Travel Agents: How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers?

I don’t know why I am still surprised to encounter such situations as this one. We are in the 21st Century, right? I wonder if it’s because I believe with all the technology and free information that is around, I expect companies etc. to have NO excuse whatsoever NOT to be disability informed and compliant!!!

My Enquiry

My latest experience with travel agents Tui, I can’t help but feel the industry is trying to make booking a holiday/trip as difficult and stressful as possible, in the hope we won’t book a holiday abroad?? Why is England seemingly so inadequate to provide for disabled people whee accessibility is concerned?? Other countries manage it with seemingly no problem at all.

I’m off to Vegas later this year to go to a concert, so obviously, I needed to book a hotel and flight.  So, we (hubby & I) went to Tui to get some info and prices.  I really wished I hadn’t bothered and wasted my time!!  We were seen by this young man who obviously didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing and presumably had never helped a disabled person book a holiday!

I explained I was a full-time wheelchair user, and all the necessary info about dates, where we would like to stay etc.  I told him that I had some questions I would need to be answered before making a booking.  Not a problem he said looking very worried!

He brought up some deals for us to look at.  We liked the look of one of them, so asked before proceeding, could we now go through some of our questions? There were 11 in total and consisted of the following:

  1. Airport Parking – I wanted to know how close is the disabled parking to the terminal, as hubby can’t walk too far.
  2. Airport assistance – What does this include
  3. Can I keep my wheelchair up to the plane door? – I don’t like the idea of being another wheelchair not suitable for several hours.
  4. How to arrange for my chair to be brought to me once we arrive at Vegas
  5. How much hand luggage can I take – Eg: Lose parts of the chair, footrest etc
  6. Wheelchair insurance – Would holiday insurance include cover for my wheelchair
  7. Wheelchair hire in Vegas – So if I decided not to take my chair, can I hire one in Vegas and what type is on offer.
  8. Will the plane have a chair to go to the toilet
  9. Can I find measurements of the toilet or see one before flying
  10. Are Visas required, if so how/where to apply?
  11. Can I take wheelchair tools as hand luggage?

Problem After Problem

Travel Agents:  How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers? - Tui logo

I knew a couple may not be answered but most of them should be (Who was I kidding?)  When I showed him my list, the blood seemed to just drain from his face.  He told me he would need to contact their accessibility department to get the information I requested.  No problem I said.  When he came off the phone literally a few minutes later, he told us that they couldn’t help and he needed to contact somewhere else.  Ok, I said. 

Once again he failed in getting the information, again explaining the department couldn’t help.  He then went on about how the flight was being operated by a third party and how we would have to get in touch with them ourselves.  He was going on about how two airlines are offering seats on the same flight, so he or the other departments were unable to get the information we wanted.

At this point, we had been in the travel gents for approx 40 minutes.  I’d had enough, I knew we weren’t going to get the info we needed, so we went for a coffee.  After chatting it over, we decided to go back and see if there was anybody else we could speak to.  As soon as we entered through the door, the same young man jumped up and beckoned us over.  Oh boy, back to square one.

We explained we weren’t happy and the fact we couldn’t believe that it was this difficult to source the info we needed.  I wasn’t prepared to book anything until I was confident in how I board the plane, how my wheelchair would be looked after etc.  Why is this sort of info not readily available to everyone/anyone needing it?  He couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

We asked if anyone else could help us, he then went to his manager, he went over and talked with her.  Hubby got up and went over to join the conversation, as no attempt was made to involve me, I also went over.  Again she explained about third party airlines etc oh and now because it was the weekend, nowhere was open?  (But didn’t the guy speak to two different departments today?)  But everywhere is closed!!  Starting to sound like a fob off to me!!

Anyway, she asked if we could leave things with her and she will try to get the info and get back to us around Wednesday of the next week.  No problem I said and left sharply.  I had no intentions of dealing any further with Tui over this booking or non-booking!!

Solution

Travel Agents:  How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers? - British Airways Logo

The following day (Sunday) I looked online and found a hotel and flight deal directly with British Airways and it was almost £200 cheaper than what Tui was asking…….Result.  So I contacted BA directly and guess what?  In the amount of time I had spent with Tui, I had my booking to Vegas, my questions answered AND confirmation of my accessible room in the hotel.  Airport assistance for both me and hubby also booked and confirmed!  Why had I not thought of booking directly beforehand??  So at least now I’m confident in what I have, assistance wise and happy I can take my own wheelchair.  There is, however, one last bit of info I am still to have answered.  Will I be able to use the toilet while on the plane?  Kinda buggered if I can’t haha, it’s an 11-hour flight.

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