CUPE “appalled” by closure of Air Transat’s YVR base

We asked, they answered: Transat on what’s being done to fix long hold times

TORONTO — When Valerie Murphy got the call from her client about wanting to change their window seat to an aisle, she knew it would mean one thing – that she would have to endure being put on hold with the supplier.

Of course, under normal circumstances, calling a supplier to request changes on behalf of clients is nothing new, or particularly challenging, for travel advisors. But in these post-Covid times, with staff shortages an ongoing issue and unprecedented travel demand resulting in higher call volumes at call centres, travel advisors have routinely been reporting hold times of several hours or more throughout the pandemic, a situation that has been equally frustrating for suppliers who have long since valued their relationship with the agent community.

Murphy, a travel advisor with Vision Travel in Waterloo, ON, has been put on hold for long periods of time by several suppliers in recent months. But since Transat has been a long-time favourite supplier of hers, she’s placed calls to its call centre more frequently than to other tour operators and airlines.

In this most recent instance, she held the line for over five hours, waiting to speak to a Transat representative to change her client’s seat, a request that could not have been made via the company’s self-service options.

“I understand this is probably due to a staffing issue. All tour operators had staffing issues in the winter but we are now in August – why are we still dealing with this?” Murphy tells Travelweek. “If we have an issue and need to call, we cannot get the support we need in a timely manner. Even having a call-back option would be a small step forward.”

Travelweek reached out to Transat about its long hold times and what the company is doing to help alleviate the problem. Bernard Côté, Director, Public Relations & Social Media, says several steps have been taken behind the scenes, and that the situation has been consistently improving since last November.

“Like many other sectors of the economy, the airline ecosystem is facing worldwide difficulties in finding all the necessary personnel for the current level of travel activity,” he says. “However, we have been on a major hiring blitz since November 2021 and nearly doubled our employee base to fulfill many positions across our company, including at our customer service centre, so that we can bring our waiting times back to normal.”

Côté adds that Transat is also investing in new leadership roles for the customer service department as well as making several improvements on the technology side in order to give customers more self-servicing options.

“Although waiting times vary each day based on the volume of calls we receive, we are making great progress on that front and are improving our customer experience,” he says.

When asked what Transat’s message is to travel agents at this time, Côté stressed how integral they have been since the company’s early days, and how they’re regarded as an “invaluable resource” to travellers, especially now.

“First of all, we would like to thank them for their patience. We realize that the experience is not optimal for them right now given the waiting times, and are working diligently to rectify this,” he says.

“We have hired many new agents over the past few months and are looking to hire even more to help support the current volume of calls, whether from travel agents or directly from consumers. We have also created many self-service tools for travel agents to help reduce the need to call our contact centre,” he adds. “The sales team continues to share information and offer training on these important tools. More developments are coming.”

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