Agents have compared the disruption caused by last week’s severe weather to that which followed the 2010 ash cloud, with one agent even driving a client from Cardiff to Heathrow to ensure he made his flight.
Multiple inspiring tales of staff going the extra mile to get customers on their way have emerged amid one of the coldest snaps for years, which grounded more than 1,000 flights, shut airports, and hit road and rail travel. Few areas of the UK and Ireland were unscathed by polar vortex the “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma, which lingered into the weekend.
“We had a bit of a disaster on Friday night,” Steve Cartwright, managing director of Cartwright Travel in Cardiff, told TTG.
“We had one guy who couldn’t get to Heathrow. No one would drive him. So I took him myself at 5am on Saturday armed with a couple of flasks. Everyone went beyond the call of duty. We set up a WhatsApp group so we could all work from home – it was brilliant.”
Shona Thorne, managing director of Thorne Travel in Ayrshire, said staff worked past 11pm on March 1 and had every client looked after by Sunday: “It took a lot of pizza and wine,” she said.
“Everyone was on the phones. It was a real team effort. We gave out laptops and re-routed phones so calls were answered.
“With no Glasgow or Edinburgh [airport], we even got people on their way via Ireland before that shut down. The last time we had [travel disruption like] this was the ash cloud.”
Clare Dunne, managing director of The Travel Broker in Dublin, added that proactivity was key to her staff’s response: “Crucially, we contacted people before they were stuck. We were on it very early.
“We made sure calls were answered and kept in constant touch with people. Everyone did what they had to do – I mean, we lived through the ash cloud!”
Lisa Henning, group membership services director at The Travel Network Group, said members utilised a 24/7, 365-day a year emergency contact number to coordinate their response.
She added the consortium helped one client stuck on a motorway with no phone battery by liaising with her through police at the scene.
Meanwhile, the wintry weather also hit a number of industry events in the week.
The Travel Network Group was forced to postpone its cruise conference until May 20; the Scottish Passengers Agents’ Association pushed back its annual dinner to April 24 and TTG LGBT moved its debate to May 1.