Last updated: 03:32 PM ET, Wed March 11 2015

Travel Agents Mixed on Google Flights

Travel Agent | Claudette Covey | March 11, 2015

Travel Agents Mixed on Google Flights

The news that Google has added a slate of new enhancements to its Google Flights price comparison tool drew mixed reaction from agents, ranging from positive to indifferent. Agents were, however, unanimous on one point: Such tools as Google Flights pose no threat to their businesses, which were built on personal relationships — something that can’t be bought online.

“In my opinion, the new Google Flights enhancements are great and valuable tools,” said David. M. Rubin, of DavidTravel, a luxury boutique agency in Corona del Mar, Calif. “I view these technology tools as our friends.”

Rubin even shares Google Flights and other such tools with his clients. “When clients have great search tools, it helps them participate as much as they would like in the process of designing their travels. Then, we decide together what they would like and they call on us to book and buy.”

In the end, Rubin notes that his discerning clientele book with DavidTravel for the many things it offers that can’t be found online.  “Our clients want our clout and the clout of our host agency and consortia. They want our relationship with airlines, hotels and suppliers,” Rubin said. “They want DavidTravel as their advocate.”

While Beth Baran said Google Flights sounded like a useful tool in theory, she added that she had yet to test it for herself. “Until I test it out, I can’t give you my honest opinion,” said Baran, owner of Travel Leaders’ locations in Mason, Oh., and Fort Thomas, Ky.

That said, Baran noted that travelers might not always obtain the most attractive rates when air is booked separately from other trip components, such as hotel and car rental. “Tour operators are often able to combine air and hotel, etc., to get a better package price, and often with lower deposits,” she said.

For Judy Nidetz of Travel Experts in Chicago, new Google Flights enhancements are a non-issue. “I no longer sell many airline tickets that aren’t part of a package through a tour operator,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe her clients would take the time to use a tool like Google Flights. “They are calling me to do it because they don’t want to deal with it on their own.”

Furthermore, Nidetz said there is very little chance that she will take the time to ever use Google Flights herself. “I book all my air in Sabre and I can easily find the same information faster through my own system.”

Google Flights’ enhancements are also a non-issue for Angela Turen, president and owner of Churchill & Turen in Naperville, Ill., who noted that the agency continues to thrive without ever having booked an airline ticket in its 30-year history.

“Our sophisticated, well-educated clientele generally does not use or trust anything they read in cyberspace,” she said. “They come to us to distill their research, to show them what is real and what is phony – and they allow us the privilege of getting to know them as trusted confidant and professionals. Google doesn’t have an app for that.”


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