FIVE REAL-LIFE SCENARIOS
Story #1: Stranded in Chicago because of a storm
I was due to fly from Chicago to New York City, but a few hours before my flight I received an alert on my phone informing me that it had been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions and I’d been rebooked for the next day. Storms aren’t within the airline’s control so, unlike if this had been a mechanical error or personnel problem for example, they were under no obligation to provide me with accommodation for the night. Luckily I had a friend in Chicago and I stayed with her for the night. The next day I arrived at the airport only to discover that my flight had been cancelled again (due to the ongoing storm) and once again I had been booked onto a flight departing the following day. However, I needed to get back to NYC this time, and unlike the day before, there were flights departing (only half had been cancelled). Having spoken to two airline representatives who told me I had no choice but to wait until the next day, I approached a third who was more sympathetic to my plight and managed to rebook me onto a flight leaving that day. I was back in NYC a few hours later.
Story #2: Handbag stolen in Vienna
This was a classic case of poor decisions on my part as a traveller. I was changing hotels in Vienna and so I packed up all my luggage and took the tram across town with a colleague. I had put all my valuables and travel documents into my handbag, which I then put on the floor between my feet. I was so distracted chatting to my colleague that I didn’t even notice someone take my bag. When I did realise, it was too late. I alerted the driver and the police, and eventually the bag was found dumped in a bin at a station about a mile away. My phone, wallet, iPod, and passport had all gone (of course), but my jewellery was all still there (I had put it in my make-up bag, which they had obviously discarded as worthless). I went to my hotel as planned and they were wonderful in helping me coordinate with the police and the British Embassy to report the incident and get replacement travel documents. They also helped me call my bank to cancel my credit cards and they waived the usual requirement to provide copies of passport and credit cards at check-in as the police report stated these had been taken.
Story #3: Detained at Dubai airport because of incorrect travel documents
This happened to me the week after the Vienna incident in Story #2. I was scheduled to visit Dubai on another business trip, but I had not yet received my replacement passport (these typically take four to six weeks to process) so I had been issued with an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) from the British Embassy in Paris (where I was living at the time). Although this was specifically issued for the Dubai trip (they are only valid for a single trip), with the date of flight and destination printed on it, when I arrived in Dubai they stated that they did not accept ETDs. They said I would have to fly home again and could only return once I had my new valid passport. However, when I spoke to the airline to get a return flight, they then declared that my ETD would not be valid to board a flight out of Dubai. So, I could neither leave the country, nor enter it. I called the British Embassy but the office was closed for the day (and the replacement number provided did not work, while another office I spoke to said that they had no jurisdiction to assist). At this point in time I was working for a company that had a Travel Security Assistance provider (International SOS and Control Risks) so I called them and thankfully they liaised with the Dubai authorities and the airline to get me back to Paris a few hours later.
Story #4: Luggage left in the trunk of a Hong Kong taxi
Again, this is another story that involves multiple mistakes on my part, all of them easily avoidable. I was transiting through Hong Kong on my way back from Singapore to Paris. I had a long layover so I decided to go into the city to visit some friends. I had previously lived in Hong Kong for three years and never once had a single problem, plus I was very tired from a long week of work and travel, so I was not as vigilant as I would usually be. I put all my luggage (including my hand luggage) in the trunk of the taxi. When I arrived at my friend’s house I got out of the taxi, paid, and then completely forgot about my bags until about half an hour later. Farewell to my luggage, laptop, passport, everything. Once again I found myself at a police station reporting the loss (it was not clear at this stage if it had been intentionally ‘stolen’ or an honest mistake), at the British Embassy to get a new passport, calling my bank to cancel my credit cards, and calling my Travel Assistance Provider to help reschedule my flights. My opinion now is that the driver may have accidentally driven away, but he then intentionally kept my belongings. Usual protocol for left items in taxis is to hand them into the taxi depot or a police station. I had reported my items to both places but nothing was ever handed in. Because this was my second ETD within six months (and the second loss of my passport) I had to undergo extra checks at the British Embassy as I was now red-flagged as a potential security risk. Thankfully I had previously scanned and securely emailed to myself all my essential documents (passport, birth certificate, proof of address, proof of employment) so this was relatively painless, though it did mean I had to wait nearly three days to eventually be issued with the ETD.
Story #5: Food poisoning in Lisbon
Despite having lived and worked for years in various countries across Asia and Africa, the only time I had proper food poisoning was on a five-day trip to Lisbon. I am still not totally sure what caused it, though my suspicious falls on a seafood paella or possibly some fruit I had bought from a local market. I woke up at about 2am and began vomiting, which then went on every hour for nearly 24 hours. After that I was incredibly weak but determined to get home as my flight was scheduled that afternoon. I first visited a local GP who gave me rehydration salts and charcoal tablets. I then called the airline to discuss my concerns and they were brilliant: they gave me the option of changing my flight or going ahead but with extra precautions. I chose the latter. They arranged for someone to meet me at the airport with a wheelchair so that I didn’t have to walk; they helped me with check-in, took me through security and to the gate. They gave me a seat on the aircraft close to the bathroom, and throughout the flight checked on me and brought me bottled water. Once we had landed they had a wheelchair waiting, helped me collect my bags, and only left me once I had been picked up by my driver.
Postpone travel if you can, but if not, call the travel provider and see if they can assist in making your journey as comfortable as possible. They already provide extra assistance for a variety of medical conditions as standard, as well as for families with young children or the elderly, so it’s not an inconvenience or an unusual occurrence to ask for special treatment if you need.
beTravelwise offers a range of specialised training courses designed to support professional organisations in their travel risk management programmes. The training courses help clients educate their travellers about the travel risks they may face and how to avoid them. beTravelwise provides practical and cost-effective training solutions suitable for every destination, not just those designated high risk. Training seminars cover the key considerations for health, security, culture, road safety and individual preparation. By sharing relevant knowledge in an engaging way, beTravelwise promotes safe travel practices and policy compliance with the benefit of reducing travel stress and increasing productivity. Visit www.betravelwise.com