Trade partners combine for ‘international rescue’

A travel agent has credited the joint efforts of trade partners for rescuing a couple stuck in Australia.

Ken Garrity, owner of Altrincham-based Ken Garrity Travel, contacted his clients, on a First Class Holidays trip in Australia, as soon as airlines began to cancel flights.

But he soon realised he faced a battle against time to get them home as airlines stopped services with little notice due to the coronavirus crisis.

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Garrity said it was only thanks to the combined efforts of the operator and airline that his clients arrived back in the UK safely on March 24.

“The stress was mindblowing but it’s on your conscience if you don’t get clients home,” he said.

His clients had been due to fly back from Sydney to Manchester, via Hong Kong, on March 30 but were automatically rebooked by Cathay Pacific when their flight was cancelled. The new flight, via Paris, had an 11-hour stopover. Garrity said: “I woke up at 3am thinking ‘what if they get stuck in Paris?’”

Worried – and rightly so, as that flight was later cancelled – he found another Cathay Pacific flight, via Hong Kong, departing on March 23.

But the night before his clients were due on that flight, Hong Kong announced a curfew on departing flights from midnight on March 23.

Garrity said: “My clients were due into Hong Kong at 10pm, flying out three and a half hours later – after the curfew started.”

He and Allyson Sharpe, head of after-sales at First Class Holidays, spent the next four hours working out a solution while his clients, unaware of the problem, were asleep in Australia.

“Luckily, Ally had a UK contact at Cathay Pacific,” he said. “He came back with a letter of dispensation to allow my clients on their flight home.”

By the time Garrity’s clients woke up, the problem was fixed.

He added: “My clients called me ‘international rescue’, but it was thanks to Ally, the First Class staff, and [senior account manager] Keith Harrison at Cathay Pacific.”

First Class Holidays managing director Dan Gathercole said: “I’m so proud of the team. It’s times like this you realise who is up for the fight.”

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