How Business Travelers Can Seek Shelter From the Storm
BY Paul Metselaar
Stranded himself after a major snowstorm, a top corporate travel executive provides advice on how to be prepared.
As I sit in my office overlooking Fifth Avenue, wearing laced up snow boots along with my buttoned-down vest, I can't help but think that I should be in Turks and Caicos right now. But, along with thousands of other travelers, I had my flight cancelled due to "super storm" Janus.
The situation gave me some time to write this column, though. Frankly, I can't help but feel like the proverbial "shoemaker's son without shoes."
For the past couple of days, I was so busy running Ovation Travel Group and ensuring that our travelers were being rerouted, rebooted and rescheduled, that I forgot to reaccommodate myself.
If I were to be put in this position again, with upcoming travel plans and an impending storm, I know exactly how I'd weather it and how you should, too:
Be a member. If you're a frequent traveler, like many of Ovation's clients are, you're eligible for travel perks like membership in airline and hotel loyalty programs. Hotel loyalty programs will get you things like free hotel rooms, which would certainly come in handy when your only other lodging option for a storm-ridden evening is sleeping in a stiff chair at an airport gate. Additionally, most airline loyalty programs offer their members exclusive access to upgrades, mileage tickets and airport lounges. I don't know about you, but if my flight was delayed and I had a few hours to kill, I'd rather spend it in an airport lounge than at the duty free shop. Better yet, why not skip the lounge altogether and get on the first available flight because of your elite flier status?
Have a backup plan. Many trips, for business or personal travel, go off without a hitch. Your flight is on time or early. You have your bag with you, and when you check into your hotel room, you nod off as your head hits the pillow. But when a freak storm hits, all bets are off, and without a plan B, many travelers are left majorly stressed and stranded. By researching alternate flight schedules, having a hotel room booked just in case, or contacting a travel agent, you can save yourself a lot of worry. More importantly, you can be sure to get to your destination unscathed and on time. With any luck I'll be at that beach in the Caribbean that I've been dreaming of sometime tomorrow.
Have a great travel agent. If anyone knows the value of a good travel agent, it's me--I employ over 400 of them! In a time of travel duress, having a good travel agent or, as I like to say, a "travel angel," to watch over the ins and outs of connecting flights and alternate routes, is like having a family doctor when you have the flu. A good travel agent, much like a good therapist, will listen to a stranded traveler and simply facilitate ticket changes. Today, road warriors pay for plenty of travel add-ons--extra leg room, checked luggage, in-flight Wi-Fi. What are those fees when compared to the nominal cost of having a travel professional who can prevent you from having to wait for hours to "speak to a representative?"
PAUL METSELAAR founded what is now Ovation Travel Group in 1984, filling a void in the corporate travel market by providing specialized service to law firms. Today, Ovation is one of the largest corporate travel management companies in the U.S., serving more than 700 companies in a variety of industries, including law, financial services, and entertainment.