June 14, 2024

Breaking down barriers

As the red list grows, Scott Pawley, Managing Director of Global Travel Management, shares some examples of how businesses can navigate rules and obstacles with the help of a TMC

Like many TMCs, we have clients who need to travel to countries even though they’re not on the UK Government’s green list. The first thing we do is help them understand the regulations and testing requirements imposed both by the UK and also by the destination country.

For example, the U.S. is still on the UK’s amber list. This means there are restrictions in place, but you are allowed to travel to return to the UK from the U.S. Travellers will have to complete a Passenger Locator Form to declare where they will be self-isolating on return but will not have to quarantine in a government-appointed hotel. They will have to complete 10 days’ self-isolation at home or at a named address but can opt to take part in a test-to-release process and reduce that requirement by half. They will have to book tests – one to take while abroad prior to departure for the UK, two during the self-isolation period and an additional one if they choose to use the test-to-release system.

But even if they do all of this, the U.S. currently has a ban on direct travel from the UK and from Schengen countries under the 2020 Presidential Proclamation. So, we offer two practical solutions.

Firstly, we determine if the travel falls under one of the U.S. work exemptions. Although the U.S. ban extends to all travel – leisure and business – it excludes travel for a small number of permitted occupations.

Sometimes it’s straightforward but occasionally we have had clarifying conversations with our contacts at the U.S. Embassy. It’s crucial to ensure that regulations are being adhered to but, equally, when travel is business-critical we do what we can to ensure it can happen.

If there is no possible professional exemption, TMCs can look to route travel through countries from which travel is permitted. We have arranged for meetings to take place in the U.S. by flying in clients from non-Schengen countries. For example, we arranged for a traveller to work from hotel accommodation in Bucharest, Romania, for 10 days prior to his trip to Los Angeles.

We arranged flights to Bucharest and hotel accommodation, where the client remained in isolation (checked daily by local police). We arranged testing in Bucharest, with the intention of flying from Bucharest. Unfortunately, as there were several flight cancellations by Tarom, we had to arrange flights via Istanbul. 

The client made his trip, didn’t contravene any rules and, crucially, was able to continue working in the days leading up to his meeting. The return trip was simpler as he flew straight home and quarantined at home.

“It’s crucial to ensure that regulations are being adhered to but, equally, when travel is business-critical we do what we can to ensure it can happen”

In another example, we helped a client and his family move, under a work permit, from South Africa to Australia. Most flights and connections via intermediate points were cancelled for short-term periods. So we arranged several PCR tests in South Africa required for each flight booking and repeated tests for each subsequent re-booking. We booked and confirmed a flight connection via Doha, followed by two weeks’ hotel quarantine in Sydney. 

It was crucial the client’s trip was fully managed as it was more than a work trip: we had a family to take care of along the way.

Another client, based in New Zealand, needed to return to England while all flights were being cancelled by the New Zealand Government. We secured flights to Melbourne but Melbourne Airport was closed, with only airside transits permitted. We contacted the airport and negotiated to secure a reservation in the private lounge for the 12-hour stopover, prior to the client’s onward flight to London via Doha.

We needed to ensure our client had somewhere to rest prior to his 40-hour flight to London and with all shops and restaurants shut at the airport our client really benefited from the booking we made.

During the pandemic, travel is harder but very few trips are impossible if you have a TMC looking after everything. These illustrations show the important role TMCs are playing as the world eases out of lockdown, unevenly.