From 100% repatriated to the management of impossible missions.

The VIAP team shares its pride in the achievements in repatriations achieved both in the hours before the declaration of the state of alarm and the international closure of borders, and with the service provided against the economic current to ensure that the companies can be operational in their international activity despite difficulties and restrictions

  • After repatriating 100% of its passengers, the VIAP travel agency masterfully handles uncertainty and international restrictions thanks to field knowledge, contacts in the sector and long experience in corporate travel
  • 63 repatriated Spanish engineers have been returned to Cardiff in time to complete the construction of a photovoltaic plant using a charter flight
  • After managing repatriations from all over the world (Maputo, Viru Viru, Tokyo, Emirates, Morocco, USA, EU …) the VIAP team shares its vision of the facts and advice to tackle the de-escalation of international corporate travel

The first repatriation was carried out by colleague Amaya for the Spanish renewable energy and electrical installation company Elmya, whose employees were carrying out the technical tasks for the commissioning of a photovoltaic plant in Cardiff (UK). The goal: That employees could spend confinement close to their families and avoid the high structural costs that can lead to more than one company going bankrupt.

In some cases – we always talk about professionals from Spanish companies – they have decided to stay in the country where they were (for example, in Australia) for fear that restrictions would tighten after leaving and not being able to return to continue with the business once they had left the country.

The repatriations have been carried out in two phases: the first one just when the confinement for the Alarma state in Spain began, others have had to wait for missing transcontinental flights.

“Initially we had to be extremely dynamic. It is a titanic job to enter the GDS – AMADEUS (reservation management platform) to know how its mechanics work, to enter all the data at breakneck speed and without errors, to block the places, reserve cars so that they could arrive from the Cardiff airport to the nearest Bristol City Hall… They arrived in Madrid and another car was reserved for them so that they could get home and cross their fingers so that the flight would not be canceled again, since they were all being canceled in effect domino.”

This is what Maria Rosa Peña tells us, a passionate about airplanes who has lived the agency’s daily life during the pandemic with great intensity. “In the agency the first hours were lived like in an American movie, where you see in NASA that everyone is watching the screens because Apollo 13 is lacking oxygen … Or like stockbrokers …, one raises her head screaming I need reservation of four seats on the flight such and such! So that other colleagues know that we are filling the allowed space and manage the tempos so that the management does not escape without stepping on the feat of another colleague. ” “The scientists who were in Mozambique were among the most difficult to bring considering that it is already a destination with difficult connections. We managed to get them out of Maputo to Doha and when they arrived in Doha the Qatari planes refused to accept them in the same shipment, due to nationality. So we had to find the next flight that came out, we focused on British Airways because the only open airport was Heathrow. ”

A cause of force majeure has been the only exception for moving anywhere in the world these days. After getting them to confinement with their relatives, the employees of the Elmya company had been demanded by the Cardiff city council before the reactivation of the works in the UK, for the completion of a photovoltaic plant. By means of a letter to the Spanish government, the employees were asked to return to carry out the technical tasks with which to complete the photovoltaic plant. The city council itself provided information on the documents that all passengers should carry: an employment contract and the serological test using a health certificate. It was also required to know exactly how they were going to leave the airport, by what means of transport they were going to arrive, and everything necessary so that the police in Cardiff could have the group of people controlled at any time, and that they would not move from the area where you have the jobs.

The solution proposed by VIAP was to charter a charter flight in which 63 professionals from the renewable energy company Elmya traveled: civil engineering, mechanical assembly, electrical specialty, warehouse workers, supervisors, Construction Managers, Site Manager, Project Manager and administrative. Eulogio Sanchez-Matamoros, Human Resources Director of Elmya “The difficulties we encountered were many, firstly the impediments to displacement, the constant lack of definition regarding the opening of the border, quarantine issues,… it made it difficult for us to find the best and safest solution for transporting workers. Ultimately it was decided that, even if it was relatively expensive, the option of a charter flight was the safest option. ”

Covid advice for corporate travel

“It was necessary to transfer all possible security to them, and for this the company decided to carry out the covid test on all the workers assigned to this project with the setback that the workers were from different cities in Spain. Laboratories have had to be found in different locations and, of course, individual protection measures, a Covid protocol during the transfer, and health information related to the United Kingdom, such as where they can go in case of symptoms, were added. ” Maria Rosa Peña of VIAP notes.

“From VIAP and in direct contact with airlines, embassies etc. All the documentation necessary to authorize the flight has been managed at both the Seville and Cardiff airports, with its city council that was in charge of authorizing the landing of the flight together with the airport police, an airplane and a crew have been located. All this at a time when a flight to Las Palmas Barcelona is over € 800. Being a good group of people, it made sense to charter a charter. ”

Finding accommodation in the UK for 63 workers was also another great challenge, in addition to the fact that there were no hotels open when we started managing the trip, those that worked were reserved for priority emergency personnel. “We are adrenaline sufferers… and we have put a lot of passion into our work. Although there is talk of complaints from passengers without a destination, complaints about refunds, but words of encouragement are lacking for those crews who are traveling to sometimes horrible destinations, under Ertes, and probably with the dismissal waiting for them on the way back. For their part, they have not thought twice and the solidarity has been enormous among colleagues, they are doing a great job and there are very nice little stories of grateful people. This does not mean that the complaints stop “why don’t you return my money …”

Elisabet Abad of VIAP was in charge of repatriating the scientists in Maputo: “The trust and patience of the client is very important, it is normal for them to despair because they are very anxious, but if they knew that we are going to solve it anyway… Here we say it: it takes a lifetime to gain customer trust and a second to lose it. Taking 115,000 services every four to five months incidents arise. But I can say that being in our hands we have never left anyone lying in the 21 years of experience that I have had with VIAP. We see that as a failure and we do not allow it, being on call if necessary. ”

“On March 16 at 12 midnight: to return the scientists to their homes in Maputo, we had to separate them and place them individually on different routes. We found that they canceled the flight while they were already in the finguer because they did not give it authorization to the city reference bridge. One could do the Maputo-Johannesburg – Amsterdam – Barcelona route and the other two with Alitalia reached two different cities in Italy where you could not enter but could be in transit. ”

“Having many hours of flight, as a metaphor for experience, is key. You need a very good knowledge of the computer systems, of the data treatment and operation of how all this goes, of how an airline works, if you do not know it, you hardly get anyone out of Maputo, you have to predict how and where you can move with the passport, with the vaccination card, … if due to lack of x documentation it is not feasible according to which route, etc. ”

Maria Rosa Peña: “We had clients in the United States, in Augusta, in Virginia, in New York in Washington, whom we managed to place on flights with a certain speed, which is what it is about, since the remaining flights were going to ipso facto fill all passengers orphaned from other canceled flights, so speed is essential to put your passengers on the flight and to leave. In addition, there are flights that the companies themselves block to sell among themselves … we also had the problem that every 2 or 3 minutes we received news that this or that country did not accept Spanish passengers due to the rate of deaths and infections. It was very hard to see that the Spanish passport with which you normally entered the traveler to any country in the world suddenly caused problems and nobody wanted you.

The importance of experience, source management, negotiation skills and flexibility

“Now we enter the questions” what do I need to take a flight “but it is really complicated not only because of the documentation and requirements but because there are no flights. We are looking with large companies how to fly to Italy where there are no entry restrictions and have decided to postpone it anyway. You call the consulate and the consulate gives information for the nationals, not for you … The information is confusing … ”

“The reason why most countries in the world place restrictions on us is because of the quarantine imposed by us. The protocol is a quid pro quo: You put me in quarantine, I put it on you, here you deny entry to a passenger of my nationality because the next one among you I will deny it… It is not about the information, it is to reach agreements for the mobilization of the corporate. ”

For Rafa Quintana founder and sole administrator of VIAP travel: “We are the experts and we are the ones who can handle the information to get to a good port, and never better said. Without a team that puts it to work, passion and responsibility, we could never have managed to offer the service that we demand in these difficult days. ”

And he jokes: “We achieve the impossible, miracles take a little longer …”