Icelandic volcano demonstrates value of TMC partnerships

Atlanta, 4 May 2010 – The worst peacetime air travel disruption in history, caused by the eruption of volcano Eyjafjallajokull (AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul) in Iceland in mid-April, sent ash clouds as high as 40,000 feet, closed most of Europe’s airports, forced the cancellation of some 100,000 flights and stranded or delayed millions of passengers worldwide.

It also highlighted the value of strong partnerships for corporate travel programs.

“The chaos this volcano created in the travel industry demonstrates the true value for corporations of forming partnerships with travel management companies and other suppliers,” said John Snyder, BCD Travel global president and chief operating officer. “The volcano and its aftereffects put those partnerships to the test and, in the end, reasserted the value of those relationships. We believe the tireless efforts of our counselors and staff around the world highlighted our reliability, creativity and proactive approach, and solidified the trust our clients place in BCD Travel.”

Quickly responding to travel disruptions caused by the volcano, BCD Travel implemented crisis management plans. Emergency provisions included extending normal operating hours of travel counselors, escalating customer communications and pinpointing the whereabouts of client travelers worldwide. Reporting and telecommunications capabilities proved especially important during the crisis, allowing BCD Travel and its clients to locate and proactively contact and assist travelers.

Underscoring the widespread impacts of the volcano, only 11 percent of respondents to an international survey by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) said they were not affected by the event.

Call volumes more than tripled in many of BCD Travel’s operations, including the company’s after-hours service network. Around the world and around the clock, BCD Travel counselors stepped up to help meet client demand by signing in from home and working extra hours or shifts.

While volcanic ash taxed BCD Travel operations, implementation of the company’s crisis management plan provided clients with levels of service unavailable to corporate travelers without strong TMC and supplier partnerships. Many clients articulated their satisfaction with BCD Travel’s response to the crisis:

  • “It is times like these that really test a client-vendor’s true partnership and chemistry,” said UBS AG’s Anna-Marie Francello and Mark Cuschieri in a joint statement. Francello and Cuschieri are executive directors of Travel Management for UBS AG’s Corporate Real Estate Administration Services. “We fully appreciate that this success did not come easily, with the teams having to work around the clock and answer calls from our UBS Travel Management teams. We are thrilled that we were able to display to our most senior global leaders that together our teams are best-in-class.
  • “Without BCD Travel’s expertise, intelligence and network of resources, we would still be trying to piece it all together,” according to a statement from Kodak’s Office of the Chief Marketing Officer. “The help you provided our team and all the other Kodak employees who were traveling in Europe at the time was amazing.”
  • "BCD Travel reacted fast and provided us with a lot of communications,” the procurement team for Bayer’s Mexico operations said in a statement.
  • “Your on-site team did a great job working on the volcanic ash crisis. They never let up monitoring until everyone was home safe,” said Nancy Pendleton, Travel & Fleet analyst at The Timken Co.
  • Said Snyder, BCD Travel’s global president and COO: “We heard from one stranded client who said it was his birthday and it was the first time he’d spent it away from his daughters and other family. We were able to help that traveler get back home as soon as possible, and it really highlights the difference a company and its clients and suppliers can make.”

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