Anthony Travel Provides Steady Service Through Tumultuous Travel Season
By Ben Marshall
Call it what you want, no cute catchphrase or clever new storm name brings much comfort to the millions of travelers impacted by this winter’s barrage of severe weather.
From the Great Plains to the Deep South and up the coast to New England, no one has been immune from the frigid temps, freezing rain and accumulating snowfall that seems to just … keep … coming, forcing travel advisories and flight cancellations by the thousands.
“It has been an especially difficult winter for travel with noticeably more cancellations and delays than past winters,” said Laura Reid, international programs manager at one of Anthony Travel’s offices in South Bend.
Statistically speaking, she’s right.
According to analysis by the AP, this winter’s dangerous conditions are to blame for the greatest number of flight cancellations in a quarter century — since the Department of Transportation started keeping track of this sort of stuff. As of Feb. 14, 97,400 U.S. flights had been canceled since Dec. 1, according to masFlight, a Bethesda-based firm specializing in airline and airport operations. When a Nor’easter dumped 28 inches of snow on parts of the East Coast on Feb. 13, more than 7,400 flights were grounded making it one of the worst days of air travel in U.S. history.
When a flight is canceled — or when thousands of them are — passengers are faced with navigating long lines and deciphering confusing options. That’s where Anthony Travel comes in.
“We’ve had quite a few people appreciate Anthony Travel specifically because we’re here live and have physical agents who can take phone calls and try to assist the client throughout the process,” said Gail Walker, senior travel consultant at Anthony Travel in Dallas. “As an agency, we’re given waivers from the various airlines to be able to assist the individuals so they don’t have to go to the airlines directly. It relieves some of the stress.”
Walker said Anthony Travel agents are equipped to provide various options to stranded passengers, like changing a ticket with an airline or finding a new ticket with a different airline. If flights are grounded for several hours, or even days, agents can assist with hotel accommodations near the airport or car rentals if driving conditions are safe. “We deal with multiple airlines day in and day out. Throughout the years, we’ve done this over and over, so we know how to approach the different options,” she said.
When an ice storm paralyzed the DFW area in early December, forcing the cancellation of nearly half of the scheduled flights over a six-day period, Maricia Munden, assistant travel manager, was up until 2 a.m. on a Sunday assisting NAIA coaches trying to return home from competition. For one particular team, portions of its travel party had been stranded in Dallas since Thursday but Munden got them home.
“That storm had such a huge impact because we had teams traveling and, unfortunately, they were traveling through Dallas,” Munden said.
When Anthony Travel Vice President Craig Brummell became stuck in Dallas because of the same nasty ice event, Walker tried day in and day out to find alternate flights for Brummell to return to South Bend. When it was clear no flights would be departing for days, Walker booked hotel rooms near the airport for Brummell and fellow passengers. She woke up at 3 a.m. that Sunday to check on flights and make sure Brummell was able to switch tickets and get home.
“I felt so sorry and so concerned for him going day after day, trying to get out and he couldn’t because of the weather,” Walker said. “Mother Nature controls everything.”
And when travel advisories virtually shut down large swaths of the country in January as Notre Dame’s International Study students began departing for spring programs in Italy, Laura Reid was all over it. One student flying from Seattle was delayed and re-routed several times, eventually becoming stranded for an evening in New York. Reid remained in constant communication with the student’s father — past midnight — to assure him his daughter was safe and had a morning flight to Rome.
“We’re always prepared to assist with travel difficulties and yet this winter is not giving any breaks to travelers,” Reid said.
These travel stories are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg this winter. In addition to flight cancellations, a number of events for which Anthony Travel provides official travel services have been canceled as well. In December, the Dallas Marathon fell victim to the ice storm and since then, several youth soccer tournaments across the country have been canceled due to dangerous travel and/or playing conditions.
Ben Connelly, an event manager at Anthony Travel, has dealt with multiple event cancellations over the past several months. He said communication with event organizers and guests is key, but sometimes you just have to roll with it.
“Some of it can be planned for and some of it you just have to take it by storm when it happens,” he said.
Unfortunately, thanks to a well known groundhog, we’re not out of the woods just yet. With several weeks remaining until the official start of spring, more winter storms and more cancellations can be expected. But like the weather, it’s hard to predict exactly when travel emergencies may occur.
They’re not always during regular business hours.
“That’s one of the things I love about what we do at Anthony Travel. If I have to — if it’s an emergency situation late on a Friday night or early Saturday morning — I can log in and help from home,” Deanna Burton, group air agent in Dallas, said. “There’s not a time when we’re ever unwilling to do what we need to do, regardless of where we’re at.”
“Travel doesn’t stop for anybody,” she said.
Except, perhaps, Mother Nature.