Agent 'undermined' after Cunard nearly blows surprise booking

Agent 'undermined' after Cunard nearly blows surprise booking

A surprise birthday cruise booking that was almost ruined has raised concerns over suppliers who contact agents’ customers direct.

Vertical Travel Group agent Kaye Sharples booked a Cunard cruise for a long-term client who was planning secret celebrations for his mother’s 70th birthday.

However, a confirmation email was sent direct to the customer (mother) even though the agent deleted her contact details from the booking. Fortunately, the son intercepted it.

Paula Nuttall, Vertical Travel Group membership director, who described Sharples as an “experienced agent”, said the incident highlighted concerns.

“At what point is it acceptable for the supplier to engage directly with the clients without communicating to the agent first? We want to work closely with our operator partners but need to have visibility of direct communication, and perhaps prior to them reaching clients.”

A Cunard spokesman said: “It is in no way our intention to ruin a surprise and we are really sorry this happened, but unfortunately the agent did not inform us and following the normal protocol the confirmation email went out.”

However, Sharples, a homeworker for Vertical’s Your Holiday Booking division, said she felt “undermined” and had potentially lost a loyal customer.

“I removed the contact details from the form as I was not given the option to state it was a surprise.

“I then received a message from my client saying he and his mother had an email from Cunard. He was angry as he had paid thousands of pounds for the surprise to be potentially ruined. I feel like Cunard has undermined my role.”

Cunard said agents should call 0845 374 0000 at the time of the booking to notify it of a surprise trip.

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