To say that travel has been complicated over the past two years is no understatement! And now that people are feeling more comfortable with the idea of travel, the industry is having to ramp up while dealing with the same issues most other employers are facing: Covid protocols, staffing problems and the unpredictability of the pandemic’s journey. Some of the most problematic complications include:
– For international/cross-border travel, passport applications and renewals have been causing much distress, especially for those in a hurry. People are lining up for hours at passport offices, with some having to push back their departure dates because of passport processing delays. The cause, it seems, is that this surge in applications was not anticipated and resourcing has been insufficient.
– Also challenging are the long wait times for pre-boarding security screenings at airports, as well as at customs and immigration on arrival from international destinations. We are told that this is the result of staff shortages due to high levels of Covid infections and the corresponding protocols.
– It’s the same with the trusted traveller Nexus card applications and renewals. There apparently is a backlog of nearly 300,000 applications, in large part due to difficulties in scheduling required interviews with Canada’s offices still closed.
– Flights are routinely delayed or cancelled for the reasons noted above, in addition to the more conventional weather disturbances and mechanical issues.
All this means travelling is an even bigger headache than before. Careful planning and plenty of patience will be needed for the next while.
These days, organizations are particularly focussed on the employee experience given the tight labour market. So, in terms of global mobility, it is important to be able to help business travellers and transferees manage and clear these frustrating hurdles. The following are a few suggestions:
– Passport renewal dates should be tracked and initiated earlier. Extra effort should be made in avoiding last-minute applications that require a visit to the passport offices. If passport applications and renewals are entirely the employee’s responsibility, then consider additional communication and reminders.
– Nexus and other trusted traveller programs are cherished by business travellers. Expiring Nexus cards were extended for 2 years starting in March 2020, but some of those extensions are beginning to expire. It may be worth arranging a trip to a US enrolment centre for the employee’s required interview. Otherwise, having to join the “regular” security screening line will not be pleasant. Being able to anticipate the timing would provide a certain level of control in the situation. In Canada, the CATSA website includes a regularly updated page with wait times for 14 Canadian airports (https://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/en/waittimes). In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a mobile app (MyTSA) with wait times for US airports.
– For those driving, the Canadian government has a website that provides wait times at Canada/US border crossings (https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/border-times-us) and the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) provides information on wait times for border crossings into the US from both Canada and Mexico (https://bwt.cbp.gov).
– Delayed and cancelled flights for the weary business traveller or the anxious relocating family is hugely disappointing, and there isn’t much that can be done about it other than facilitate some type of relief, such as:
* Providing an ongoing membership at an airport lounge (Maple Leaf, Priority, etc.)
* Covering the cost of a day room in an airport hotel, even for just a few hours (though this will involve leaving the security zone) or a sleep pod where available
* Having the traveller equipped with detailed information on each airport he or she will be passing through (lounges, restaurants, shops, distances to gates and terminals, rest areas, play areas for children, medical assistance, etc.)
* Providing extra pre-travel attention to relocating families by providing checklists or recommending online family travel resources as these disruptions can be particularly difficult with children.
* Ensuring direct and timely communication between the mobility/travel advisor and the traveller for coordination of transportation at arrival, possibility of flight changes, hotel accommodations, etc.
The transition back to “normal” travel is not likely to be smooth or quick. Awareness, patience (a lot of it), careful planning, and the right tools/resources will help keep travel headaches to a minimum. Efficient coordination between the internal mobility team, the relocation management services, and corporate travel services will go a long way to making employees feel like someone has their back.
 Canadian Air Transport Security Authority