Tales of a blizzard: Travel agents come to rescue of their customers


Tales of a Blizzard

As Blizzard Emma caused the shut-down of Dublin, Cork, and Shannon airports, discommoding 60,000 passengers and causing 550 flights cancellations, Ireland’s travel agents rose with aplomb to a challenging three days as Blizzard Emma closed five of the island’s airports. Some cautionary tales:

From ITIA travel agent of the year Joanna Gomez of Travel Focus: The girls and I hat Travel Focus have had our phones on 24/7 & worked tirelessly so sort all our stranded passengers with no help from any of the airlines – in some cases they worked against us despite us doing their job for them. All our clients are either tucked up in airport hotels waiting for the airports to open where they can fly back on revalidated tickets or they came to Belfast and are sitting it put up there. The TF team have worked wonders.

From a client of Travel Counsellors newcomer of the year award winner Diane Bowman: With all the flight cancellations yesterday, we did not need to panic unlike 99pc of the airport as Diane had it fully under control. She stayed in full contact with us, allowing us to relax, drink Jameson and watch peaky blinders. When our flight was confirmed cancelled, we went to a hotel close by and Diane worked all through the night, ringing airlines and sorting out or accommodation. This morning she confirmed she moved our whole holiday package to four weeks’ time so we couldn’t lose another day of the trip. We lost no money on our bookings. I cannot recommend them enough, booking was easy and reasonable and it took the stress off us. People believe booking everything separately on holidays saves them money, but we so would have lost everything on this trip if we didn’t use Travel Counselors Ireland.
From a client of Cassidy Travel:  This morning Sarah Fleming made our problem go away. She took over provided alternative options and proactively led us through her intention to resolve. We knew by how she spoke and treated us that she would be giving us the best resolution possible. We are all fixed now and rebooked for Tenerife in April, all down to Sarah’s Knowledge, skill attitude delivered with exceptional and powerful customer service.  This has been our first experience in booking through Cassidy and based on this experience it is the first of many to come.  We intend to book an MSC cruise  a holiday to Malta and some return flights to Toronto in the next 18 months Guess who we will be calling? We all know that the best plans can go wrong. It is  how you fix them that matters … please pass our thanks to Sarah.
Stories included John Galligan, of Galligan Travel who, had elderly clients scheduled to fly to Marbella early on Saturday 3rd March. “With the office closed, I took their files home with me and during the blizzard. I rebooked their holiday for a week and they were able to relax during the snow storm and not worry about trying to get out to the airport and are looking forward to a nice sun holiday”.

John McGuill

John McGuill, of Mc Guill Travel Dundalk even made the national media for helping a couple whose 40th wedding anniversary cruise looked in peril – but he got them rebooked. “With help of our friends in Cruisescapes, and the hand delivery of their tickets to their home in snowy Dundalk, we booked them a flight out of Belfast airport and a night in the Maldron Hotel beforehand, which was walking distance to the terminal!”
Paul Hackett of Click&Go said “Click&Go were open right through the storm handling calls and emails for customers. We are looking at a hit of approx €60,000 from this event in terms of the refunds we have to make with non-refundable accommodation, and that doesn’t take into account the loss in sales. While most of the country was shut down, our staff worked remotely or stayed overnight in local hotels to be available on the phone and by email to assist customers. One manager didn’t get home to her children for three days.”
Paul Sexton said: Human booking tools work fast and clever to get them home. With the flexibility of the GDS and a little human foresight, we booked provisional flights / hotel alternatives for our clients ahead of expected cancellations. Our clients simply left the mile long airport queues headed to their hotel and checked in for their rescheduled flight. Now that’s what you call service. With the flexibility of the GDS and a little foresight, we booked provisional flights/hotel alternatives for our clients ahead of expected cancellations. Our clients simply left the mile long airport queues, checked into their hotel and travelled home on the first available flight.” 
Paul Dawson of Dawson Travel said: We have been flat out up to midnight trying to rearrange flights for people who are stranded. Trans have been organise through Spain in for one1 client., We have been working to get refunds from the hotels for clients whose flights have been cancelled. We are opening up today for business as usual.

Tom Britton of Marble City Travel said: A client flying First Class EK called and said she’s “chance the airport” Thursday night. She was told – the flight would not operate, but Saturday would. We held off the flight. Client insisted she would make the flight. We held Saturday. Friday flight cancelled later that day. When the flight cancelled – needless the seats vanished on the Saturday flight. However our lady was .on the flight. Filippo in EK was watching and just popped me a note to say: you guys really are ahead of the game. So,  by having a brain we were ahead of the computers Aer Lingus moved a pax back to flying Thursday instead of Friday, before Aer Lingus pulled the Friday schedule. She was flying into a storm in JFK, but,  again made a judgement call that JFK would stay operating. Tracked back the actual aircraft which would fly the route, it was coming from Florida which was sunny. So that plane arrived in on time and the client travelled on time. She did have to overnight in JFK, as the Jetblue flight was Friday and obviously she was on the Thursday. She is boarding her cruise today. Ryanair cancelled the scheduled flight to Lanzarote, clients looked on the Ryanair app which told them there were no flights till next Wednesday. We said: stay with us. And patiently watched the juggling of seats. Client is coming home today, one day late. They are still puzzled as to how we got the seats, as they looked on the app and didn’t see any seats. Intuition told us the flight would open up. Barcelona, a similar story, client is coming home tonight. Again the client looked on the app and saw no seats. He thought he was there until Monday.

Ciara Foley of Platinum Travel said: we had quite a few people stuck here between Stockholm, Miami, Milan and London. We worked late into the night and early next morning and with fantastic help from suppliers got everyone sorted. We are lucky to have good suppliers and airlines that, like ourselves, appreciate the value of our clients business and help them in times like these I was at the airport myself for six hours waiting for my own flight and sought out a client who was there herself so I can talk to her about her options.
Cathal Brady of Brady Travel in Carrick-on-Shannon): I took two calls from worried mothers whose had their daughters stranded in Krakow and Lisbon. We went through all available flight options, reassured them that it was not as problematic as they thought, calmed the nerves of all involved and set them on the right route home. The two daughters in question were booked to fly to Dublin a day late. It is good to talk to a travel agent at any time but especially when stranded abroad.
Carolyn Davis of Liberty Travel Letterkenny said: It was a week for  rebooking flights, ensuring beds for the night, and, for one very young couple stuck in Paris since Wednesday evening, texting them phone credit.
Cathy Burke of Travel Counsellors said: Many incidents, honeymooners, business people, but all Travel Counsellors were at the pump. All of my team are set up from home, as if they were in the office so we diverted phones to mobiles and worked away. While many travel companies had trouble getting staff into the office, we were up and at it. There were some electricity and broadband issues in the worst hit areas
There were airline heroes as well, picture shows l of Turkish Airlines at work in an empty Dublin airport. The downside is that business lost thousands of euro. John Spollen of Cassidy Travel said: It has been a challenging time for our business, as I am sure it is for many retailers, with the entire country in effective lockdown for almost three days, it is difficult to put a figure on how much the weather is likely to cost our business in lost revenue. Our managers and staff  have been working since the start  of the weather alert , in our travel shops ( where staff could safely get too) and working remotely,  contacting clients,   answering  calls and emails,  offering assistance and help , getting clients on alternative flights ,and giving  reassurance  to all our customers.

  • The scenes at the airport were chaotic (watch here), with shops and food outlets shutting down as passengers realised they were stranded and could not get taxis back to accommodation. Over 500 slept at the airport on each of two nights. To see Dublin airport deserted as you have never seen it (watch here). For a drive to a deserted Dublin Airport (watch here)




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