Travel Turmoil


As planes across Western Europe were grounded for a fourth day yesterday, the number of cancelled flights soared to more than 63,000 with 6.8 million passengers stranded. It seems like a good time to check in with some of our clients and friends trying to get to or from Europe.

David Brooks, (not his real name) an international trade executive, was interviewing in India for a senior position. He assumed that taking three days off of work would allow him to interview quietly and return home over the weekend with no one wiser to the fact that he was out of the country. David is stranded in India with no immediate path home, other than to fly from India to Singapore to Los Angeles. Aside from the fact that the cost would be three times the cost of returning via London, there were no seats available. David felt that he had no option but to ask the potential employer to pay the exorbitant airfare back to the States via Hong Kong. "I hope no one asks what I did this weekend," he commented.

An executive from Johnson & Johnson in Brussels has been stuck in New York. Yesterday American Express invited her to travel on a charter 747 to Lisbon along with 18 other J&J employees and 200 UBS employees seeking passage to Brussels. They will then board buses for the 20 hour drive to Brussels.

On the local front, an executive from Smith International was to fly from Kiev to Frankfort to Houston. After being stranded in Kiev he reluctantly boarded a train for the 16 hour train trip to Moscow where he now waits for a flight to Houston via Dubai. He commented that European hotels are taking advantage of their captive audience "The same Frankfort Sheraton that charged €220 on Friday raised their rates to €389 for Saturday."

A number of other European executives have tried to book passage on the Queen Mary, which is leaving on a Transatlantic crossing on Thursday, however, no surprise that it's already booked. Rental agencies are charging €2000 one way for an economy car though there are none available. Similar to the travel challenges posed by 9/11, it is being suggested that people buy a car and sell it when they reach their destination. Another friend writes that her parents are stuck in Rome and had to pay a driver €3000 for a ride to Prague where they have relatives. Finally, one executive at an Atlanta biotechnology company who is stranded in Vienna commented that "it is cheaper to buy underwear rather than have the hotel launder them."

And how was your weekend?

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