Are Travel Agents Like Dinosaurs? Apparently not!

cc Image courtesy of Joseph A on FlickrThe age of the internet has brought about a lot of change. Amongst that change has been ‘The Death of ….” fill in the blank and you can probably find a story where someone has prematurely printed the obituary for some profession.

People thought WebMD would be the death of going to the doctor for non-Emergencies – but really, savvy MDs pulled just the opposite – if anything more people are going to the hospital after seeing their symptoms online.

The death of newspapers? Nope. I still read the New York Times, albeit on my kindle. The death of magazines? I still pick up an Economist and National Geographic before long train rides or flights. The death of community? Friendship? Travel agents?

Now, wait a minute. A lot of folks would say that the internet has killed that creature we all used to visit and ask for help from, the humble travel agent.  I’ll never forget the old woman I bought my first flight to China from…she told me not to call the capital Beijing – “They all call it Peking over there” she said to me wisely. When I got to China, nobody knew anything about that though.

Yes, some would say that the travel agent has been killed by WikiTravel, Expedia, Priceline, Airline booking sites and more – after all, why in the world does anyone need a travel agent anymore?

Here’s a good reason.  To find you a better price!

Here’s another – To offer great travel advice!

And one more – To help you plan your trip!

The only problem is that it’s become easier to find a cyber cafe or a wifi connection than a travel agent. However, in June,  an innovative solution to the dilemma of the travel agent emerged from San Francisco.

May I introduce IULLY!

Travel Agent 2.0

In addition to having a beautiful puffy cloud logo and site – this Silicon Valley start-up has a great idea to save travel agents from the fate of the dinosaurs.

Chat based travel agents. Brilliant.

Back in the day, one of the reasons I loved to go to travel agents was because they all had access to consolidated flights which meant that you could find a flight out of the USA to awesome destinations for about half price.

Guess what? They still do. And while you may not get the instant satisfaction of booking your flight by using IULLY, what you do get is a travel agent who is going to find you the best deal possible to suit your needs.

IULLY started in San Francisco when a travel agent noticed that while people buying flights tickets online, they didn’t get much help when they come across any problems or questions about the deal. So he created a website, implemented a live chat feature and started helping clients out.

IULLY is born to bring humanity back to online travel industry. With the live chat support, you just simply specify your travel needs and we will do the rest. Not just that, we almost always can offer you a better deal on international flights orginating in the United States. Our consolidated airfares with the largest selection of air carrier contracts are substantially less than published airfares available on the majority of travel websites.

Now, just to be clear and in compliance with FCC guidelines, ethics of IAPOTJ and all that jazz – I need to disclose that this is a sponsored review, but that doesn’t change the fact that I dig it. You dig? You will never see me reviewing a product or service on this site with anything but honesty and my sponsors know that. I aim to bring you only the best.

I’ve tried this service out and enjoyed it. The experience was good, the information provided for me about flights, visa, luggage restrictions, and even what to bring with me was great. Also, while I’m not going to be booking it right now – they did find me a flight from Morocco to the USA that was much cheaper than anywhere else I looked online (I found $1400 per person for two adults and an infant, they scored for $900 per adult, infant free) – which is pretty cool since with any luck, my wife’s visa will get approved soon and we’ll be taking that flight.

In addition, the travel agent who helped me, Michele, was awesome and fielded my questions about baby baggage allowance, tourism visas and transit visas in Dubai, and about time changes and more. The experience was probably the single most enjoyable travel booking I’ve had since…well, since the last time I went to a travel agent.

Here are some of the pros to IULLY:

1. Live chatting with our travel agent gives the advantage of having a chance to ask any questions about the trip, e.g., baggage rules, visa information, travel insurance, and ticket change policies.

2. The deal they found me was a huge savings and even though I looked, I couldn’t find a similar deal anywhere else online.

3. Chat sessions are available worldwide and easy to set up. No registration or b.s. involved

4. Copy and pasting information is easy and Michele offered to send me a transcript when we were done.

5. Consolidated airfares are less than published airfares available on the majority of travel websites. Customers can visit any big travel websites to find their perfect flight and then go to Iully. Same itinerary but better price! That’s awesome.

6. Two-day grace period option to book the tickets first and pay later.

7. Since they don’t depend solely upon search engines, sometimes they find a better itinerary that fits customers’ needs (like they did for me)

8. They will book using your mileage/club points so you get credit.

9. Some airlines provide a free hotel accommodation for overnight layovers, e.g., Korean Air, Asiana Airlines. IULLY informs customers of their rights and benefits and help them contact the airlines to arrange the hotel. Other big travel websites never do this that I’ve experienced.

And here are a few cons (because there are always some drawbacks):

1. Humans travel agents can take longer than a search engine.

2. Unfortunately, at the moment, this is just for flights so they can’t provide hotels, rental cars, vacations and cruises booking at this time.

3. Live chat operating hours are not 24/7 at this time. This is particularly tricky for those of us overseas as I had to wait until 6 pm for a travel agent to appear on the site since I’m in Morocco. They plan on improving this and other things in the near future and let’s give credit where it is due – the site is only a few weeks old.

My apologies to Michele who was very nice to me. I’m sorry I pretended to be Jon Skinner and had no intention of booking. You were so helpful and found such a great deal, that I almost booked anyway!

So, that’s my take on things – but let’s face it, you’re never going to know for sure until you try it and it doesn’t cost you a thing, so go ahead.



News Reporter

Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook