In the Trenches: Relying on Third Parties
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we were ramping up for a big group of travelers that would test the abilities of our business. So how did we do? I think it went very well, though the biggest problems weren’t really ours, the airlines, or our travelers. The biggest problems were from an unexpected source that created one heck of a challenge for us.
This get-together required people to fly into a main airport and then take shuttles to their final destination. With the flights, it was the usual deal. There were some cancellations, some delays, some plan changes, etc. We were able to handle all those in stride, and we didn’t even need to bring in reinforcements. The concierges did a great job.
But then people got to the destination airport, and that’s when it started to get tough. The shuttles were hard to find, and they weren’t always where they were supposed to be at the time they were supposed to be there. It’s not easy arranging for shuttles to run perfectly when there’s traffic, flight delays, and so on, but people came straight to us asking us to help when they couldn’t find a shuttle representative “on the ground.”
I had made sure to establish contact with the shuttle company before this all started. We had handled this group the year prior and there had been some issues then as well. I wanted to make sure that the line of communication was open. That turned out to be a good move, because we were on the phone frequently throughout the weekend.
Calls started coming in early as people looked for our help in locating their ground transportation. We did what we could, but of course, it was all dependent upon the shuttle company getting everything in place. That’s the kind of thing that’s frustrating on several levels. As the point of contact, people look for us to solve problems, but sometimes there’s nothing we can do. Also, we might not have great information. But neither of those are usually issues when dealing with air travel problems.
So what could we do? It’s not like we could start blaming the shuttle company, because it does absolutely no good. Pointing fingers doesn’t make us look any better, nor does it help us to get the travelers where they need to be.
In the end, it was just a slog for us and the travelers, but people got to where they needed to go in the end. Fortunately, the travelers seemed to know that the problem didn’t lie with us, and they appreciated having someone readily available to at least try to help at all times. It’s never easy when things out of our control end up causing problems, but we just rolled with the punches and made sure everywhere go to their destination.
How would you have handled it?
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.