Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Agents snap into action to deal with storm chaos

Travel agents are working around the clock to help clients who are impacted by the storm flight cancellations.

John McEwan, chief executive of Advantage Travel Centres, said member agencies have been working since the start of the weekend to rearrange flights and holidays.

"Our members will be working late into the evening to amend their customers itineraries," he said.

But he said the disruption won't be as damaging as the Ash Cloud chaos in 2010, when more than 75% of European airspace was closed for a week, affecting more than 90,000 flights and 10 million passengers.

"I don't think the impact will be as severe as ash cloud as it's much more localised and for a shorter duration," said McEwan. "Nevertheless, the disruption will cost billions of pounds to the industry."

Travel Counsellors operations director Karen Morris said: "As soon as the news broke about Sandy our agents and head office team made sure that contact was made with all clients who were affected, as we also did with the recent weather warnings in South East Asia.

"The situation is changing all the time and we are making sure that our agents and customers are constantly updated and have 24hr support."

Kevin Mitchell, from the Business Travel Coalition in the US, said airline, hotel and travel agency operations will be under strain in the coming days.

"Because of the scope of the Philadelphia-New York airspace, virtually the entire US will feel the disruptions centred there as will travellers frozen in place around the world, many of whom will wait several days for a return seat to open up.

"Travellers need to be rebooked and some confusion reigns over supplier policies regarding refunds and penalties as all manner of unforeseen situations likely emerged for travellers and meeting planners.

"Suppliers are being very proactive and, in large part, because there were few if any naysayers this time about the threats imposed by these converging weather systems.

"Travel agents in particular, who have had much experience with natural and other disasters in recent years, will shine in the eyes of clients. Their expertise, personalized service and genuine concern for the client will combine to truly impress."

New York and other parts of the east coast are being hit by severe flooding, storm surges, and power cuts. According to reports, at least 13 people have been killed.



by Bev Fearis


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