After the first week at my new job, I was losing sleep.
My colleagues called them ‘flightmares’ – a routine occurrence for even the most experienced travel agent.
They recalled the terror of waking up in the middle of the night, convinced they’d forgotten to ticket someone’s flights, or fearing they’d sent customers to the wrong continent.
One night, I dreamt I was on a plane falling out of the sky while my manager fired me.
In training, they warned us that it wouldn’t be easy.
The hours would be long, but the work would be rewarding. We’d be thrown in the deep end with very little product knowledge, but we’d have so many resources available to help us.
The salary was low, but there was no limit to how much we could make in commissions.
A poster on the wall said: “We care about delivering amazing travel experiences.” We watched lots of slick marketing videos. We did silly team-building exercises. We spent our hour-long lunch breaks getting to know one another.
But we were also assessed regularly. People were sent home. There was a lot of crying in the corridors.
I had to lie about prices, marking up airfares in order to make more commission
Phone conversations, consultations and emails were tracked and analysed. I was told what to say and how to say it.
When leaving a phone message, I had to pretend that I was calling with an exclusive deal. I had to lie about the deadlines for deposits.
Worst of all, I had to lie about prices, marking up airfares in order to make more commission. I was encouraged to ‘shop around’ after a customer had paid for accommodation, finding it cheaper through another supplier and keeping the remainder as commission.
Not all travel agents are greedy, but those at the top are certainly willing to spin a story in order to make a sale. Most are just trying to hit their targets in order to keep their jobs and pay their bills.
I lasted two months as a travel agent.
My resignation was spontaneous, out of character, and completely necessary.
In the end, it all boiled down to the industry’s lack of ethics, and willingness to exploit customers. While there are some occasions that may require a visit to a travel agent, I now urge everyone to research as much as possible from home.
And if all else fails, remember that change is as good as a holiday! Sometimes you’ve just got to quit your job.
Tegan Sullivan was an employee at a leading national travel chain.