Staff at Wings Travel Management demonstrated their high-level expertise in providing emergency support to clients in the energy sector when Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf of Mexico and the State of Texas last week.
The specialist oil and gas travel provider implemented its Disaster Recovery procedure to ensure safety of staff in its Houston office, support evacuation of clients’ employees from rigs in the Gulf and to provide continuing services to corporates normally serviced via the TMC’s Houston operation.
“Prior to the storm hitting, we automatically diverted our calls and emails from Houston to our UK operation where staff switched to working in central US time zone,” explained Paul East, chief operating officer, UK/Europe & Americas. “Because Wings owns and manages all its offices around the world that means we operate off the same globalised technology platform. As a result, our UK team was immediately able to handle travel requests, book flights and issue tickets as if they were in the United States. Our UK staff could also access travellers’ booking history to expedite re-booking flights or offering alternative routings. This was critical as clients needed to change numerous travel bookings as they made emergency plans around oil rig crew rotations and vessel safety.”
Gulf of Mexico oil operators began evacuating offshore workers from rigs on August 24 ahead of the tropical storm. As the path of Hurricane Harvey became more evident, by August 26, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), offshore oil companies were forced to evacuate workers from 86 offshore platforms. By August 31, BSEE data recorded that a total of 102 product platforms in the Gulf of Mexico had been evacuated in response to the tropical storm, one of the most powerful in the US for 12 years, and the strongest to hit Texas in 50 years.
“We continued to monitor the situation closely when the storm hit and were ready to respond if our clients and staff in Houston needed further emergency support, as the airports were closed and severe floodwaters caused devastation in Texas,” added Paul East.
By September 1, offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico began re-boarding platforms and rigs to assess their ability to resume normal operations, but according to BSEE, personnel from 94 production platforms still remained evacuated. It took another four days for offshore workers to return to their platforms and resume normal production.
“Once Houston’s airports reopened and energy companies became operational again, our UK consultants worked round the clock to remobilise offshore workers and our client’s travellers either to get them home, or back onto vessels and rigs.
“It was a challenging time for our colleagues in Texas, and clients in the Gulf of Mexico, but traveller safety and support lie at the core of Wings’ operations due to the nature of our energy and marine sector clients’ complex and often hazardous travel needs, and our staff certainly demonstrated their knowledge, expertise and can-do attitude in helping to manage the crisis,” said East. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from clients thanking us for our support.”
Wings Travel Management’s business model is founded on owning and controlling all of its operations around the globe. This is a distinct point of difference to other multi-national travel management companies, many of whom use partner agencies, particularly in markets like Angola, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. Headquartered in London, Wings Travel Management’s wholly owned operations in key oil, gas and marine markets worldwide total 15 including Lagos in Nigeria; Aberdeen in Scotland, UK; Luanda in Angola; Houston, Texas, USA; Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa; Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
“The fact that we own all of our operations means that we can ensure consistency of service, quality and data integrity via a single global technology platform,” says Paul East. “These are all factors which are critical to our energy and marine sector clients, particularly in times of emergency as Wings’ staff can access travel reservations on demand to provide assistance immediately 24/7, regardless of where or when the reservation was made.”