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Our People: What Goes on After Dark

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Flight changes and critical incidents – all in a night’s work

For the past nine years Stage and Screen Team Leader, Svet Petrevski and her After Hours team have been quietly holding the fort, while the rest of us are sleeping or playing. Unique to Stage and Screen, this dedicated Australian-based, after-hours team work a rotating roster each night of the week and all weekend – to seamlessly provide 24/7 support for our clients.

“While the most common reason for after hour calls are booking changes, missed flights and hotels which have misplaced requests, occasionally all hell breaks loose,” explained Svet.

As the recent tragedy in Christchurch unfolded late on a Friday afternoon, the after hours team prepared for what they knew would be a hectic weekend. The team swung into action initiating their critical incident processes to immediately ensure all clients were safe and then to manage the impact on Stage and Screen travellers.

As soon as the travel alert came in, the team were on the system to pull two reports – one from the Stage and Screen back office system and one from the GDS (Global Distribution System) to see what travellers were in the area.

Next all key clients were sent a travel alert to let them know if they had a traveller in the region. “We then would immediately phone all travellers that might be in the area – to check on them,” explained Svet. “We also follow up with an email to ask - are you OK? When we send that email we also tag in the travel booker, the traveller’s dedicated consultant, our operations team and the General Manager. Then when we hear they are safe, we let all parties know.”

In the end, all Stage and Screen travellers were quickly identified as being safe. However as the hours crept by, and the enormity of the situation emerged, calls started flooding in to the after hours team. As the TMC for three different Australian media organisations, all were clamouring to get news teams on the ground in Christchurch to cover the story. So booking flights into Christchurch quickly became the next priority.

Every network had at least three different crews on the move, initially travelling to Christchurch, but then also to Dunedin in the south and Grafton in New South Wales as they were revealed as places of interest.

“Within hours hotels in Christchurch were almost totally booked out by police, emergency services and local media,” said Svet. “And because of the sheer load, the GDS couldn’t be used as it was all happening too fast. Needing to secure between 18 and 20 hotel rooms for the news crews, we were forced to hit the phones and call every hotel in Christchurch individually.”

Eventually accommodation across Christchurch was found, but crews had to share rooms due to the shortage. Then all news teams required hire cars big enough for all their gear and again, you guessed it, cars were in hot demand.

As with any critical incident all after hours staff were bought in, with nine consultants working tirelessly across the weekend to manage 1046 calls from 6pm Friday to 8.30am on the Monday morning. “Apart from the situation in Christchurch we also had regular after hour calls still coming in and needing to be handled,” said Svet.

“While our long-term team has dealt with its fair share of natural disasters and security threats, fortunately most shifts are much more uneventful,” said Svet. In fact, some clients just prefer to call at night when they have time on their hands to make their travel arrangements. “It can be a great time for them to get things done and as our Team have each been in the role for 5 or 6 years, many clients have established strong relationships with them.”

While the after hours team make the hand over to the regular Monday to Friday consultants and travel managers look seamless, it is only successful as a result of strict protocols and processes. With everyone plugged into the same Stage and Screen systems, while also utilising FYI Template documents and a comprehensive call log system – everyone is literally on the same page.

Each morning the call log and FYI document is sent to the respective dedicated travel manager, so they know exactly what has been actioned after hours, and if relevant, what still needs to be done to meet the client’s expectations. “At the end of the day (or night!)” explains Svet, “you need to be able to answer and manage a call at 3am, the same way a client expects it to be managed at 3pm!”