Leading UK travel agent TravelUp– like many other firms hit by COVID-19 – faced a near impossible situation in March 2020. When flights were grounded by the pandemic, the company found itself inundated with refund requests and was hit hard by restrictions outside of its control.
Over 122,000 customers had their flights cancelled, and TravelUp’s internal refund system was struggling to cope. The company was also facing a constant battle with airlines, over 100 of whom had prevented agents applying for refunds in the normal way. The CEO was faced with the challenge of communicating the real picture to its stakeholders and came under fire from journalists and consumers.
The situation was sensitive, and TravelUp needed to confront the problem, whilst also educating stakeholders on the difficulties the business was facing and the ways in which TravelUp was responding to and learning from the pandemic to enact positive change.
Having restructured the business to confront these challenges, TravelUp’s CEO Ali Shah, with the help of its PR agency The PHA Group, engaged directly with media to explain in more detail the situation, while also apologising to those facing refund delays.
The company then launched a campaign imploring the CAA to introduce a new ‘trust account’ system, whereby money would only be transferred to the relevant airline once the flight had departed. Our strategy was to engage with relevant MPs and to generate national press around the topic.
- 40 pieces of secured coverage, 70% of which were in national titles
- 20 briefings with MPs to discuss legislative changes to the flight refund process
- 25% of coverage secured for TravelUp, less than 25% has had to address the brand’s own refund issues
Craig Ashford, Marketing Director at TravelUp said: “As a business, we have historically focused on direct response marketing and brand building, PR has never really been at the forefront of our strategy. COVID-19 made me re-evaluate that pretty quickly. The team quickly identified the requirements needed to support TravelUp and its Senior Leadership Team through the pandemic. Their ability to grasp and understand the business, its challenges, and its goals both on a short to medium-term basis were phenomenal. The team quickly set to work on highlighting the issues faced not just by TravelUp but the travel industry, and while PHA worked alongside TravelUp they were in fact giving a voice to the industry at large.”