Travel Agent TV

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Who says there's never anything good on TV? Check out the prime-time listings for Travel Agent TV (TAT), the special industry channel playing only on our pages for April Fool's Day:

8:00 Bewitched
foolWho needs airlines? Samantha can transport anybody anywhere with just a twitch of her nose. In this episode, Samantha joins forces with guest star Sally Field as the Flying Nun (who already has a code-share agreement with Superman) to start a carrier, TV Characters Aloft (TVCA). Head of the Giants co-op Sue Shapiro appears as herself, signing up TVCA as a preferred supplier for Giants.

8:30 The Odd Couple
Felix blows his stack when he checks out the back-to-back tickets Oscar gets from their agent for their upcoming vacation in California. Rule-abiding Felix had just read an article about how airlines are forbidding the use of such tickets. He tries to get Oscar to return them, even adding days onto their hotel reservations so they have a Saturday-night stay, but it's too late. Felix can't stop saying "I told you so" when he and Oscar are thrown off the plane on their Cleveland stopover. They can't get another flight until morning and spend the night in the airport, arguing nonstop. Three people who were also bumped from that flight record the Felix-Oscar fight. When they send the tape to the airline -- and write to Conde Nast Traveler's Ombudsman column -- they each receive 10,000 frequent flyer miles to compensate them for the "grievous hardship" they've endured.

9:00 Seinfeld
Kramer pays $495 to get a travel agent ID card from a card mill and then goes into business under the name Kramer's Trips. He also starts an affair with a sexy airline DSM -- who is able to pull strings to get the rest of the gang booked on a fam trip to Jamaica. Of course, George is the only one who isn't upgraded on the flight going down; he spends the time whining to his seat mate, who pretends to have an allergic reaction to his serving of peanuts to escape George's complaints. Elaine has a temper tantrum in the lobby of the Round Hill, kicking and screaming until she turns blue, when the fam leader tell her she has to put down her rum drink and get on the bus to see another hotel. Jerry gets into a power struggle with the fam leader when he tries to order off the menu at an expensive restaurant instead of having the prix fixe dinner.

9:30 Premiere: The Fugitive 2000
In this updated version of the classic series, Richard Kimball, the fugitive, is really a Delta executive who escaped from an angry ASTA meeting where members accused him of being the one to suggest the commission caps. He travels around the country by bus, righting wrongs for travel agents. He helps collect overdue hotel commissions and overturn faulty debit memos. Every so often, he'll get a glimpse of the real villain, the one-armed airlines vice president who was the true originator of the caps.

10:00 I Love Lucy
To pay for singing lessons, Lucy gets a job in a travel agency and convinces Ethel to join her. Their first day on the job is also the beginning of a major airfare sale. Lucy and Ethel have a losing battle trying to keep up with the ticket stock coming out of the printer, which gets entwined around their bodies and eventually almost buries them. The agency owner fires them and switches to 100% e-tickets.

10:30 Ally McBeal
A noisy bunch of new clients comes into the law office of Fish and Cage: It's the passengers from Gilligan's Island, who want to sue the Skipper for leading them astray on that supposed "three-hour tour."

Finding new employees

By Lucy Hirleman

lucy H.

There is a critical shortage of qualified agents in our industry, and this is forcing many agency owners to look for employees from outside our industry. Here is a list of folks who are uniquely qualified, with just a little training, to become excellent travel agents:

  • Astrophysicists -- anyone who can explain why planets don't crash into each other should be able to explain the "Saturday-night stay" rule.
  • Mothers of toddlers -- because they know how to handle whiners.
  • Bank managers -- they'll figure a way to charge fees for things you didn't even know you were doing.
  • Insurance agents -- they'll figure out how to increase your fees.
  • The post-presidency Bill Clinton -- if he can't talk your agency out of debit memos, no one can.
  • Magicians -- first, to satisfy those clients who think you should be one; second, to make that cruise executive disappear every time he says we should be open 27 hours a day, nine days a week.
  • IRS agents -- they have great intimidation skills; put them to work handling shoppers.
  • Meteorologists (you know, those folks who discuss the weather on TV) -- they don't really know any more than you but will sound 10 times more credible.
  • Fortune tellers -- they will predict airfare sales and save us all time.
  • Hypnotists -- they possess invaluable persuasion skills.
  • Phone sex operators -- they're great for answering the phones, but keep them out of sight. They sound better than they look.
  • Supermarket checkout clerks -- they know how to handle any coupon.
  • Evangelists -- perfect for making the consumer feel guilty for even thinking of using the Internet.
  • Auctioneers -- put them in charge of your cruise night.
  • Hookers -- they have the ability to make your clients feel "special."
  • Proctologists -- no explanation necessary.
  • Grain of Salt Dept.

    SECAUCUS, N.J. -- It all started when a member of the audience at a supplier panel here asked, "What do you think of Goofball Cruises running their 800 number without a reference to see your travel agent?"

    Panel participants, who included all the major cruise lines minus Goofball, were quick to say they'd never follow Goofball's lead.

    "Travel agents are the backbone of our business," said Rob Hixington, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Proletariat Cruises. "We even protect commission if a client books again without using the agent."

    Annie Luchter said that at Peasant Cruises, where she's vice president of sales, "We'd get out of a moving car and stop traffic by lying down on the Brooklyn Bridge during rush hour to deliver commissions in a timely fashion."

    "We'd walk across red-hot coals with lit cigarettes burning our flesh if we had to," said Oliver Galucci, executive vice president of Commoner Cruises.

    Diana Tuttle, marketing director of Just Folks Cruises, said she'd make the ultimate sacrifice for agents: submitting to torture. "We'd even watch a Barney tape 20 times," she said, referring to the infamous purple dinosaur who stars in his own kids' TV show.

    Net news

    Need a laugh this April 1? Check out the following funny sites:

    The onion
    Deadpan satire sets this on-line newspaper parody apart from much of the Web's typical sappy humor. Sample headlines: "Miracle of birth occurs for 83 billionth time; Tortilla-chip supply dwindling, reports man on couch." www.theonion.com.

    Mining Co. humor site
    You can surf every variety of humor, from "kids stuff" to "food funnies," to "sick, twisted jokes" when you click onto this Web portal, designed to link you to other sites. humor.miningco.com/index.htm?COB=looksmart.

    Too many troubles

    HalvahHOOTERVILLE, Halvah -- This island in the South Pacific is having a bad couple of weeks. First a typhoon blew through, destroying virtually every residence in certain areas. Then fighting broke out between the opposing factions struggling for control of Halvah -- the Trenchcoat and DownParka rebels.

    But all the troubles are having no effect whatsoever on tourism to this area, according to Janine Blooey, vice president of the Halvah Tourist Commission (HTC).

    While the typhoon's 3,000-mph winds blew away roofs and in some cases entire houses in the Park Avenue section of Hooterville, the country's capital, all of its hotels are still standing, Blooey said. "Our tourism infrastructure is firmly in place," she said. "We are up and ready for business."

    Blooey said the fighting really shouldn't affect travelers' itineraries at all. "All the major tourist sites [Beach Haven and Halvah's capital, Stuck in the Middle of Nowhere] are on the other side of the island, far away from any military action."

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