It is undeniable that Covid has had a huge impact on how we travel. From where we can go, to how we get there, extra precautions, more flexibility, and extra costs. All of these things have only highlighted why it is so important to book with a travel agent during Covid to save not only money, but to save you from easy mistakes, and avoidable stress. After all, travel is a joy and will always be the route to exploration and escapism that we all long for.

We’ve spoken with one of our expert Protected Trust Services (PTS) members, Arron, from Platinum World Travel and Syte Travel, a tour operator devoted to giving life changing, once in a lifetime experiences in travel. Of late, Arron has experienced a few consumers on the brink of making costly mistakes while booking flights, namely by booking connecting flights through red list countries.

Why Shouldn’t I Book A Connecting Flight Through a Red Listed Country?

One of the most recent destinations we and Arron have noticed issues with interconnecting flights via red list or amber list airports, is Phuket. A destination that have opened up to UK travellers, most of the time no one books a direct flight to Phuket. Pre-Covid this would be of little consequence, but some consumers are getting cheaper connecting flights that stop in red list countries.

Arron mentioned a customer going to Phuket who booked a flight with Qatar Airways online. He said that this customer “didn’t realise that even if you’re only stopping off for transfer at a red country, you then have to go through the quarantine for 10 or 11 days”. That’s not cheap either, it will cost an extra £250 for this quarantine alone.

To put this in perspective, these are the requirements for amber list countries as of July 5th 2021:

  • Upon returning to the UK, you will be required to quarantine for ten days within the confines of your home.
  • Three PCR tests must be done. This will include a test before departure, another two days after your return to the UK, and another eight days after your return.
  • Early release from quarantine can be obtained by purchasing an additional “test to release“, five days after your return to the UK. You will, of course, have to produce a negative test result! (This also doesn’t negate the need for a test on or after day 8, just provides release from quarantine.)

And these are the requirements for red list countries as of July 5th 2021:

  • Non-essential travel is banned.
  • A mandatory ten-day hotel quarantine will be enforced upon return from your destination. Booking in a hotel for quarantine must be done via a government authorised hotel, with a minimum cost of £1,750. For more information, please view the government’s official information on booking and staying in a quarantine hotel.
  • When returning to the UK, three PCR tests must be done. This will include a test before departure, another two days after your return to the UK, and another eight days after your return.

Taking into account the fact that you will probably only be stepping foot on amber or red list country for minimal time, the costs of all these tests and the quarantine hotel will swiftly overwhelm the money you’ve saved on that transfer flight. Making it vital that you either take a direct flight, or only stop off in a green list destination.

The only time a consumer may not be required to do this, is if no one is getting on or off the aircraft, or it’s a technical stop.

Another customer of Syte was going to Antigua, a destination that is very accessible for UK consumers with direct flights. This customer found a flight cheaper online through American Airlines, meaning there would be a connecting stop in the US. For a family of 4, this may well save £500 on the flight, but by stopping in an amber lister, you’re going to be paying £1000 alone for the tests then required, completely negating the saved money.

Arron said, he told this customer that she was still going to have to self-isolate, detailing why they do direct flights, despite them being a little more expensive, because it will save them that extra money in the long run.

Though to book with a travel agent during Covid may appear more expensive in these cases, with direct flights being a little more than independently booked, connecting flights, the travel agent is going to be saving you a lot of money in the future, and Aaron said, “unless you want an incredibly costly mistake, it is worth speaking to a travel agent”.

Are Consumers Aware of These Intricacies?

In talking to Arron, it became clear to both of us, that a lot of consumers, and even some travel businesses aren’t aware of these situations in Covid travel.

Arron said, “it’s quite confusing for a lot of people, especially those who don’t really understand the travel industry,” and that’s where a professional becomes so important, so that those mistakes can be avoided.

These aren’t things that are being outlined explicitly in the news either, so for someone who’s perhaps only booking one holiday a year, Arron said, they’re not going to have that expert knowledge, but “this is what we do day in, day out,” and that is what the travel agent is there for, to be that accessible store of knowledge and make sure that you are booking a high quality holiday.

Why Should You Avoid Booking Independently For Now?

It is more popular now than ever for people to book independently, especially those in the younger generations. And it’s no surprise, with online bookings making things more accessible than ever, it’s easy to book an independent flight as cheap as possible without really looking into the details that a travel expert will instantly be looking for.

It is vital, not only that the consumer is aware of the details that could cause issues and how to correct them, but also that travel agents are always up to date to provide all the information necessary. This is a big part of why we book with a travel agent during Covid, because it’s their job to keep up to date.

Arron said, “we are seeing a greater number of younger people contacting us for travel requirements. We go through all the details with them, ‘we can’t travel to these countries until you’re vaccinated, at the moment’, so we go through every single thing to highlight what it is they need to do,” and it is this service that makes a travel agent so valuable.

Booking independently has many risks, from protection, to organisation (you’d be surprised how much stress can come out of organisation alone), to legal issues. But we will always insist, for good reason, that it is the expert knowledge of the travel agent that makes them so valuable to all consumers.

Not only this, but travel experts are incredibly adaptable, because they know the industry so well and keep up to date, they can change their strategy to work for the consumer in the current climate.

Arron said that Syte are now “doing completely flexible travel arrangements. So we will say to a customer, ‘you can book and then if your destination’s on the amber list by the time you have to come to pay your balance, you can cancel it and we’ll refund your deposit”. This alone means that consumers can have so much more confidence in their booking, where booking independently won’t reward this adaptability.

He went on to talk about a customer they had who contacted Syte with a quote for an online travel agent for a hotel in Mexico, and the consumer said it was non-refundable. Arron said, “I told him, you’ll have to book it online, because we’re not going to book you a non-refundable. If Mexico goes on the red list, and so you can’t travel, you’re not going to get your hotel cost back.”

In this situation, not booking for a customer something that’s non-refundable is really highlighting that red flag. If a consumer wants to book something with that much risk, an excellent travel agent will strongly advise against this, because they know it will cause a big financial hit to the consumer.

Why Should I Book With A Travel Agent During Covid?

If that’s not already clear: because they are experts.

When you book with a trusted travel agent and PTS member, you are not just paying for the holiday, you are paying for a stress-free experience, and an expert who knows the ins and outs of the travel industry in more depth than anyone else.

And they’re not just experts, they’re support. Arron emphasised the better service you get with a travel agent, specifically speaking for Syte in saying, “they can WhatsApp us with any questions or queries they’ve got. Any issues, they call us and they don’t have to sit for hours on hold, we’ve got a team of staff ready to answer the phone. We know what we’re talking about and the destinations we’re talking about.”

At the end of the day, you wouldn’t bypass going to the dentist and buy a kit online to do your own filling. Though booking a holiday online is incredibly easy to do, that ease can be deceptive. Having an expert on your side will ensure that down the line you’re not paying for a mistake that could have been avoided.

And they won’t just save you lots of money in the future, travel agents and PTS members will save you money right now, from the moment you book your get away.

So, when you’re ready to book with a travel agent during covid for your next stress-free holiday, get in contact with a PTS member, or, if you need assistance selecting which of our fabulous members to book with for your holiday, you can call PTS at 0207 190 9988.

And if you want to check out more about what PTS and our members do for your consumer protection and to comply with the Package Travel Regulations, visit our page.

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