Travel agent rises to challenge of 'intense' month of Irma and airline chaos

An independent Shrewsbury travel agent has reported one of the most challenging few weeks of its 25-year history, assisting clients affected by Hurricane Irma, the Ryanair debacle and the Monarch Airlines collapse.

Staff at Peakes Travel Elite have dealt with more than 40 separate bookings affected by the natural disaster or airlines chaos which happened almost back-to-back between early September and early October.

Staff came into work on days off and worked extra long days to re-arrange flights, re-book cancelled flights and holidays, maintain up-to-date communication with clients, ensure their safety and provide assistance with dozens of claims for refunds and compensation.

Joint proprietor and manager Claire Moore said: “It was brilliant to see how our staff rallied round and what they achieved.”

She described the month as one of the most “intense” in the company’s 25-year history as it responded quickly to help more than 80 clients whose holidays or travel plans were disrupted, beginning with Hurricane Irma in early September followed by mass Ryanair flight cancellations mid to late September and the sudden collapse of Monarch Airlines on October 2.

“During Hurricane Irma we had guests in Cuba, guests trying to get to Cuba, guests in the Bahamas and, at the same time, people trying to get into Yosemite National Park in California,” she said.

“We managed to re-route those who were travelling, at no extra cost to them, and the people in the Bahamas were brought home before the storm struck. Fortunately, those in Cuba were staying in Guardalavaca, which was less affected by the hurricane, and they decided to stay. We kept in contact to make sure they were safe and updated their family in the UK.”

News of the Ryanair flight cancellations and Monarch Airlines collapse prompted a flood of calls from anxious customers.

“Clients were phoning up frantic with worry. Each case was different and involved a different destination. We had to check all flights and keep clients informed. Fortunately, none of our clients’ travel plans were affected by the Ryanair cancellations in the end, but we had 30 separate bookings hit by the collapse of Monarch,” added Claire.

The airline folded at 4am on October 2, leaving a total of 110,000 people stranded abroad and 300,000 forward bookings cancelled.

“We had 30 bookings affected. Two bookings were already on trips abroad, two bookings were at the airport ready to fly out that morning and we had 26 forward bookings for holidays up until June next year,” said Claire.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the way our staff responded. They came in early and stayed late and came in on their days off to help.

“Within 24 hours we had been in touch with everybody affected and within 48 hours we had arranged one cancellation and re-booked everyone else with different operators.”

Peakes Travel Elite, which employs 12 staff, is based in Mardol. It celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.