Behind the scenes, travel professionals have been working tirelessly to assist their clients in managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their travel plans.
Many travellers who found themselves stranded overseas, with borders closing and flights cancelling, have been thankful for the unsung support and assistance provided by agents like Diane Craig.
Craig, who is TravelManagers’ representative for North Balgowlah in New South Wales, had clients who had flown to Greece for a family bereavement.
With the COVID-19 situation deteriorating daily around the world, the Australian government began imploring Australians to return home urgently,
Craig’s clients, who had intended to return home on 11 April, suddenly needed to get on the first available flight home.
“I managed to get my clients onto a flight from Heathrow on 23 March, but they were denied boarding because Singapore had closed its airport to transit passengers at midnight the night before,” Craig explained.
“They were shifted onto another flight two days later, but then heard from social media that the new flight wouldn’t go ahead either.”
The TravelManagers agent was in constant contact with her British Airways account manager, monitoring the evolving situation as the airline continued to negotiate with the Singapore government.
The different time zones made the situation more complicated, but Craig emailed her account manager at 8pm, and at 9:30pm received a call from her confirming that the flight would go ahead.
“My clients were almost resigned to being stuck in the UK because of what they’d read on social media,” Craig said.
“Having a strong relationship with British Airways meant that I was able to provide my clients with up-to-the-minute information.
“I advised them to go to the airport, and at 5am I received a very appreciative SMS from them, advising that they had just gone through Immigration at Heathrow.
“They were beyond relieved to be on their way home on one of British Airways’ final flights to Australia via Singapore.”
Fellow TravelManagers agent Anthony Lee, who is based in Brisbane, also had clients whose travel arrangements were overturned by the COVID-19 pandemic, including one couple whose “extensive” European itinerary would have finished in the celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
“Unfortunately, their holiday had barely begun when the situation in Italy began to deteriorate,” Lee said.
Italy is on the road to recovery from the coronavirus; however, not so long ago, the country was the epicentre of the pandemic. To date, the country has recorded at least 29,684 deaths from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Italy recently began the process of relaxing lockdown measures, put in place across the country to halt the devastating spread of COVID-19.
Lee was able to navigate these conditions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy.
“I made alternate arrangements for them to spend the latter part of their holiday in the Netherlands and Belgium instead, but as time went by, we decided that they needed to curtail their holiday and head directly home to Australia,” he said.
Lee organised new flights and accommodation for his clients, but a medical emergency meant that further changes were then required.
TravelManagers’ executive general manager, Michael Gazal, believes every one of the company’s 600-plus agents have demonstrated their commitment to providing “every possible assistance” to clients who have found their well-laid travel plans in disarray.
“COVID-19 has turned the travel industry on its head for the foreseeable future, but it has also served for many as a reminder of the invaluable worth of having a personal travel manager,” he said.
“Knowing your [agent] is just a phone call, email or even SMS away, pulling strings and working around the clock to get you safely home, makes all the difference when you’re stranded on the other side of the world.”
Do you know an unsung hero of the COVID-19 pandemic? Get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.