Why does it take a hurricane for consumers to appreciate the value of service?

Or an erupting volcano? Or an air traffic control strike? Or a computer systems failure (remember the infamous BA glitch earlier this year?)

We’re all familiar with the old phrase ‘You get what you pay for’ and never has that cliché been more relevant than over the course of the past few weeks when Ryanair began its ‘drip drip’ release of announcements regarding sweeping flight cancellations across its entire network. The headlines have declared that it’s all down to a cock-up over pilot rostering but I suspect that there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye and sources on the inside suggest that this problem was known about in Ryanair for quite some time but has only begun to manifest itself in recent times.

The low-cost airline has resp0onded in its usual way by releasing millions of seats at ridiculously low prices but will that appease the travelling masses and cause them to quickly forget the hassle and expense that the current cancellations have already caused? After all, is €9.99 all that cheap when you run the risk of it being cancelled at some point in the future when you’re already abroad; are provided with minimal notice and the alternative flight home (if you can secure one) costs a couple of hundred quid; let alone what you may have to pay in additional accommodational and meal costs? OK, so you’re supposed to be compensated in full by the offending carrier by making a claim. Good look with that!

This PR disaster for Ryanair came just days after the huge disruption caused to airline schedules by the quick appearance of a couple of devastating hurricanes across the Caribbean, Florida and Texas which caused thousands of flights to be cancelled and messed up the travel arrangements of hundreds of Irish travelers, including many honeymooners. Those that had made their own travel arrangements were left to fend for themselves whereas those who had booked through travel agents or tour operators were in constant contact with those respective companies as they initiated an ‘all hands-on-deck’ policy in order to ensure that their customers were re-booked, re-routed and provided with alternative travel arrangements. I spoke with one well-known tour operator last week who specializes in North America and whilst their entire staff were pulling long hours over an entire weekend trying to look after their valued clients, not one employee of any of the very airlines whose schedules had been disrupted or their flight cancelled could be contacted! What does that tell you about where these companies priorities lie? It doesn’t appear to be with their customers!

Traditional travel agents and tour operators can’t compete with the billion-dollar tech budgets of the online giants such as Expedia or Booking.com and their ilk but where they beat them hands down is in the service department — particularly when things go wrong — which seem to be happening more and more often. True travel professionals value your business and will do what it takes to hold on to it. With online providers, you are just another transaction reference on a spreadsheet.

Think about that!

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