From the moment the virus began to impede the movement of people around the world, Australian travel agents began repatriating their clients, as well as rescheduling, rebooking, cancelling, amending and postponing their travel arrangements. Amid all of that, they’ve also been chasing refunds, credits and monies owed to their clients and suppliers.
It has been, without a doubt, the most challenging time in the industry’s history. But crises often bring out the very best in people.
Aboard an Arctic cruise just days into their 7-week trip of a lifetime, JD and Annabelle’s travel arrangements were turned upside down.
Then their personal travel manager Julie Lunn, from TravelManagers Australia took control of the situation.
Julie Lunn at Moraine Lake, Alberta; Julie the Personal Travel Manager. Credit: Julie Lunn.
JD and Annabelle spent nearly a year planning their trip of a lifetime—seven weeks in Europe cruising the Arctic, touring the UK by rail, and Ireland by coach.
They hoped it would be an experience they would never forget. That turned out to be true, just for all the wrong reasons.
“We started planning our dream holiday about 12 months ago,” recalls Annabelle.
That dream included a 13-day Northern Lights cruise setting sail from Bergen in Norway. Heading north into the arctic circle to view the magical aurora borealis, the Viking cruise was scheduled to visit remote Norwegian ports before steering south-west to London. From there, the adventure incorporated a rail tour of England, Wales, Scotland, followed by a coach tour around Ireland.
With return flights, transits, transfers and other details, it was the kind of meticulously assembled journey best arranged by the steady hand of an ATAS-accredited travel professional like Julie Lunn—a personal travel manager based in Ferntree Gully, Victoria.
After a smooth start, Julie received an upbeat message from JD & Annabelle.
“Our flights went really well, we have arrived in Bergen and—Wow!—we love our Viking ship. It’s so stylish, and we’re excited about setting sail on our Northern Lights cruise,” the brief message said.
JD enjoying a pre-cruise refreshment; Exploring Bergen, Norway. Credit: JD and Annabelle.
Less than 24-hours later however, the situation had changed dramatically.
After setting sail from Bergen in the afternoon, JD & Annabelle enjoyed a lovely dinner and evening aboard the ship, and were excited about their next first port of call in Norway.
“Sadly, we were awoken at 6.00 am by an announcement that our cruise had been cancelled due to the potential threat of Coronavirus. We were sailing directly to London with no specific disembarkation date,” Annabelle recalls.
Julie received another message—this time describing the bleak situation. Besides the heartbreaking disappointment of a dream holiday in tatters, the flow-on effect of the cruise cancellation on the rest of their holiday was significant.
“JD and Annabelle weren’t sure when they’d arrive in London, and were in the dark about what would happen then. The cruise line was still trying to work out the logistics, and the passengers were left to try to mend their broken travel dreams,” says Julie.
Fortunately, JD and Annabelle had a travel professional in their corner to take control of the situation and get to work on a rescue plan. Other passengers who had booked direct or made their own DIY arrangements online, weren’t so lucky. But with Julie working away behind the scenes, her clients were able enjoy the ship’s first class facilities while they awaited clearance to dock at Tilbury port, near London.
“It was a great comfort knowing that Julie was across the unfolding coronavirus situation, and assessing the best way forward, even if that just meant bringing us home as quickly and safely as possible,” says Annabelle.
Julie received a phone call from JD & Annabelle late one evening. Viking had just been given clearance to dock at Tilbury. Now armed with those details, Julie could take action.
“It was time for me to get busy,” she says.
Julie quickly confirmed a private car to meet JD and Annabelle at Tilbury Docks and whisk them to London some 25-miles away.
Next she made a booking at a nice hotel in London so they could relax for a few days while Julie contacted each tour operator involved in the next seven weeks of JD and Annabelle’s original itinerary.
Annabelle and JD sitting tight in London awaiting their next move. Credit: JD and Annabelle.
“I had to determine whether their remaining travel arrangements, including pre-booked guided tours in Scotland and Ireland, were still going ahead or were likely to cancel,” says Julie.
JD and Annabelle rested up in London awaiting updates from Julie as she worked through the complex itinerary and monitored the ever tightening border and travel restrictions. And on the 17th of March, the Australian government urged Australians overseas to return home as borders continued to close around the world.
It was time for Julie to bring JD and Annabelle home—in normal circumstances a fairly simple process. But airlines were grounding their fleets, cancelling services, and there was a rush on tickets for departing flights.
“Seats were vanishing from our reservations systems before we could complete the bookings. I’d never seen anything like it,” says Julie.
To JD and Annabelle’s great relief, Julie managed to secure two business class tickets seats home from London flying Qatar Airways, and they arrived home in style before Australia officially closed its borders.
JD and Annabelle safely on their way home aboard a Qatar Airways jet. Credit: JD and Annabelle.
“As JD and Annabelle went into quarantine, I went to work cancelling their remaining travel plans and applying for refunds,” says Julie.
Despite their unfortunate experience, JD and Annabelle are looking forward to re-booking their beautiful holiday when the world is deemed safe to travel once again.
“We are most grateful we had a personal travel manager in Julie Lunn from TravelManagers Australia working tirelessly through the nights to sort out our arrangements and bring us home safely,” says Annabelle.
ATAS accredited travel professionals like Julie deliver great value, professional advice and the support you need before, during and after your travels.
Only the very best travel agencies in Australia bear the ATAS insignia.
Attaining ATAS accreditation is a significant achievement for any Australian travel agent. ATAS accredited travel agents have successfully completed a rigorous application process. Furthermore, they must maintain these standards of professionalism to retain their ATAS accreditation.
ATAS accredited travel agents are required to comply with Australian Consumer Law and operate their business in accordance with the ATAS Charter and Code of Conduct.
That’s experience, expertise and service you can trust.