Since we started working with AGR in 2017, the movement of people has always been time-sensitive. The global recruitment company specialises in securing roles and crews in the oil and gas industry, sometimes with a tight turnaround. Time and safety regulations mean highly-skilled crews can only be on site for certain time periods then they must be replaced; moving people around the world quickly and efficiently even during the pandemic.
AGR operates in a wide range of environments and around the world, so there are often complex multiple travel arrangements incorporating different nationalities. The recruiter’s travel plans did not slow down during the COVID-19 pandemic but the amount of flights and hotel available were restricted, adding another level of complication.
“Managing travel for this sector is challenging in normal circumstances. The expectations to deliver are extremely high and the service level agreements have a higher expectation than what other companies expect,” said Lyndsey Gilmour, Senior Manager for Scotland at Corporate Traveller. “The cost implications of these vessels, rigs and drills not running can cause companies to lose millions of pounds very quickly and therefore it is important to act quickly and ensure connections and timings are adequate, leaving as little to chance as possible.”
Challenges during a pandemic
Regularly changing rules
During the COVID-19 pandemic travel regulations have changed frequently and with little notice, but our consultants have always kept on top of the latest developments. For AGR, Lyndsey kept a close eye on the company’s main travel destinations: Egypt, Azerbaijan, Philippines and Russia as well as all current bookings. Lyndsey constantly monitored government, airline authority and port authority resources to have the most up to date information to send to relevant travellers.
“Lyndsey, Gary and the team have a fantastic knowledge on the industry which is of huge assistance and has shone through with some very complex requirements during the international lockdown,” said Neill Hogg, Head of Operations at AGR.
Maintaining SLAs with fewer staff
Keeping up high standards and service level agreements whilst having fewer staff was a challenge for the remaining team, especially as simple tasks like booking a flight took three times longer due to checking various restrictions.
Reduced flight operations
Many regional UK airports were closed, so Lyndsey and her team arranged for crews to have car rentals sent to their home address and instructed them to drive safely to the nearest operating airports. In other situations crews were flown to central hubs such as Edinburgh and London to stay overnight and travel onwards the next day.
Journeys took much longer. For example, a simple flight to Alicante, Spain, would normally take three hours direct from almost any UK airport. When flight operations were adjusted due to the pandemic, travellers had to start their journey three days before they needed to join a vessel in Alicante. After driving from their home to Heathrow, travellers stayed at an airport hotel and take a flight to Barcelona the next day. They then stayed in another hotel in Barcelona before travelling onto Alicante the next day.
In another example Lyndsey had to arrange a charter to depart from London to Baku, as flights to Azerbaijan were suspended. However, the crew were travelling to London from Russia, Egypt, Estonia and the UK which each required another level of co-ordination, additional flight arrangements and regulation checks so they could all arrive at Heathrow with plenty of time to join the charter flight.
Finding solutions together
Policy amendments and daily communication
AGR’s travel policy and duty of care procedures were reviewed, adding another layer of support through enhanced traveller tracking, reporting and vital business updates. Lyndsey was and remains in contact with AGR’s travel bookers on a daily basis, checking what is coming up and that they have everything they need. Based on advice and help from the Corporate Traveller team, AGR amended its information to travellers to include:
- PPE requirements in airports and on aircrafts
- Forwarded entry documents/medical certificates where required
- A letter for travellers to carry proving they are key workers
Through the many cancellations, changes and disruptions, the team worked hard to ensure AGR lost as little money as possible by obtaining refunds and managing multiple changes.
Preferential hotel rates
With the sudden closure of so many hotels, the team regularly checked which properties were open to key workers. Due to the high number of crew members arriving and departing from London Heathrow, Lyndsey organised a preferential rate at Sheraton Skyline at Heathrow. The rate included online check-in and breakfast delivered to the room so the crew members didn’t have to use the communal areas. Rates were also secured at other hotels that supported quarantine measures including deep cleans in rooms, laundry and three meals delivered directly to rooms.
Assistance in all hours
AGR are no strangers to using Corporate Traveller’s out-of-hours service, which runs every day and hour of the year and has continued to do so throughout the pandemic. When a large crew rotation is coming up Lyndsey ensures she is available to arrange flights, hotels and ground transport, as well as provide support.
Solid relationship despite the obstacles
The high standards set by AGR have continued to be met by the team throughout the pandemic. Regular communication kept both the AGR and Corporate Traveller teams on top of ever-changing rules and changes, and meant they could efficiently communicate changes to crew members.
“Looking after AGR effectively is not a Monday – Friday 9-5 job. The high standards set before coronavirus are still expected now and going forward, and we are working tirelessly to ensure that is the case,” says Lyndsey.
We’ll end on these very kind words from AGR’s Head of Operations Neill Hogg.
“Lyndsey, Gary and the team are great to work with and provide an unrivalled service in a very timely manner. We have still managed to assist our clients with the help of Lyndsey and the team during this period which has had a huge assistance to all our clients, personnel and AGR. We can highly recommend CT as a valued travel partner to any business. Thanks for the hard work and a few beers whenever it’s safe to do so!,” said Neill.
AGR is just one of the companies that we have been supporting throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of our key takeaways from this challenging period of travel:
- Communicate regularly with your TMC – they are the travel experts
- Assess your TMC’s Travel Hub and resources
- Secure preferential rates with your most-visited hotels – this also applies once travel picks up
- Book through a TMC with round-the-clock support for those last-minute changes
- Prepare employees for longer journeys and time away