavor to help you understand why they said No to what feels like a simple request for airfare. I hope sharing our journey and understanding and ultimate decision to (again) never book airfare will show you they have your very best interests at heart. Because I can tell you, they absolutely do! And they will show you every step of your vacation planning, while you're on vacation and even after your vacation.  Quite simply, they're the best.  

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