As an experienced crisis manager, I like to ensure that my skills are regularly tested, but I didn’t plan on a re-test during the first two days of my recent holiday...
I was booked on a battlefield tour of northern France, leaving Paris on the morning of Saturday 20 April. My travel agent had booked my flights and arranged travel insurance. A simple plan: depart Sydney at lunchtime on Thursday 18 April, arrive in Paris at lunchtime on Friday to join the pre-tour drinks that evening. The tour itself would depart Paris after breakfast on Saturday. I had at least three hours between each leg on the flight from Sydney to Paris via Hong Kong and London, time for shopping and a walk around.
What could possibly go wrong?
The flight into Hong Kong arrived more than four hours late, missing my connection to Paris by over an hour. The airline re-routed me to Paris via Frankfurt, arriving late on Friday. I’d miss the pre-tour meeting, but would still make the tour. There was a three-hour layover in Frankfurt, which was a safe buffer. So far, so good.
I boarded the flight to Frankfurt on time, then promptly sat on the tarmac for two and a half hours. A half hour delay during the flight and I had missed my connection to Paris. Ticketing conditions meant I was now stuck in Frankfurt and had to make my own arrangements. So much for making the start of the tour!
The first problem was my luggage, which had been checked through to Paris. Fortunately, it was retrieved after a short search by the airline. Meanwhile, I spoke with the tour director to explain the situation. We agreed the tour would start without me and I would meet them in Ypres, Belgium on Saturday evening. The Tour Director gave me the website for Belgian trains, the address of the hotel in Ypres, and wished me luck...
I got a room at an airport hotel, where I booked the first flight to Brussels on Saturday morning and a train to Ypres. Fortunately, my credit card could cover these additional costs.
I arrived in Ypres mid-afternoon on Saturday and met my Tour Director as agreed at 5PM; mission accomplished!
The rest of my trip involved many buses, trains, cars and three international flights, all without further delay or incident. My travel insurer reimbursed me a month later for the additional costs of the hotel in Frankfurt, the flight to Brussels and the train to Ypres.
What went well?
What helped me respond to the disruption?
I am an experienced traveller – practise and preparation
I keep a specific credit card for emergencies – contingency planning
My focus was to join the tour; Paris was only a waypoint – focus on the outcome
I communicated with my Tour Director and sought their advice – use all your resources
The Tour Director and I were pragmatic – focus on solutions
A mobile phone with global roaming and an internet connection is a fantastic tool – contingency planning
Why have insurance?
I was the one who had to build the response plan to my disruption. My insurer could have done nothing to help me directly. So why have it?
Simply, travel insurance allowed me to recoup unplanned expenses after I had recovered from the disruption. It gave me peace of mind that my holiday budget would not blow out.
What does this mean for you?
Consider my story and think about your business. Ask yourself:
How effectively have I developed my people and organisation to identify, assess, notify and respond to disruptions?
How practised am I in responding to disruptions? What about my team?
How long can my business cope with the financial impact of a disruption?
While your insurer may play a role in your response and appropriate insurances can help your recovery, your business must first respond to the disruption. What are you doing to help build those response skills?