If your Executive travels regularly you will both be used to travel delays and disruptions, sometimes those delays are easy to manage and sometimes they are much bigger than expected and can cause chaos around the world. I was working as an Assistant when the Iceland Volcano erupted back in 2010 causing widespread travel disruptions around the world that lasted nearly a week. Of course, I was travelling back from Japan at the time, my Executive was travelling in Huston, while back in London we had an event planned with attendees from all over Europe. It all got sorted, with a lot of help and a lot of stress we all got home and the event took place online instead of in London. It was a crazy nightmare and something to this day I think about when writing about travel planning. I thought I would try and recapture some of the lessons from that episode and some other advice that I got over the years on how to go about managing a travel crisis.
Managing a travel crisis
The first thing to do before any travel planning is to check if there are any risks associated with the place your Executive is travelling to, the airline or the hotel. Are there any strikes due to take place? It is always best to be prepared, as much as you can be, before sending your Executive on the road.
Always always have contacts in all of the locations your Executive is visiting, either with someone in your local office or the client they are meeting. This is where your networking skills come in handy – make and maintain those contacts so that if there is a crisis you have someone to call.
Can you track your Executive’s movements? You can make use of technology here and ask your Executive to use ‘track my iPhone’ while they are away so that you know where they are in case of an emergency. Some organisations will give their high-level Executive’s tracking devises if they are flying anywhere with travel risks. If either of these options seem excessive then do make sure that you have an extensive literary for your Executive that you are both following. You should know roughly where they are throughout the trip.
Again when planning the trip and working through the itinerary, think about the questions your Executive might have if they get stuck in any of the locations, be it an airport or city, and then plan the answers. All of the airport websites will have information on restaurants, lounges, hotels etc. Your Executive should be a member of every airline reward programme available. make sure you sign them up for any trip because members will get access to the airport lounge, which is great if they get stuck in an airport, and they usually have priority when it comes to finding seats on other flights. Have a rough idea of where to send them if they have to stay overnight in the city, usually hotels get booked up really quickly if the airport is backed up so have maybe a hotel on standby or a place that might be off the beaten track that other travellers won’t book. Any port in a storm right?
Delayed and cancelled flights? Here are a few quick tips on how to deal with delayed and cancelled flights:
- If you can avoid it, don’t put your Executive on the last flight out of the airport. If there have been delays all day then the last flight out of the airport is often cancelled because of restrictions on flight times and the hours that the airline staff can work. This often results in passengers left stranded at the airport or shipped out to hotels overnight.
- Track the flight to make sure there are no delays. If a flight is delayed and your Executive has to make a connecting flight, call the other airline immediately to see if they can be moved to another connection. Always call the customer service line or check online as soon as you know. Everyone else will have to wait until they land and so you will be at the front of the queue.
- Keep up to date with updates. Make sure you download all of the airline apps and change the settings so that you get push notifications telling you about delays and changes to the flights. You will often receive notifications if there are issues due to other factors, for example, strikes or problems getting into the airport.
Have all of the information on your Executive’s trip to hand, including their itinerary, passport details, frequent flyer membership numbers etc. Everything that might come up if there is a problem. Print everything out and have it on your desk until they are back in the office.
Again, before your Executive leaves for their trip make sure you both know how to communicate with each other, when will they have WiFi for example and when can they be reached? Again, have all of this information stored somewhere on the itinerary so that you both know how to get in contact.
If you are working with a travel management company, this is where they come in really handy. Often the experts will know how to get your Executive home and will have contacts at the airport and on the ground to help assist your Executive. They also operate 24/7 so make sure your Executive has their number if they get stuck anywhere and they can’t reach you.
Managing a travel crisis is pretty stressful for everyone concerned but hopefully, with a little forward planning and these handy tips, you will get your executive home safe and sound! Oh, my last tip. Load up their iPad with Netflix and download a few movies, just in case they need to entertain themselves for a few hours.