This is a guest comment from Brandon Thompson, managing director at global business travel risk consultancy Drum Cussac
With the start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season approaching, it’s hard not to forget the devastation that occurred in Texas, Florida and across the Caribbean last summer when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused damages in excess of $200 billion. These superstorms also wreaked havoc on business travel, grounding more than 25,000 flights between them.
But it’s not just cancelled flights that prevented business travellers from reaching where they needed to go. Many airlines actually cleared their aircraft out of vulnerable regions all together. The carrier JetBlue made sure it didn't have a single plane left in the state of Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma. So even if the all clear for flights to occur had come... they couldn't, at least not until the planes had returned.
This results in hours of lost time for your travellers. They might have to wait for flights to be reinstated, or hang around until a plane is actually available, or – in the worst case scenario – be unable to reach the airport at all due to hurricane-related damage to public roads and infrastructure.
So how can you, as a travel buyer or travel manager, prevent hurricanes from ruining your meticulously laid-out plans and minimise the time lost by your travellers?
The short answer is... you can’t. But there are ways that you can reduce the impact that superstorms have on your travellers. Here are three essential tips for travelling during hurricane season.
1. Stay aware of hurricane risks across the entire journey
While the skies may be clear when departing from Los Angeles, are they going to be the same when you land in Tampa? Probably not if a storm is incoming. This could result in travellers being diverted to airports that are open elsewhere. Keep an eye on local news sources and relevant social media pages for up-to-date news that could affect your travellers.
2. Use technology to your advantage
It’s worth subscribing to real-time weather or risk alerts (such as Drum Cussac’s RiskMonitor service), as this will keep your travellers up to date on the movement of hurricanes and the hazards they face. Staying ahead of the weather enables you to make contingency plans when necessary.
3. Be smart about booking flights
It might be an obvious one, but try to book flights in the morning. Why? Well, if flights are cancelled then you’ve the rest of the day to find another one. If the trip is especially important, try to book with a carrier that has frequent flights as this will give you more options across the day.
If all else fails, at the very least allow for extra time. That’s the thing with unpredictable weather – it’s unpredictable. Your travellers might get lucky and the hurricane may change path, leaving them in the clear to make their journey. On the other hand, it may not. So, while it may incur more costs to put a traveller up for a few days, duty of care should come before missed meetings.
Drum Cussac has just published a whitepaper, entitled "Protecting your business from the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season". Download it here