Read as Brett Snyder talks about his career as Owner of Cranky Concierge. Find him at www.crankyconcierge.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I do a lot of things, so I guess I’d call myself an entrepreneur. It started with my blog at CrankyFlier.com. I get advertising revenues from that but not enough to live on. So I started doing freelance writing. Then I realized I had a great audience at CrankyFlier.com and there had to be something else I could do to make a living. So I created Cranky Concierge air travel assistance to offer personalized travel help. And now I’ve nearly replaced my salary from my last full time traditional job which I left in 2008.
How would you describe what you do?
On one hand, it’s easy to describe what I do – I’m a writer. On the other, it’s very difficult to explain the concierge service since it isn’t something people really understand at first glance. They just think we’re a travel agency but we’re more than that. I would say that we are in the business of helping people get where they need to be when things don’t quite go as they should.
What does your work entail?
Since we help people all over the world, we need to be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every single day of the year. There is no break from this as we have people flying every day. For those who sign up with us in advance, we set up alerts to monitor their flights. We send them updates via email, text message, Twitter, etc. And then if something goes wrong, we have to work with the airlines and our client to make it right. That could be a cancellation, a missed connection, a hurricane (we’re watching you, Isaac), Godzilla … you name it.
What’s a typical work week like?
There is nothing typical about it since we have different people flying different routes every single week. For most of our concierges, they get a list of travelers about two weeks in advance. They tell us which ones they can follow and which ones they can’t. We divvy it up for them. This isn’t a full time job for anyone but me. Our concierges work when they have a client and that’s it. We do have some part time workers as well who handle flight bookings more like a traditional travel agent. Those are more on a set time schedule.
How did you get started?
It all came out of the blog. I knew that I had to make more money to survive so I decided to think about how I could do it without charging for (and ruining) content on the blog. People had often come to me for help with random travel questions already, and I had some friends who got stuck in July 2009. They encouraged me to turn this into a business so I did.
What do you like about what you do?
I love that I’m my own boss and that I can work from anywhere. I don’t need to be in an office. As long as I have an internet connection, I can do this wherever I want. For me, that means usually working at home which is great since I have an 8 month old.
What do you dislike?
There is nothing worse than the middle of the night wake up calls. Not everyone signs up in advance so we get calls at all hours. I am always on duty and it gets exhausting.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
A couple of different ways. Our clients pay us a fee, so that’s the basic way we get paid. But when we do flight, hotel, and car bookings, we also can sometimes get a commission from the vendor. It all adds up.
How much money do Air Travel Assistants make?
Our concierges today make anywhere from $7.50 to $15 for each one way trip they handle depending upon the itinerary. So each concierge can make a lot or a little depending upon how many trips they take on. But this isn’t meant to be a full time job. It’s a great way to supplement salaries for those who really love the airline business.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
I didn’t make much because I was just trying to start the business. But for our concierges, the amount per trip hasn’t changed – just the number of trips available to follow has increased so there’s more opportunity.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
There are no special education requirements, but you do have to understand the airline industry. We need people who know what to do when things go wrong and can help. Beyond that, dependability is key. I’ve found plenty of airline dorks but not all of them are dependable and in this business, that’s most important.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Dealing with large airlines can be difficult. It can sometimes be very difficult to find good options for our clients and then get the airlines help. But that’s what we’re here for and our success rate is great.
What is most rewarding?
There is nothing like coming through for a stranded traveler, especially an inexperienced traveler who might not have known how to get what he or she needed. Just hearing the gratitude in someone’s voice makes you feel great.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Being a concierge isn’t a career, but it is a great outlet for people who love the airline industry to make more money as part of their overall plan to earn a living. If you’re passionate about airlines, then this is something that you might love. We have people who work for the government, or who are in school, or who work in a university setting. They are just all united by the love of airlines and enjoy doing the work.
How much time off do you get/take?
If you’re a concierge, you can take off as much time as you want. You decide which clients you accept. As for me, I never get any time off. I’m trying to take my first weeklong vacation in 3 years, but for me, that means trying to check email only a couple times a day. I also fully expect calls from people while I’m gone.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
People think we’re just like a traditional travel agent, but we’re not. Most travel agents don’t like to focus on air at all. They prefer to deal with the higher paying land packages. But our goal is to help people get to their destination and we’re trained to work through the system. That’s why we have travel agencies who use us for their clients.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
My goals are small. I would like to grow this to the point where I could have enough people involved so I could actually take a real vacation. (I’m not optimistic.)
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
Not much else. It’s just a lot of fun but also incredibly frustrating because we can’t always get what we want for our clients. But it sure is fun trying, and the payoff from a happy client is worth its weight in gold when we can help.