Towards the end of a successful business trip to France, traveller Martin Wilkins developed a bad cold. All he wanted to do was catch his train home and get to bed, but he became stranded when strikes hit Eurostar services. Feeling ill and desperate, he called Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) for help.
Martin is a training and quality manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises, the sole licensed bottler of products for The Coca-Cola Company in Belgium, continental France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden. He arrived at Gare du Nord, Paris, to catch his booked train home to the UK.
However, with industrial action affecting Eurostar, Martin was informed that his train had been cancelled and was directed to a queue to be allocated a seat on an alternative train. After standing in line for an hour and a half he realised his chance of catching a train that day was slim. He was concerned he wouldn’t get home or have anywhere to stay overnight as he had no hotel information.
CWT travel consultant Jodie Donoughue-Smith answered Martin’s call. She said: “He was one of hundreds of travellers trying to get home. He sounded awful and I felt so sorry for him.”
Escaping the chaos
”The original reservation was made by CWT. We always try to contact people if their train is cancelled but the situation had just started kicking off and it was chaos.”
The challenge was to rebook the ticket as soon as possible and to source overnight accommodation if travel that day was not possible.
Normally, having spoken to a traveller, Jodie would end the call and phone them back after a solution has been found. Due to her concern for Martin’s wellbeing, Jodie kept him on the phone while sourcing options for him for over an hour.
”By keeping him on the phone it was easier to keep him informed. When you’re stranded like that, the worse thing is not knowing what’s going on. He knew we were actively searching for him,” Jodie explained.
A digital diversion
By booking online, Jodie was able to jump the queue of people waiting at the station and secure a seat on a train the following day. She knew that taxis from the station would be in high demand so she booked a room at a hotel just a short walk away.
A little while later Jodie called Martin back to check that he had arrived safely at the hotel, which he had.
Martin said: ”I had the misfortune to get caught in the strike on my way back to the UK from Paris and could not get on the Eurostar. Jodie was able to secure a hotel for the night 100 yards from the station and rebooked my seat the following morning. No easy task as the situation was chaotic and the hotels and trains were filling quicker than she could reserve either a room or a train seat. I had a stinking head cold and felt awful, so she did a great job in sorting me out.”
Jodie added: ”If he had waited until he got to the front of the queue he would have been looking at a two-night stay, so I was glad that we got him home quicker and he could recover.”