A Time Of Scrambling


    GRAND RAPIDS — Typical of what travel agencies all over the nation coped with, here are some of the problems Witte agents had to solve for travelers during the days immediately after the terrorist attack.

    • One Witte agent had travelers stranded in London and booked them on flights on three different dates, e-mailing their confirmation and flight numbers.

    As a back-up for one client arriving in Detroit, the agent arranged one-way car rental to Grand Rapids. As it turned out, the drive was necessary because the Grand Rapids flight was cancelled. The client was able to bring several other travelers back here with him.

    •  Because it was nearly impossible for clients to get through to the airlines by phone, another agent helped them cancel reservations or change flight plans by working as an intermediary on her own office’s computer link to the airlines’ schedules.

    In the rare case when the agent had to speak to an airline representative, she was able to get through more easily and quickly to the airlines’ special help desks for travel agents.

    •  Agents called clients when they learned about the re-opening of airports, which, in turn, affected the clients’ travel schedule.
    •  Agents notified traveling clients of flight cancellations and reserved alternate flights for them. Many agents also booked a lot of car rentals that first week for people whose flights were cancelled.

    One agent got the feeling that clients derived a sense of relief when they were able to talk to a person instead of an automated telephone tree — a person, moreover, who was informed about all the options and who was monitoring the stream of information from the airlines, airports and FAA.

    In nearly all cases, travel agents were able to help stranded travelers, due to their knowledge of and contacts within the travel industry.

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