10 ways we’ve averted disasters for our clients

Here are ten ways we've averted disaster for our clients ...

#1 Stranded in remote Africa with no flight home

Our client called from outback South Africa with little phone access. South Africa Airlines had cancelled their domestic flight and rescheduled them a day later. But the airline had not alerted their code-share partner British Airways, who were leaving the following morning. British Airways recorded them as a ‘no show’, leaving them stranded.

We stepped in and took four hours to convince the airlines of their mistake. Neither airline was able to take immediate responsibility. Our client was unable to make international calls and without us, would have had no chance of resolving this problem.

#2 Lost in an unsafe New York neighbourhood

We’d booked a solo traveller a trip to New York but she’d inadvertently stumbled into a neighbourhood where she felt unsafe. Panicked by the experience she called us for help.

We asked her to read the nearest corner street signs to ascertain her whereabouts before jumping on Google. We found a travel agent on an adjacent street and gave them a call. Within moments, they were outside, found her and invited her in where she was offered a coffee to drink while we planned an exit strategy to get her safely back to her hotel.

#3 Left out in the cold in a Paris snowstorm

Our client had arrived in Paris in an exceptionally cold winter. There was a serious snow storm and the owner of the accommodation was nowhere to be found. It turns out he was stuck in heavy snow and couldn’t reach her in time.

While we endeavour to provide all the contact details to our clients, we don’t expect everyone always have it all on hand. In this case we were able to contact the owner ourselves and arrange a restaurant nearby for our client to wait in the warmth. She was collected a short while later by the owner and transported to the apartment. [We had a similar, separate situation, with a couple whose Paris hotel burnt down while they were enroute].

#4 Kicked off a flight in Florence with no visa

An Italian passport holder in Florence had lost her visa document to Australia. The airline was simply not letting her check in for her flight home as she could provide no evidence of authority to travel.

Everyone who travels with us has an electronic itinerary loaded into their phone. This contains comprehensive travel details. As a matter of principle, we also ask for documentation and make sure we have all of this on file – and we happened to have a copy of the visa. It was a simple case of uploading this to the system and asking her to hit refresh on the app. She showed the airline staff and they let her straight on the plane!

#5 Leaving for Antarctica with no warm clothes!

A couple travelling to Antarctica had landed in Buenos Aires and their bags were nowhere to be seen. It was late at night for them and they had a city tour organised the next day, followed by a 2,000km flight to join a cruise. Their bags contained critical warm clothing and cameras but they had little to no daylight hours to call anyone, when they weren’t in the air themselves.

We started making calls on their behalf while they went to sleep. It took about four hours of coordinating Air New Zealand and Sydney airport when, by some chance, we were given the number of a ground staff member who found the bags sitting in Sydney Airport. The bags were rerouted via New Zealand and put on another local airline, to fly to Ushuaia, then delivered by taxi. They were handed to our clients just before they boarded their 21 day cruise to the Antarctic.

#6 On the wrong train to Italy!

The client rang and said ‘I think I’m on the wrong train.’ They were supposed to be going from Paris to Italy but were heading somewhere completely different.

We asked her to read the next station name and then accessing our own online European train schedule software, worked out which train she got on, which was definitely incorrect. We advised her to get off at the next station and catch the train back. We the worked out the right platform and time to leave from. They made it to Italy, albeit a little later than hoped for.

#7 The guide dog that was refused a passport

A group tour from Australia to Canada was being attended by a client with a disability and trained assistance dog. Under both Australian and Canadian law, such dogs are allowed to fly. However, one of the airlines was saying no, despite the animal being fully trained, medically approved and required to be in cabin with its handler.

The first thing we had to do was convince the airline that this was a disability issue and against Australian Consumer Law to refuse. Once that was done (which took many days) we actually went to the airport with the group, and spent an hour doing the paperwork for the dog, to make absolutely sure it all worked out.

#8 Getting a flight refunded on compassionate grounds

A client was planning a trip to Fiji and after booking a cheap flight and paying in full, had fallen ill. The terms of their contract meant that they were being told that no refund would be allowed.

Airline rules might seem hard and fast when it comes to cancellations. However, when a client made a plea on compassionate grounds, we are often able to get compensation (minus a nominal change fee). This has nothing to do with the rules. It’s more about human-to-human interaction. We have a long-standing relationship with the airlines and contacts with people the public cannot get hold of.

#9 Being shunned by the gig economy

Seven days before a family holiday booked through a popular ‘self-managed online accommodation site, the apartment owners sent an announcement. They were no longer allowing anyone into the apartment as they were using it for themselves and forced a cancellation.

When booking through these popular self-service sites, we try to entice our customers, to use our gateway. You get exactly the same price but we can then manage the booking on your behalf when thing go wrong. In this case it paid off for our customers. We had them reinstalled into a better apartment at a new place, at a higher cost but at no extra cost to them.

#10 Deprived of a flight during sleep

Our client was due to fly at 6:30am and notification that their flight was cancelled was sent ‘by robot’ at midnight. At 4am we got the call from them. Naturally, without a flight, our client stayed at home. It turned out they did reschedule the flight … for about 7:00am but the systems didn’t send that notification until much later. The client could have left in time but instead missed both flights.

Ironically, as agents, we get almost no commission on flights. The airlines, meanwhile, have replaced people with software. The onus is on the customer to manage flights while experts like us, are cut off from being funded to do the airlines’ work for them. We managed to sort this problem out and get the client rescheduled on a later flight without being penalised as a ‘no-show’.

These issues can be quite funny in hindsight ... but inevitably happened at the most inconvenient moments.

The problem is, the commonest issues with travel are at the connection points. Flight arrivals and departures, transfers, getting into accommodation, and lost luggage are prone.

These days, your itineraries are programmed by us into a digital format and we have everything logged. Stronger privacy laws mean we can only manage what's pre-authorised though. Flights are particularly problematic ... so it's good when we have booked them.

Whatever happens, we can usually significantly limit these risks and by being organised, can step in to smooth things over.