This special category celebrates stories of travel agents going to extraordinary lengths to look after their customers. Choosing just one winner from the many inspiring nominations was no mean feat, but judges felt that this particular agent had shown astonishing commitment – not only with her time and tenacity but also her own money – to help a client in distress.
LAH Travel owner Linda Hill Miller last year became involved in a frantic race against time to grant a client their dying wish.
The couple concerned had booked with the agency for 15 years and travelled three times a year to Tenerife. On their last trip the wife had not disclosed she had lung cancer, so when she became critically ill with a chest infection, her insurance was invalid. The distressed husband called Linda and urged her to help repatriate his wife at his own expense so that she could die at home in Scotland.
Linda had never been involved in a repatriation without an insurance company, but over 48 “mental” hours over a weekend she researched the procedure, sourced a Learjet and crew, a private medical team and a private ambulance to meet the plane. She also had the client’s hospital records translated from Spanish into English by a specialist medical translator.
The most challenging part was raising the money, as Learjet would only accept cleared funds. The trusting client arranged for Linda to access the loft of his house where he’d stashed his debit cards. With £35,000 to raise and the client’s card limits maxed out, there was still not enough. So, despite her own husband’s anxiety, Linda topped up the balance from her business account, an advance from Hays Travel on her commission and her own savings. She also used an airline contact to check that the private pilot she was liaising with was legitimate.
The first call to Linda was made on Saturday morning and the sick wife made it home on the Monday night. She lived just a few hours longer, enough to ask to see Linda in hospital and to thank her for what she’d done. At her funeral, the minister publicly praised the agency. The widower now pops in weekly for coffee. And, yes, Linda did get her money back.