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Experienced Travel Counselors Needed In Crisis

April 30, 2010 By: George Dooley

The creativity and persistence of experienced travel counselors became part of American Express Business Travel’s (AEBT) formula to successfully manage the recent crisis sparked by Iceland’s volcanic ash disaster. AEBT reported its client base had more than 150,000 travelers impacted by travel cancellations.

Lessons learned from the volcanic ash cloud crisis demonstrated the importance of continuous information exchange between AEBT’s corporate security, travel, finance and other departments, AEBT said. Traveler tracking and instant communications also proved invaluable.

AEBT said it is introducing a business continuity suite of products anchored by an online central command post that serves as the hub for traveler tracking tools and instant employee messaging necessary during a crisis. The core command post solution, or portal, is being offered complimentary to customers who purchase AEBT’s business continuity suite. The suite contains an after-hours solution and a telepresence/teleconference capability to serve as an alternate means for conducting business when the traditional methods (air, car, rail) are unavailable.

“The recent travel complications resulting from the volcanic ash cloud highlighted the need for companies to have a central command post to manage information,” said Lisa Durocher, senior vice president, global marketing and product management, AEBT. “Travelers needed to be located and re-accommodated, and there was a need to disseminate communications on a broad-scale to stranded travelers, as well as employees that may not have started their trip yet.”

“Around the world, our service delivery network and travel counselors used creativity, flexibility and persistence – and more than 12,000 hours of overtime – to get travelers home or change travel plans for those who had yet to commence their trips,” added Julie Bottner , senior vice president, global service delivery, AEBT.

During the week long crisis, American Express ramped up support throughout their global service delivery network in response to customer needs to find transport and accommodation. They also chartered buses and flights from various destinations across the globe to pick up stranded travelers.

*    More than 100,000 planes were grounded as a result of the volcanic ash.
*    In some instances the American Express service delivery network experienced a 2,300 percent increase in call volume compared to a similar period of time.
*    More than 150,000 travelers were impacted, both those that were stranded when the airspace closed and could not continue to their destinations, as well as those with planned trips about to commence.
*    Travel counselors collectively made and received more than 1 million calls during the crisis, representing a 60 percent increase globally over what is typical for this time of year.
*    American Express also sent emergency cash to card members and travelers for extended stays due to cancellations and also assisted with prescription replacement.
*    More than 100 messages were written for employees and customers to deliver up-to-the-minute information and the company blogged on their social media site,, updates around airport closures and service information.



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