Some 70 AAA members were about to embark on an Explorations by AAA 13-day cruise aboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam to Japan, China and South Korea this past October just when Typhoon Hagibis set its sights on Japan, bringing with it hurricane-force winds, torrential rain and storm-surge flooding. Guests were scheduled to arrive within a three-day period before and during the storm, with about half signed up for a two-night pre-trip in Tokyo. A typhoon striking your travel destination could mean scrapping the entire vacation; for this group of AAA members, however, Hagibis became just an inconvenience.
A CALL TO ACTION
Upon hearing news of the typhoon, AAA travel hosts already in Japan went into action, meeting with staff at the pre-trip hotel and working with the ground operator to adapt pre-trip touring.
Back in the U.S., the Explorations by AAA team worked to ensure guests’ safe arrival in Tokyo and to plan necessary itinerary changes. The AAA Travel team rebooked flights and made hotel reservations in stopover cities for those members still in the U.S. Ultimately, the cruise departed a day later than scheduled; a new port was added; two port calls were replaced with days at sea; and the days for some ports calls were rearranged.
A PORT IN THE STORM
Throughout, the AAA hosts remained in contact with guests via phone calls, texts, a private Facebook group and email. Since nearly all the guests had purchased travel insurance, most unplanned costs were reimbursed. As an added service, the AAA team began working on insurance claims for the guests once they were aboard the ship.
Charlotte Duffy of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, was among those travelers impacted by the storm. She, her husband, sister and brother-in-law were already in their airline connection city in Texas when they received news of
Senior Vice President of Travel Brenda Hunsberger (middle left) and Managing Director Debra Calvert (middle right) pose with a few of the happy guests in China.
“We couldn’t get out to fly to Tokyo, so we spent three days [in Texas], staying in hotels,” says Duffy, who eventually flew to Tokyo via Taiwan after the storm had passed. “We can’t thank [AAA Group Travel Director] Amy Short enough for everything she did. She constantly kept in touch with us and even gave us her cell phone number. She made all the arrangements for our hotels and rescheduled flights, and she worked tirelessly to pursue our [reimbursement] money from our travel insurance.”
After a storm comes a calm, indeed.