Changing flights easy: Alan Ward


Holidaymakers not used to using a travel agent to book a flight across the Tasman are being urged to think again.

Would-be travellers taking advantage of the long-awaited trans-Tasman bubble when it opens April 19 are being advised their plans may have to alter if there’s a Covid outbreak.

A case of ‘flyer beware’, in other words.

Two Queenstown travel agents warn those doing their own online bookings could struggle to change their flight if there’s a Covid disruption.

‘‘By yourself you’ll struggle to get another flight because you are trying to get through to the airline at the same time as absolutely everyone is,’’ Tori Keating says.

‘‘Within 30 seconds of you trying to call the airline, you can well and truly be no.932 in the queue.

‘‘By the time you actually get to speak to someone, all of those seats in the next available flight will be full.

‘‘We have a direct line to the airline that bypasses the hundreds and hundreds of other callers.’’

‘We have a direct line’: Tori Keating

Longtime local travel agent Alan Ward says: ‘‘The value of an agent is you can actually just ring the person and say, ‘got this problem’.

‘‘And I can jump on my system and get that sorted — we can do it while you’re on the phone.’’

Keating says: ‘‘A lot of people actually don’t want to hassle their travel agent with bookings across the Tasman.

‘‘But at the end of the day, we’re grateful for anything we can take.

‘‘You will pay a bit more but, generally speaking, we are remunerated by the airline, by hotels …’’

She charges $50 commission to book a return flight to Oz.

‘‘We can waive the credit card fees Air New Zealand can’t, so realistically it ends up being about $35 extra.’’

Ward says ‘‘some people, for $50, absolutely see the value’’.

‘‘Others say, ‘nah, nah, we’ve always done it ourselves, we’re just going to continue’.’’

However, if they’re badly caught out by a Covid flight disruption, they might think again,  he suggests.