Staying one step ahead of delays and cancellations is the name of the game if travellers are to experience trips without blips
Seamless travel, end-to-end travel and frictionless travel are all terms describing the perfect, hassle-free journey for a traveller and while it may seem like an unreachable goal in some parts of the world, the average traveller should expect no less than stress-free trips.
Technology has helped streamline many of the pinch points throughout a trip, enabling them to stay connected, while the expertise and knowledge of Wings’ travel consultants skillfully smooth away any disruptions that arise during the journey.
Traveller profiles and personalisation are the key to traveller satisfaction. Consultants will know the type of hotel, which location, which carrier to book for example.
Such details are easy to get right. However, some travel disruptions can be more challenging. For example, no-one knew the magnitude 9.0 earthquake was going to strike Japan’s north-eastern coast in 2011 but the dates of the British Airways pilots’ strike in September this year were known beforehand and it was therefore possible to run reports and put passengers on alternative airlines before they became full.
“The more notice we get the more we can manage and stay one step ahead of the game,” says Jaydev Pandit, Account Development Manager, UK & Europe at Wings Travel Management. “It’s all about continuity of service; that’s one of the most important aspects of business travel.”
Wings24 out-of-hours service comes into its own at times of disruptions and flight cancellations due to bad weather, for example. Wings will offer alternative flights straight away and manage away the problem.
When riots erupted last year in Venezuela after the presidential election Wings repatriated passengers in the thick of the chaos in the streets. “On some occasions similar to this we will charter aircraft if the national scheduled carrier has stopped flying,” says Pandit.
When bad weather affects the 28-day crew rotation travel plans in the oil and gas sector, for example, the operator often has to close down operations until the new crew arrives so it’s imperative that Plan B arrangements are in place.
Bengt Georgsen, General Manager of the Stavanger office for Wings Travel Management, which looks after primarily O&G clients, explains: “Most of our commercial clients have focussed on flexibility because of the nature of the industry – with last-minute changes and enormous pressure on crew getting to and from their destination on time – so they are willing to pay for that flexible product. That in part helps absorb last-minute changes and the rest is down to our expertise of being able to deal with any situation.”
Last-minute visa requests can be another area of friction. Wings maintains detailed traveller profiles which help avert visa renewal issues for example. “If a passport is not valid for more than six months it’s flagged up before it becomes an issue,” says Pandit.
“Getting travel right is a complex ask today. With so many variables and travellers placing a high value on their travel experience there is no room for error”
“Basically, we have protocols and procedures in place to ward off disasters,” he adds. “We ensure we have all up-to-date contact numbers of all travellers for example.”
Travellers landing at an airport in a high-risk destination will have the comfort of knowing what their transfer driver looks like and he will have been booked through a reliable supplier so will be waiting to meet the flight.
Wings’ expertise in the oil and gas sector means that they are cognisant of the challenges in high-risk destinations so will know when an armoured car has to be booked rather than a saloon car. Country reports are sent ahead of departure time to flag any political rallies or protests that should be avoided or dates of journeys delayed.
Wings has a variety of products and services to ensure seamless travel. It begins with information, which is fed to Wings from partner World Aware (formerly iJet). Depending on the intensity of the event will dictate the response.
Operations staff will run reports internally to see which clients are affected. GoSecure risk and alert portal locates travellers and sends them personalised notifications. The company’s mobile app (VIMA) allows travellers to view, manage and communicate their travel itineraries, however many times it may change. The app also sends flight status updates on delays, gate changes etc and links to online check-in. VIP Meet and Greet secures travellers through airports and transfer journeys.
Diary planning is another tactic employed to avert potential risks. “Where possible, we find out in advance what a client is doing over the next six months,” says Pandit. “It may mean talking to new or existing suppliers in that region to undertake due diligence. Overall, keeping travellers travelling is a fine balance between cost and safety,” says Pandit.
Keeping travellers happy outside travel disruptions is far simpler. According to one recent report*, creating a frictionless travel experience is a question of providing convenient and comfortable hotels, non-stop flights, booking flexibility and paid time-off for long trips. These were the top areas highlighted by travellers. Optional purchases travellers make to improve their experiences – regardless of whether they are reimbursed by the company or not – include wi-fi, hotel high-speed internet, seat upgrades and international mobile calls and texts.
Getting travel right is a complex ask today. With so many variables and travellers placing a high value on their travel experience there is no room for error. Wings’ hallmark blend of automation and high-touch service means they can simplify the process and personalise complex journeys and create those desired stress-free journeys.
*Report by Sabre Corporation and the GBTA Foundation.