KAMPALA, Uganda – In recent months, airlines have taken advantage of cyberspace and made it easier for customers to directly purchase air tickets as well as interact with airline officials without the need for a third party.In the past this third party service was the preserve of tour and travel agents who acted as a link between a customer and the airlines. In the process, they earned a commission.
Kenya Airways and Air Uganda recently partnered MTN so as to enable customers use the mobile money to buy air tickets after which they can book their travels online.
Looking at it from a neutral stand, it seems the agents are slowly getting knocked out of the equation with the launch of simplified and widely available platforms like mobile money for the purchase of air tickets.
However, Kelly MacTavish, the Executive Director of Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel maintains that travel agents will still be needed to provide personal services like visa assistance, recovery of lost luggage, and so on.
“There will always be a place for travel agents, because ours is a service industry.
Of course the new innovations will have an impact on the number of potential clients (that the travel agents will be getting) but I don’t think they will be so severe.
It will particularly hurt those businesses that have not prepared for globalization,” she told the East African Business Week in an interview.
She was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of a new ticketing and sales office for Delta Airlines in Kampala last week.
The American carrier also has an online platform that allows customers to book and purchase their air tickets, book their seats and self-check in.
Prior to the opening of the new sales office at the city centre, Delta Airlines that has been in Uganda for three years had just one office at the Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA) premises in the outskirts of the city.
According to travel agents and some passengers, this was very inconvenient because of the location was outside central Kampala.
Jane Mwangi, the Delta Airlines Area Manager for East Africa said; “We are now looking to make it more convenient for our customers and travel agents as the new office is easily accessible.”
In a code-share agreement with Dutch carrier KLM, Delta Airlines picks US-bound passengers from Amsterdam and flies them to Atlanta from where they can further connect to other destinations.
The carrier also has a code shared agreement with Kenya Airways to enable customers connect to the US faster depending on the urgency.
Delta Air Lines flies to more than 350 destinations in nearly 70 countries on six continents, and serves more than 160 million customers each year.