Last updated: 08:46 AM ET, Thu March 31 2016

Epic Saves: More True Tales of Travel Agents in Action

Travel Agent | Lisa Iannucci | March 30, 2016

Epic Saves: More True Tales of Travel Agents in Action

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Traveling isn’t always perfect – there are delays, cancellations, acts of Mother Nature and, unfortunately, acts of terrorism. Travel agents do whatever they can to help their clients when something unfortunate comes up and they need to simply tweak their itineraries. However, other agents have been hit with insurmountable odds of solving their client’s problem but, ultimately, pulled an “epic save.”

It was the bombs in Turkey that scared the grown daughter of Elaine Carey’s client. “She would email me every time a bomb went off anywhere in Turkey,” said Carey, an affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc., member of Virtuoso.

Her elderly stepfather had booked a cruise that ended in Istanbul, but he still wanted to continue with his plans. “Since he’s the one paying for it, I moved forward advising him that we’ll keep a close eye on the situation and make a decision prior to final payment,” she said.

Unfortunately another bomb hit Turkey right after the final payment was due and close to the where the cruise ship docks. Their cruise line had not made any decisions yet, but two others had already pulled out of Turkey. “The financial penalty was going to be over $4k, because he was in a suite and the rules differ,” she said.

The client altered their destination, ending their trip in Athens instead of Istanbul. “I had to jump into action to change his post hotel and his non-refundable Business Class air,” she said.

The client didn’t have to cancel his plans or pay a penalty, and Carey worked it out with the airline to change the tickets. The client was not charged any fees. “It could have easily gone the other way, but I worked and worked on it to make it happen because I knew this might very well be his last trip and I want him to have a wonderful experience for his last hurrah,” she said.

READ MORE: Epic Saves, Vol. 1

Trish Mercer of Georgia Travel Experts had a different kind of explosion to handle for her clients. “I had a family of seven — two adults and five kids 13 and under — in France when a volcano exploded in Iceland and grounded all flights,” she said.

The family needed to get from France to Civitavecchia for a cruise, but Mercer had the extra added bonus that the railroads were on strike. “Imagine the challenge of the size of the family, the need to be under one roof and not in scattered rooms, and the distance,” she explains. “We were able to move them into Provence, then to the coast, then have a driver take them into Italy, then take the train to Rome and then a driver to the port. Needless to say, they made it and had a great time and their Travel Ex travel insurance paid for most of the extra costs.”

Bringing them Closer

A brother and sister – one in Europe and one in the United States – were traveling with their families to the Four Seasons in Costa Rica. They hadn't seen each other for three years and made it a point to be in two suites right near each other.

Unfortunately, when they arrived the suites were far apart and the hotel was almost sold out with spring break vacationers. “I persuaded the general manager to offer them a Casa Del Cielo Residence (their largest villa on property that would have cost an additional $6,000 per night) at no additional charge,” said Eric Grayson of Discovery7. This way, they ended up all staying under one roof.  

Storm Damage

In 2015, Nick Salmen at Remarkable Journeys in Minneapolis, Minn. had just spent months putting together a company-wide meeting for a client at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minn., including booking lodging, providing transportation and activities, and taking care of general logistics for the 200+ employees of the firm. 

Two weeks before the meeting started, a severe storm swept through the Brainerd area. “The storm caused significant damage to the resort and they were forced to evacuate all of their guests and close down the resort for the foreseeable future,” said Salmen. “The morning after the storm, we received a call from our client in panic.”

In two weeks, Salmen had to put together another meeting that had originally taken six months to do.

“This included finding a hotel with availability, finding activities for spouses and children, booking restaurants and entertainment, cancelling and modifying flights, and communicating all the changes with the 200-plus travelers,” he said. “Considering we had many months to plan the original meeting at Madden’s, this was a large task, but the Minneapolis meeting ended up a large success and the client was thrilled. We consider this a pretty big save.”


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