How to tell if you have a qualified travel agent

Yarisa Smith knows she has a good travel agent.

“He’s made cruises and European trips special,” says Smith, a manufacturer’s representative from Dallas. “His itineraries and attention to detail have made every trip flawless. He’s even managed to successfully intervene when acts of God have waylaid my plans.”

Yet you might not know by looking at Clark Mitchell, who works for Dallas-based Strong Travel, whether he’s the real deal. Yes, his agency is cited as a source for its travel expertise by mainstream news outlets. It also prominently lists its membership in Virtuoso, an exclusive travel agency consortium.

But until now, there’s been no instantly recognized certification that says an agent is legit. That may be about to change.

Got a complaint about the travel industry? It’s got one about you, too

“I’m weary of those entitled passengers who are continuously whining and complaining,” says Lisa Thomas, a veteran flight attendant based in Denver. “I feel like telling them, ‘Take some responsibility for your choices.’ ”

Thomas’s comments, made to me after a recent column about the rise of fees in the travel industry, triggered a fascinating debate. Many travelers say that they think fees are out of control, particularly in the airline business. The top 10 airlines collected more than $28 billion in revenue from extra fees and services last year, up from about $2 billion a decade ago, according to a recent study by the consulting firm IdeaWorks.

At the same time, many in the industry say that they think people are getting exactly what they paid for: a quality product at a ridiculously low price. Industry employees like Thomas suggest that travelers have become spoiled.

Insider tips on how to file a travel insurance claim

If you’re reading this, chances are something horrible has happened while you’re on vacation — a health scare, a disruption, even an unexpected death.

Maybe you’ve phoned your travel insurance company and the wheels are now in motion for a claim. And you’re wondering: What now?

Is this passenger entitled to a hotel reimbursement from American Airlines?

When John Thompson lands in Washington D.C., he discovers that the last connecting flight to Boston has left without him. An American Airlines representative assures him not to worry — he will be put on a flight the next morning and his hotel will be covered for the night. So why is his request for reimbursement rejected?

Why would I need a U.K. driver’s license to rent a car in Florida?

When Keith Montgomery went to pick up his rental car in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he had his driver’s license handy. But the rental car facility refused to rent him the car for which he’d prepaid, and forced him to pay for a new rental car. That’s because Montgomery is a dual U.S.-U.K. national who lives in London, and he needed his British driver’s license, which he didn’t have available.

Southwest is willing to fix most problems — so don’t threaten legal action

When Southwest Airlines cancels Cameron Rostron’s flight and it can’t be rescheduled for several days, she asks to be rerouted. She assumes this will be a complimentary change. But it isn’t, and then she threatens legal action if she isn’t refunded the change fees and fare differential. Is this threat necessary?

A stranger on my bus tour made me sick. Can I get a refund?

When Gayle Hackner takes a Trafalgar bus tour throughout Spain and Portugal for 13 days, she is disgusted that a man and his young son in adjacent seats appear to be sick. Their constant coughing irritates her. The last straw comes when she becomes ill on the last day of the tour.

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