‘We are the fix it store,’ says Flight Centre Auckland Airport team leader Casey Mitchell. ‘We help customers out who miss their flights, who don’t have the right visas or have something wrong with their onward flight. Someone might just have a one way ticket to Bali, but they actually need to show an onward ticket when they arrive. If they don’t have that when they get to Auckland Airport they will usually come and see us.’ Travel expert Kirsty Jackson, who has worked at the store for four years, says a lot of people book their trips online and by the time they realise something is wrong there is no time to go through chat rooms or sort it out through the internet provider. ‘They might only have 10 or 15 minutes before the flight, so they need attention straight away.’
The team also helps customers who may have booked through a different agent – especially on Sundays and odd hours. The store serves as Flight Centre’s after hours contact centre (for the whole of New Zealand) until 11pm, when it switches to Australia assist, only to start again at 6am when some of the eight team members are back at their desk. While the consultants at Flight Centre Auckland Airport rarely work with a client to plan an indepth itinerary it can happen. ‘We do get customers on arrival here who want to book a holiday somewhere else –like Fiji for instance,’ says Mitchell. And overseas visitors who have little idea what to do when they arrive can also find help at the store. ‘Quite a lot of people walk off international flights and don’t have a plan. So they come to us and we can organise domestic flights, transfers and shuttles, land transport, accommodation and sightseeing – everything they need for their New Zealand holiday,’ says Jackson.
Weather, both in New Zealand and beyond, can make a huge difference to the job on any day or night. This might mean re-routing a customer to avoid a volcano or storm, or getting them on a new flight out of Auckland due to a weather disrupt. On the morning TRAVELinc Memo visited the store it had already handled someone’s Vietnam visa, a couple of onward tickets from Bali and Vietnam, the issuing of an infant only ticket, and various standard point to point ticket issues. While we were there an airline representative came in with a passenger who needed assistance before the flight. ‘We have built up a good reputation around the airport community as problem solvers. Now the airlines often bring people to us if they can’t solve the problem themselves.