I've sat back and reflected over the happenings around Europe in mid-April as a result of the volcano in Iceland, and after all the chaos and confusion and waiting, I have a smile on my face. The smile is not one of cruelness, but one of contentment, knowing that I was able to step up and help out in my own special way.
The slogan ‘without one, you are on your own' means exactly that. Many people consider the internet to be the next best thing. I am guilty of searching online to compare costs just so that I can save an extra dollar here or there. And when someone goes on holiday, a few hundred dollars goes a long way! Except when Mother Nature decides otherwise. In fact, not only Mother Nature, but any factor that could contribute to the demise of your holiday.
The volcano that spread ash all over Europe in April came as a shock to the entire travel and tourism industry. Who ever would have thought that ash could cause such chaos?
Millions of people around the globe were stranded for at least six days. I had two businessmen clients in London when the flights were cancelled. They had luck on their side that day. The reason is because they had booked through an agent, and not online.
Many of those travellers who had booked online were stranded with nobody to contact but the airlines, which put answering services on phones with messages stating there were two hour waiting times or more for the calls to be answered. Queues at counters got longer and longer for those people trying desperately to get home. People may have tried trains and cars to get to other stations in Europe, only to be turned back again. Complete panic! To make matters worse, cheap online insurance sometimes does not cover ‘Acts of God' or natural disasters. Suddenly the internet doesn't seem to be the best option.
My gentlemen on the other hand, simply knew they could call me at anytime of the day or night for an update. After hours of searching I was lucky enough to be able to grab seats for them on their respective airlines the same day the airspace opened, and get them home. A simple call and follow up email allowed me to let them know that they had been rebooked and needed to make their way to the airport.
This article is not intended to discourage anyone from using the internet. It certainly does a job well done. But next time, compare costs and weigh up whether when things do turn bad, you would rather have to find out yourself what to do next, or have someone sort it out for you. Never underestimate the power of a human voice: Instead of a recording or electronic message that does not understand, being able to talk to someone who does; someone who can help.
Cathryn Bardwell has been in the travel industry since 1997, having worked for airlines and in the retail and corporate travel environments in South Africa. She operates her own travel company through Travel Managers.