But beware. Airport ticket agents are not beyond lying or making mistakes. A frequent complaint of air travelers is being quoted one price over the phone, and finding that their credit card has been charged another. When you get your tickets, be sure to verify that the price charged matches the price you were quoted. If they're different, be prepared for a fight — airlines seem very reluctant to own up to this kind of error. Give as much detailed information as possible, such as the time you called, the name of the ticket agent, the price quoted, any unusual occurrences. Get the problem fixed before you use the ticket. They probably won't refund you the difference, as the price on the ticket is almost always the correct price, but they are required (by law) to allow you to cancel the ticket and get a full refund without penalty. It they give you any trouble, pursue it with your credit card company. It is worth repeating, however, that you can get the refund only if you don't use the ticket, and initiate any complaint promptly
Even though most airlines are now matching their lowest discount fares, it still pays to have your travel agent check several airlines
Most airlines have a "tickets by mail" service which lets you charge the tickets to your credit card over the phone, and have the tickets mailed to you at no extra charge. Allow 5 business days for the tickets to reach you.
When using the airline ticket agents (the ones you get when you call the airline's reservation number), if you find that you're having trouble with the ticket agent, try hanging up (politely) and calling again. Some of the agents are more knowledgeable and helpful than others, and by calling again you may reach one of the better agents. If you get very good service from an airline ticket agent, write to the airline commending his or her performance. Thank you letters do go into the employee's permanent file.
Approach the selection of a travel agent with the same care you'd exercise when you choose your doctor, lawyer, or any other long-term professional adviser. After all, the right travel agent should know both your financial wherewithal and your physical abilities and also share your tastes and sensibilities. The expert travel agent should even have in-depth knowledge of your favorite destinations. Here are some practical guidelines.
Make a list of your own travel preferences and the services you expect from a travel agent. Do you want an adviser who'll give you personal recommendations? Or would you prefer a clerk who follows your instruction and then processes your tickets and reservations?
Interview any travel agent you're considering. (See suggestions below) Visit the offices, and talk with the agent you'd use. Ask specific questions to help formulate your opinion about an agent's judgment and expertise. For example, solicit comments on a hotel or a destination you know well.
Check out the agency: does it have a reservations computer to search out the lowest airfares? Does it have preferred relationships with particular suppliers and tour operators, and do you like doing business with those suppliers? Does the agency work with hotel or airline consolidators? Does it have an after-hours help line?
Before deciding, ask the agency to price and package a vacation for you. Then do some comparison shopping. How do its recommendations and prices stack up against the competition's? And how fast did the agency work? The agent who offers the best combination of quality, price, and service is probably the one you should use.
The best way to find a good travel agent is by word of mouth recommendation. Solicit references from friends and family who know your desires and from travelers whose tastes and judgment are similar to yours. Ask how they use their travel agent and in what capacity. Ask the secretaries where you work for recommendations. Note that most people will recommend a particular agent — don't assume that every agent who works at that agent's travel agency is as good. Don't be afraid to ask for the recommended agent by name. Most people tend to use the travel agent that is closest to where they work or live. If you don't like the service you're getting, try a different agent.
Even if you need an agent only to write a ticket you've booked yourself, it helps to have one with whom you can communicate.
Be aware that travel agents specialize and that specialties focus on either a type of customer or type of travel. The major areas of specialization are business and leisure travel. While every accredited agency has the authority to book any kind of travel, leisure agencies specialize in cruises, charters, low airfares, or up-scale resorts. The advertising in local media reveals much about an agency's area of expertise.
A good travel agent will become familiar with your travel preferences, and keep track of your frequent flyer numbers and any special requirements, such as special meals, seat selection (window/aisle), etc. They'll also let you know if changing your itinerary slightly will result in a lower fare. They'll also advise you of any changes made by the airline on your tickets, by calling you, or if they can't reach you, by mail.