We thought this was a great article too hare from Apple News, and we couldn't agree more, that this industry is grateful to all the travel agents who work so hard to make miracles happen!
Travel agents praised for ‘working like Trojans’ to get stranded customers home
As the coronavirus outbreak causes mass job losses around the country, one group being hit particularly hard is travel agents. Recently we gave a big shoutoutto all the travel agents going the extra mile in these stressful times, while doing it tough themselves.
Your response was overwhelming. We received dozen of emails and Facebook messages, thanking particular agents or teams, as well as praising the role travel agents play in helping plan amazing holidays, and stepping up in times of crisis when things go wrong.
• Chelsea Muscroft at Palm Beach Travel Co. got us out of Europe last week. She was one step ahead all the way. Good travel agents are like gold and she is the best. Hardest time for them, good luck to all of them.
• Tanya Wilkinson, our travel agent from Helloworld Ferntree Gully was amazing when we were in Egypt over a week ago. She immediately informed us of all of the quickly changing conditions even before our local travel guides knew. She and Patrick arranged emergency flights home efficiently and professionally with our worried families. We appreciate the care and support our travel agent provided.
-Jan Mahoney and Anne Maitland
• My dear friend and travel agent Shena Barrett at MTA Travel can never do enough for us to make our travel experience so much more special. Thank you and wishing you well in these trying times.
• Belinda Farrelly at TravelbyBel and APP Travel has been doing an awesome job over the past few weeks for her clients! Working all hours of the day to bring her clients home and making sure that people like me who have trips booked overseas soon know exactly what’s happening and helping navigate the changes needing to be made! She is a Godsend and I wouldn’t book a trip overseas without her!
• I’m very grateful that I have a great travel agent in Cindy Hasler from Holiday and Cruise Centre in Ballarat.
• James and especially Kay and team at Flight Centre Kings Meadows in Tassie have been friendly, kindly, professional and great communicators. MUCH APPRECIATED GUYS.
– Peter Smit
• Chris Chong at MTA Sunshine Coast always goes the extra mile. In the last couple of weeks he went beyond what is expected, managed to get myself and many other clients home. Chris is a legend and is worth her weight in gold. It pays to use a very good travel agent.
• Natasha Orpwood and the girls at Hello World Eatons Hill have been working like Trojans the past few weeks getting people home and rescheduling the best they can in this very difficult time.
• A huge shout out to Tracy King at MTA who has just been amazing with rescheduling our current May cancellations and making our travel plans possible for the future! Always make sure that you have a trustworthy travel agent as it’s moments like this that you know that you can rely on one when you really need one.
• Tricia King and her team at Dapto Helloworld have been working like Trojans.
• Joanne Haines from Travel Managers had partnered with us in planning a five-week Europe trip with our kids. We cancelled the night before the flight out. She has rolled into action triaging her customers and reshuffling things like a magician. I feel for hard working Aussies in the travel industry at the moment!
• I was in Africa volunteering on the Africa Mercy Hospital ship in Senegal and use a small not-for-profit company called Mission Travel in Melbourne. The owner Lisa and the rest of her team worked extremely hard to get quite a few of us home in a turbulent time with ever-changing conditions of airports closing and flights being cancelled. Lisa was working 13+ hours a day to get us home. I know I am eternally grateful for all their hard work. Unfortunately the company is closing at the end of March, because in these times people like to organise their own holidays to save just that little bit of extra money, but not once did that stop them in their efforts to get us home safely. I for one am glad I used a travel agent as I would probably be stuck in Africa now if I had to rely on myself. Thank you Lisa, Josh and the rest of the team. I am forever thankful.
• We were based in Jerusalem, winding up our trip to Jordan & Israel when an alert came through Jordan was closing all borders in 36 hours. This left us stranded with now useless tickets home (to transit back via Amman two days after its borders closed down). There were frantic phone calls to indifferent airlines and consular officials, then in stepped our wonderful travel agent (Mark Malmberg of CPTravel, Moonee Ponds, VIC) who quickly saved the day with new tickets out, via Istanbul, back to home, thus saving our trip and our sanity.
Let’s hope all those wonderful travel agents survive the new travel landscape.
• A huge thank you to our amazing and hardworking travel agent, Bec Knowles at Flight Centre, Devonport, Tasmania. She is working very hard looking after us regarding our May holiday to Hawaii. She has been keeping us up to date on the ever-changing fare waivers and options available to us. Idon’t know what we would do if we were on our own. Thank goodness for these agents who are working so hard to look after their stressed out clients.
-Ken & Deb Barrett
• I have just heard from Ros my travel agent at Travel Associates, Glendale who is working from home as only one office in Newcastle is still open. She has done my travel for a number of years and has 45 years experience. I have valued her advice and experience over the years and wish her all the best.
• I had a trip booked to the UK in May and had a phone call from the Flight Centre that I had booked my trip with, with advice which I took. Before we finished talking I mentioned my brother in law and his wife had been visiting Australia for the past 3 1/2 weeks, that his flight back to the UK had been cancelled, and that they were finding it hard to get a flight back to the UK. Anita at Flight Centre found a flight for them on Malaysian Airlines which she booked but would not pass payment until she was sure it would not be cancelled. At 8pm, two days prior to departure, she phoned to say it was cancelled but ‘don’t worry’. The next day she phoned to say that flight would go and again confirmed it and paid early evening when she was sure.I cannot thank her enough. What a great representative and worker for Flight Centre. I just hope she is retained. Thank you, Anita.
• I will never, ever again book any travel independently. My wonderful travel agent, Darin Warburton at Travel Associates, Mountain Creek, QLD, got me home from Yellowknife, Canada, with minimum fuss, anxiety or cost when travel companions were struggling to communicate with clogged websites and call centres.
On a Luxury Escapes tour to Canada to see Northern Lights we were beginning to hear that the virus was getting serious but only via news on TV. Then I got an email from my daughter saying ‘ET, come home’. Darin had contacted her and asked her to contact me giving me his personal phone number. No one else in the tour group was warned of the deteriorating situation at all. They thought I was mad. At first I thought I could just shorten my visit to friends after the tour ended and he re-booked my flight. But when we got off the plane in Yellowknife two days later, we were informed that the whole tour was cancelled as of that minute. We had hotel rooms for the night, but nothing else. Neither the tour company in Australia nor their agent in Canada contacted us at all. We were left to our own devices to try to get home.
I emailed Darin to say ‘get me out of here’ and then Skyped to his phone. Within two hours my itinerary was changed and I had a seat on the early morning flight out of Yellowknife, a new flight from Calgary to LA, and then home using my original ticket on Virgin Australia.
Bless travel agents and Darin especially.
• John at Helloworld Travel, Springwood, is a wonderful travel agent.
• Alicia Clark, from TravelManagers, has gone above and beyond for so many people. I am not sure she ever sleeps!
• STA Travel have been very helpful, thanks.
• Craig at Flight Centre Traralgon.
• As they say “without a travel agent you are on your own!”
• Rachel at My Cruises Broadbeach.
• I have the best travel agent, Naomi Arantzoverall, just a gem.
• Cathy at Tewantin Travel has been fantastic.
• Matt Holden at Flight Centre Randwick has been awesome, working under extreme pressure.
BRINGING CRUISE PASSENGERS HOME
Recent weeks have seen cruise passengers stranded around the world, with cruise ships turned away from foreign ports, and Australia banning all cruises ships from docking.
During these times of extreme anxiety for passengers on board, travel agents have proven invaluable, as these customers explain.
• Our cruise was cancelled but only after we had travelled to San Diego the day before we were due to board. We contacted the emergency email address of our travel agent, Helloworld Figtree, and they were able to organise (on a Sunday in Australia) flights home for us. On Monday (Australian time) they confirmed our flights and emailed our new e-tickets. It was a very stressful time for us and many others and we can’t thank our travel consultants Gerry, Karan, and Karen enough.
– Helen Copas
• My Travel Agent, Paul Rickard of Helloworld Travel Caloundra was onboard L’Austral with 23 of his clients (me included) when Uruguay and Argentina closed their borders.
Paul worked tirelessly whilst onboard with the PONANT team to procure flights home for all 24 of us. He also kept our spirits high and continually checked our mental health and well-being. Paul stated, ‘we are a family and need to stick together and look out for other. Leave the logistics to me and my team. You continue to enjoy this great ddventure. We will all be OK, I will get us all home’.
Meanwhile, his team back in Caloundra processed refunds and credits for our original return flights and individual land extensions. Of course, in addition to our group of 24, Paul helped his team remotely and they managed the repatriation of all other overseas clients.
Truly a tough time, but everyone came together as a team.
• Our cruise was deep into the North Sea when the Captain announced we’d be turning around and going back to Southampton ending our cruise to Norway seven days early. This meant we’d be stuck in the UK for a week with uncertainty about when and if we could get a flight back to Australia and no idea where we could stay. It was late on a Friday night, Australian time, and I attempted through ship-to-shore telephone and internet to change our flight and transfer arrangements myself but became increasingly frustrated dealing with the different contacts. So, at 9am on a Saturday Australian time we managed to contact our travel agent Connie at Helloworld Eltham who had anticipated the problems we’d face, and with minimal explanation from us knew exactly what to do. Our anxiety turned to relief once we were able to talk with Connie. We contacted Connie three hours later and although she was still on hold with the airline was confident she could bring our flights and transfer arrangements forward. At 3am Sunday we received confirmation from her that the flights and transfer could go ahead and in the early ours of Monday morning on the day of disembarkation we received copies of our e-tickets. With borders closing fast and airlines cutting back on flights we are now relieved to be back home – albeit in 14-day isolation. But it would have been a lot worse without the expertise and persistence of Connie and her colleagues at Helloworld Eltham. Many thanks to Connie and Helloworld Eltham.
-Ken & Jess Beattie
• My husband and I, along with 64 other travellers, off the NCL Norwegian Spirit cruise ship, which had been docked in Capetown from March 20th, became stranded at Cape Town airport on March 23rd due to Emirates’ last-minute cancellation of flights from Dubai to Australia/US because of their government putting restrictions in place.
After 10 hours of pleading for help from NCL and DFAT/Australian Consulate in Pretoria (who had two staff meet us at the port as we got off the ship) refused to come to the airport to assist us in anyway – all they could offer was to find your own way home ASAP and don’t leave CapeTown as we will be unable to assist you. No one received help from either. Some people managed to rebook and purchase new flights home, however, all flights were full on a variety of routes home.
I contacted my brother, who put a post on facebook with a cry for help. He received responses from two people who were willing to help:
-Janelle Beucker from Travel Managers who wass working from home in Lismore, New South Wales, and came to the rescue and worked for 13 hours straight trying to obtain seats on full Qantas flights from Johannesburg to Sydney for either March 24th or 26th for our group of six. She was not our travel agent and went beyond anyone I have known as a travel agent to help secure flights home on March 24th for the six of us. She was selfless in her actions and I cannot believe what she did for us considering we were not her clients. I will be using Janelle in the future for any travel bookings and cannot recommend her services enough as a travel agent that will go well beyond what is required. Times will be tough for her until the world returns to normal, but after that date anyone wanting a caring and knowledgeable agent should use Janelle.
-Jose from Flight Centre in Brisbane – tried to arrange a charter flight home for us, but because all the stranded passengers were scattered over four hotels with no central contact person was unable to proceed. If the Australian Consulate representative came to the airport, like we requested, we could have had this option come to fruition. Thank you Jose for your massive efforts.
These people are heroes that need to be thanked! Australia has some wonderful Aussies that care for fellow Aussies.
Have you been stranded overseas or experienced exceptional service from your travel agent? Share your story with Escape. Email firstname.lastname@example.org