Written on 4th April 2018

Road Diaries TPi Magazine: Dani Triebner - Senior Tour Specialist, TAG Global Touring

I’ve been on the road for the last 5 years of my 11 in the industry, and as the Advance Travel Agent on the tour, it is my job to ensure that everything is all set up and ready to go. Then, when a tired group arrive, they are immediately handed envelopes containing their key and any info they might need for their stay.

If all goes well, I will give it about 40 minutes waiting in the lobby to see if anyone is coming down with an issue and, after that, I’m free to get back to advancing for the next city- and the hundreds of emails that will have accrued while I’ve been running through corridors all day! If it doesn’t go well I could be running around for the rest of the day / night fixing things, or (worst case scenario) moving to another hotel.

One memory always stays in my head. The band I was on tour with were staying in Gdansk, Polan and the advance security personnel and I went on ahead leaving all the home comforts of London where we had been for longer than the usual 24 hours, only to find that when we landed off the second leg of our flight, my case had only made it as far as Munich... No big deal, so long as my airline could get it to me in the 12 hours that we had on the ground in Gdansk it would be fine. The tricky part with this city was that we’d be meeting the band at 3am (subject to an on-time departure from London) and leaving for our next indirect flight to Hannover at 4am (for a 6am flight). Team No Sleep was back in full force, but that’s just the way it goes on the road!

As we were boarding the SAS flight from Gdansk to make our first stop in Copenhagen before connecting on to Hannover, we couldn’t help but think about everything we had to do in a short period of time, as once again the band were going to be right behind us on their private jet.  However, with this super early start we still had the whole afternoon and evening to prepare for their 2am arrival. As I sat down in my window seat - a configuration of 3 and 3 on a rather old plane - I glanced over to notice a small blessing... there was an empty middle seat, between me and the Polish lady with her Yorkshire Terrier (in a bag) quivering at her feet. They were heading home to NYC where she now lives, via Copenhagen, and being a dog lover myself, I was pleased for the little furry companion... but more so for the empty seat between us allowing for that little extra comfort.

For some bizarre reason I paid special attention to the safety talk given to the exit row (one row in front of us), which I would usually have ignored.

The doors were closed, cabin crew in their jump seats for take-off and I was drifting in to sleep -finally! - for the first time in 48 hours. We hadn’t even reached our climbing altitude when a burning aroma stirred me from my unconsciousness; must have been a bird in the engine? I read that once, that the smell of roast chicken as you are taking off could be some poor sparrow sucked through the jet’s engines. But as I glanced around the cabin I noticed a few faces were starting to turn around and look panicked. The smell was getting worse but I was sure that my first theory was correct and everyone was just being neurotic. With that thought, the plane suddenly dropped, first to the front in a nose dive, then to the left followed by the right as it struggled to get straight again.

Ok, now I start to wonder about that little sparrow. I see the air hostess appearing at the front of the plane walking the aisle wearing what looked like a First World War gas mask... She was ripping the material flaps off all our seats and motioning for us to hold them over our mouths to stop us from breathing in the smoke that was creeping through the cabin. The plane is still labouring, attempting to get straight, then banking heavily round to the right at a 45-degree angle. At this point, all the passengers are losing it, people are crying, breathing into paper bags, I for some reason felt strangely calm and rational, we hadn’t been up in the air for that long… but then both air hostesses started screaming: “BRACE, BRACE!”

I know longer felt calm. They continued: “BRACE, BRACE, GET DOWN, GET DOWN!” I removed my face from the back of the seat in front of me to take a quick peek out of my window. All I could see was green fields below; that was the only split second where I actually questioned if I was going to die on this plane. As the maths equations of how far and how quickly we were going to land were going through my brain, we came down with an almighty bang. And before I knew it the people in the row in front had the emergency exit doors opened and the slides inflated. At this point we grabbed what we could (I know you shouldn’t, but hey - I needed my laptop) and slid down the slides onto the tarmac… the plane had made it back to the very start of the runway, and as soon as we had all disembarked, the fire brigade was straight in with their hoses.

Everybody was very shaken up, understandably, but in the back of my head I’m thinking we have to get to Hannover! I don’t have time for this! But of course we’re herded into a lounge area and one lady with a mobile phone tried to rebook everyone as quickly as possible; only after we were all checked over by the medic and seen by a counsellor.

We got rebooked onto the next flight - which was in 5 hours, meaning we now literally had about 6 hours in front of the band. I have to say thanks for the Germans at our hotel in Hannover, and their efficiency, as for the first time ever - via FaceTime! - from an airport lounge, we set up all the rooms perfectly. Phew!

And, of course thank goodness for the amazing crew on that SAS flight; never again will I assume a sparrow has met its end! So there you go, just another 24 hours in the life of an advance travel agent: sleep = zero!

Dani Triebner

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