If you are a traveller, travel manager or risk/security professional that buys or uses emergency evacuation services, then you need to read this article. In this article we examine the travel insurance, assistance and evacuation services for priority or emergency evacuation operations. Regardless of the trigger for activating such services, there is a critical flaw in the service model and understanding that consumers and users need to know. By the end of this article, you will have a more detailed understanding on when you can claim evacuation assistance and the potential conflict of interest that too many fail to appreciate until too late.

Travel InsuranceEvacuation Providers

The service markets for evacuations and emergency relocations is dominated by two main service offerings. Companies that provide assessment and evaluation of circumstances that may lead to evacuation as well as the logistical means to conduct evacuations are the most dominant. The secondary market is of those that provide the logistical [predominately aircraft] solutions for relocation and evacuations. Billing and procurement for such services are typically pre or post paid fees. This means that you pay in advance for the option, not obligation for evacuation support or you pay after the necessity arises and both parties commit to the evacuation operation.

EvacuationĀ Logistics

Following years of practical experience and a number of large scale evacuation operations all around the world, I can tell you that once the technical [grounds to trigger the move such as security, medical, business, etc] decision has been made for an evacuation, the majority of the evacuation resolution is logistics. Who, what, where and when type challenges. It is the technical decision making process that must be exclusive to the service solution associated with evacuations, otherwise you have a significant conflict of interest. Akin to a stockbroker [an example anology only] recommending the buying/selling of a particular stock [based on their technical assessment] to only then personally buy and sell their own shares to the customer, generating profits and revenue from this “churn”.

The Catch 22

Those providers that offer just the logistics support for evacuations must always wait for the technical [internal or external] decision to be made by the client, to then service the request. Where as those that provide both the technical and logistics services, provide both in-house to their organisation. This process typically results in significant lack of context when servicing numerous clients. How often will a set of circumstances present whereby every single company and traveller/expat affected is recommended to be evacuated? Rarely. How often is every individual and companies risk tolerance, preparedness and exposure identical in every way that warrants an evacuation? Rarely. The net result is that there are those that benefit from such group decisions as they too can be relocated, however there are those [despite payment in advance in full] that are not entitled to this group evacuation as it has been deemed [by the same provider] that on average, the situation does not warrant an all persons evacuation. More insidiously, there are those that will rarely ‘declare’ a group wide evacuation in affect for clients as they are then obligated to evacuate all persons at their own cost. They would prefer to wait until the client “self declares” an evacuation, triggering a post paid agreements. This means the client has paid twice. Once for the peace-of-mind in advance with a policy they could not claim upon, and again with the direct cost of the evacuation as they did not meet the providers group criteria for an evacuation.

Better Evacuation Preparedness

As indicated above, decoupling the technical and evacuation logistics elements is a far more practical and advantageous approach for most companies. Not only are there significant cost efficiencies to be realised, you can objectively manage both elements [or supplement with in-house technical advisors] if and when required. While the technical services and advice are likely to be a more routine/daily requirement, the service solution for evacuations are likely to remain a rare requirement.

The evacuation logistics market has evolved significantly over the past decade, as too has the aviation charter sector. This means it is a more competitive and expansive market for buyers to negotiate options, services and pricing in the event of technical recommendations. It also negates the requirement for one-stop-shop providers who potentially offer a compromise in two service areas due to attempts to remain subject matter experts in both disciplines. What is also unknown to many consumers/buyers is that they often outsource most of their evacuation operations to select charter providers anyway, making them just a middle man with a conflict of interest.

Conclusion

If you are a traveller, travel manager or risk/security professional that buys or uses emergency evacuation services, then you need to act upon the information in this article. In this article we examined the travel insurance, assistance and evacuation services for priority or emergency evacuation operations. Regardless of the trigger for activating such services, we demonstrated the critical flaw in the service model and understanding that consumers and users need to know. You now have a more detailed understanding on when you can claim evacuation assistance and the potential conflict of interest that too many fail to appreciate until too late. It is recommended you immediately reevaluate your understanding of any evacuation agreements or services you have currently, especially with those that provide both the technical and logistical elements of the final equation.

Tony Ridley