In this uncertain new world, the role travel agents play in helping to bring families together is more important than ever.
As was the case for two clients of TravelManagers’ Vikki Southern, who were booked to welcome their new surrogate daughter in Seattle before COVID-19 reared its ugly head leaving the parents to be distraught.
The Western Australian couple were booked to fly out in mid-April accompanied by four family members to await the birth of their new daughter but were forced to cancel their original plans due to strict travel restrictions.
“Eventually, the Australia Border Force granted the parents a special exemption to leave Australia and travel to Seattle to fetch their daughter,” Southern said.
“Despite their solicitor recommending they use a travel agent in Eastern Australia to manage their travel arrangements, the parents elected to entrust me with the mammoth task of getting them there and back again.”
Southern successfully navigated the complex new rules surrounding air travel, ensured her clients were well informed on quarantine regulations along each stage of the trip and made sure they had enough time to arrange a passport for the newest addition to their family.
The dedicated personal travel manager (PTM) was in touch with the family throughout their journey to Seattle, anxiously monitoring their progress every step of the way.
“It was a huge relief when I received a photo of my client having arrived safely in Seattle and holding her beautiful new baby!” she said.
But the ordeal was far from over for the family – at this stage, the baby had no passport and therefore could not leave the country with her parents.
“This meant they had to fly San Francisco, stopping for four days to arrange an emergency passport with the Australian Consulate there,” Southern said.
“A US-born baby travelling with Australians without a passport had the potential to raise major red flags, so we were all very relieved when they were able to board their flight.”
Once in San Francisco Southern made sure her clients were as comfortable as possible during their stay, ensuring their room was stocked with extra water, a bassinet, and other vital supplies so they could semi-isolated while they waited for the passport.
Once the emergency passport had been issued, Southern spent a busy Sunday morning arranging a ticket back to Perth for the newly born Australian.
This was a complicated booking process with two separate airlines, multiple phone calls and emails, seating arrangements and bassinets.
“Throughout the process, I was in constant contact with my clients, keeping them up to date with progress,” Southern said.
“It was a huge relief to know that they had safely boarded their Sydney-bound flight, and even more so to hear that they had been escorted by the Australian Border Force to their appointed quarantine hotel, where they were required to spend the night before connecting to their final flight back to Perth.”
Arriving back in Perth, Southern and her clients were finally able to relax, after nine tense nights during which only the new baby had been able to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
“The baby’s grandparents were existing clients of mine who travel regularly and had introduced the expectant parents to me,” Southern said.
“When their original travel plans fell over, they opted to stay with me notwithstanding subsequent advice to use a travel agent accustomed to organising the movement of new parents with surrogate children.
“I was thrilled when I received the confirmation that they had made it home safely – there is no way that a civilian could have managed the process by trying to make their bookings online.”
Southern says her clients are delighted to be back home in Perth, and having completed their two-week quarantine, are enjoying their new addition to the family.
“I checked in with them a few times throughout their self-isolation to see if they needed anything, and they returned the favour when they emerged from quarantine, arranging the delivery of a gourmet food hamper – although completely unnecessary, it was much appreciated!”
Featured image source: iStock/Dangubic