Avoiding Travel Disruptions in the Time of COVID-19
Dr Chan Yanjun, Medical Director, Malaysia and Mr Loh Kim Loon, Senior Operations Manager, Malaysia
As countries and regions continue to impose global travel restrictions, this has resulted in significant business and logistical challenges around the world. Our client, a national oil company, faced difficulties as 38 of their employees had been unable to return to their home countries after completing their rotational assignments in South Sudan in May 2020. These employees were comprised of nationals from Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
Additionally, there was a group of 45 rotating assignees that were required to return to South Sudan for their assignments. Their company’s operations would have been heavily disrupted if they did not return.
A major concern that these employees faced was the possibility of border closures in their respective home countries as the pandemic continued to worsen.
After receiving our client’s request in late June, we immediately initiated our discussion with the immigration department, as well as various ministries and Malaysia Airlines.
All crucial factors that may have impacted this mission were taken into considerations to ensure a smooth and safe transfer. Those factors included:
- Timely applications and approvals of all health and travel documents to be obtained from relevant local authorities prior to any flight arrangements, including over-flight and landing permits from civil aviation authorities;
- comprehensive flight arrangements involving multi-segment flights to ensure both Malaysian and non-Malaysians are able to return safely to their final destinations amid numerous travel restrictions;
- compliance to countries’ immigration regulations, i.e. no foreign airlines are allowed to transit overnight regardless of reasons at Juba Airport in South Sudan;
- conducting COVID-19 standard operating procedure briefings to all 93 passengers and flight crews involved in this mission at both locations – South Sudan & Malaysia;
- effective cost planning and safe logistical arrangements to safeguard the interests of the employer and their workforce;
- contingency plans for any unexpected announcements of border closures during the mission.
We were able to leverage our assistance network capabilities and the strong relationships built with network providers. As a result of this, we managed to accomplish this complex and challenging mission in a timely, safe, and cost-effective manner in less than two weeks. We did not just fulfil our promise to deliver on time, but also assisted our client with cost-savings.
We would like to thank the assistance centres involved (Kuala Lumpur and Johannesburg), our health and security specialists, and the commercial team for supporting the entire operation with their dedication, agility, and swift response in making this multifaceted mission a success.