Newton’s Law of Travel

During the past few weeks I’ve read many articles with the tips and tricks on how to get the best deal on airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, and leisure vacation packages. But be careful what you ask for – and who you ask.

As a travel agent, I can’t help but think of Newton’s Third law of Motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” While Newton was right on, he was not in the travel industry and those opposite reactions (mostly unseen by the consumer) can wreak havoc on your agent.

For example:

Airlines. There are dozens of ways to save a buck or a thousand with the airlines. The problem is that they tend to be “illegal” in terms of their contract of carriage. Our own Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia skirted one rule while duck hunting with our Vice President. He purchased a round trip ticket because it was less expensive than the one-way ticket he needed, since he was returning on Air Force 2.

Hidden Cities are another workaround. Let’s say that there is a seat sale between West Palm Beach and Baltimore, but you want to travel to Philadelphia and there is no seat sale that is as low as the one to Baltimore. If you booked the ticket from West Palm Beach to Baltimore with a connection in Philadelphia, and got off in Philly, you would be using the hidden cities trick.

Back to back ticketing is another scheme where two low fare tickets are purchased and only one way of each set is used to skirt the higher price. Rarely is the client punished for these crimes, but Newton’s reactions will be felt full force by your travel advisor. Your agency will probably be charged the full walk-up fare for the discounted route and there is little it can do to defend itself. If not paid, the airlines will prevent them from ticketing – essentially putting them out of business for that particular airline.

Please do not put your agent in an awkward position by asking for a favor “just this once” because once is all it may take!

Car rentals. You walk up to the counter and the new employee offers you an upgrade at a minimal cost. Sounds like a great deal. Chances are that they have already screwed up your reservation and probably don’t have your requested vehicle. While it may sound good on the surface, Newton’s Law will probably be prevailing.

Once again, Newton’s Third Law swings into effect. This “moneysaving swap” will negate your agent’s booking which will eliminate any commission he or she might have received, but if there is an issue with the rental, your agent is now effectively out of the loop, leaving you to fend for yourself directly with the rental company.

Hotels. A well-respected daily publication (when their reporters are not plagiarizing) recently mentioned a “tip” to look for large companies in the area of your destination and to call local hotels looking for their special “corporate rate.” This is fraud, pure and simple. This rips off the hotels from needed revenue. This will rip off your travel agent because these negotiated rates are never commissionable. And Newton proves himself once again because the properties must recover these costs in some way – resort fee, exorbitant telephone fees, increasing rates, parking fees, etc. – to you.

Workarounds and loopholes are best left to Enron and the IRS. In travel, let’s keep Sir Isaac at bay and work towards a win-win relationship for everyone. We are all entitled to be compensated for our work, product or service. Let’s not shortchange the effort.

Besides, do you really want to rip off a company that will be transporting you at 30,000 feet above the planet?

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