With countries across the globe closing their borders and restricting both inbound and outbound travel in a bid to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, business travelers are finding themselves stuck overseas with little help on offer from the government. Whether you’re stuck abroad yourself or your employees are struggling to make it back into the country, we’re taking a look at the guidance surrounding a safe return home for all.
One of the thousands of American business travelers struggling to get home from around the globe is Kristin Monesmith, an emergency department nurse for the University of North Carolina who finds herself stuck in Cusco after the quarantine rules caught her by surprise. When discussing the number of American citizens trapped overseas, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo replied that he didn’t want to “spend too much time talking about the intricacies” regarding the State Departments’ position. As such, the current guidance from the U.S. State Department for overseas travelers is to not rely on the U.S. government to get home, instead, travelers are encouraged to begin attempts to make their own way home and refrain from waiting for any assistance from the government. So if you can’t peg your hopes on being evacuated, what can you do? The current advice is to find a commercial flight home and, despite airlines being accused of cashing in on flights for stranded travelers, you’re expected to pay the cost. Whether you can claim this back through your insurance is an entirely different problem many business travelers are set to face.
Who to call?
Those who have booked business flights directly with an airline should first check the airline’s official statement online before taking to Twitter for live updates from the company. While you could call the customer service line, you’ll most likely find yourself on hold for a while and should you get through, it’s unlikely that you’ll be met with clear and precise answers to your questions. Those who booked business flights through an agent should reach out to their agent, and again take to Twitter for the latest company updates.
Business travelers concerned about the cost of booking new flights, or paying extortionate amounts to return home, should reach out to their insurance provider first to see whether they’re covered for such an instance. Kasara Barto, press manager for the travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, advises travelers to ask their insurers whether their policy “includes what they think it does, and to find out if there are any changes, updates, or expansions to the policy”.
If you’re currently trying to get your employees home from overseas then one of the most important ways you can help them during this trying time is to keep your communication with them as regularly as possible. Employees will likely begin to feel abandoned and your regular updates will be much appreciated, be it good news or bad!
For peace of mind, business travelers stuck overseas could also sign up for STEP, a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling abroad to enroll with the local U.S embassy or consulate in their current destination. Not only will you receive the latest safety and security information for your destination (including border restriction rules and airport closure updates), it’ll also make it easier for the U.S. embassy to contact you should the situation escalate.
Travelers who are struggling to make their way across the country due to flight restrictions and airport closures should first turn to the #Fly Coronavirus Travel Map to find an alternative flight route home (note that this service is also available to international travelers). If no alternative flight routes are available, travelers should then consider alternative modes of transport while they’re still running including buses, trains, and car hire.
In conclusion, the general consensus for business travelers abroad is to attempt to return home sooner rather than later, before overseas travel becomes more complex and difficult. Those who are stuck in a country where the borders have been closed and all flights are canceled will most likely have to wait out the closure.
Founded in 2017, #Fly is the safest and smartest way to book business trips. Through its travel automation platform, #Fly leverages predictive technologies to notify travelers of when to book flights, cars, and hotels for upcoming trips, based on their personal preferences. By streamlining the logistics for managers and employees, #Fly aims to deliver the best booking experience for today’s business travelers. For more information, please visit: https://fly.me.