January 6, 2017 a man in the Fort Lauderdale airport pulled out a loaded gun and shot 13 people, killing five.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, a bus of 28 University of Nebraska at Omaha athletes and their coaches arrived at the airport only to discover it was on lockdown.
Back in Omaha, Travel and Transport learned of the shooting. Within 15 minutes of the team’s arrival at the airport, Travel and Transport had confirmed their safety with the head coach who was with the athletes at the airport. Travel and Transport communicated this information with the Associate Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance while also staying in contact with the team to assure their continued safety.
Knowing the airport would remain on lockdown for an undetermined amount of time, a group travel coordinator from Travel and Transport rebooked the team as three groups on three separate flights out of Miami on Sunday morning. Consolidating to three flights enabled each group to have a coach as escort in case of further emergency and to follow NCAA recommendations. The group travel coordinator also acquired hotel rooms for the team who needed rest after their stressful and frightening afternoon.
Less than two hours after the team’s arrival at the airport, Travel and Transport had sent confirmed, compiled itineraries for the team’s return trips to Omaha. Staying in close contact over phone, text and email, the group travel coordinator kept the team informed of updates and made sure we were meeting their travel needs.
With inclement winter weather throughout the country adding an additional difficulty to travel, the group travel coordinator kept a close eye on the flights, monitoring additional openings or flight disruptions. At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, the group travel lead realized delays would cause one of the flights out of Miami to miss its connection in Houston. When attempts to slightly delay that connecting flight in Houston were declined, the group travel coordinator got creative.
Through Travel and Transport’s partnership with Arrow Stage Lines, we dispatched a chartered bus to the Houston airport to meet the team to avoid further delays in their travel.
Along with this solution that enabled the team to arrive home that day, the group travel coordinator worked closely with Arrow Stage Lines to upgrade the chartered bus to an “entertainment coach.” This allowed the athletes to experience VIP treatment on their long drive back to Omaha. With two lounges fitted with big screen TVs and 12 personal bunks for sleeping, they would ride back in luxury at no extra cost to the university.
Arriving safely in Omaha on Sunday, the swim coach texted her thanks to the Travel and Transport travel counselors who saw that the athletes could get home as soon as possible, “I can’t express how much you meant to us getting through this. We’re so grateful.”
The Vice Chancellor of Athletics conveyed his appreciation for Travel and Transport’s proactive support, saying that he appreciates working with Travel and Transport in situations such as these, where the travel counselors are able to find and contact the traveler before the university was able to. He continued, “It was quite challenging but the constant contact with your team certainly helped our coaches and students feel some hope. In particular, [the group travel coordinator] deserves special mention, she really went out of her way to be helpful with constant communication with our coaches and administration.”
Discussing the incident later, the group travel coordinator who worked closely with the team all weekend was pleased the athletes and coaches got home safely despite the many delays. “We’re happy we found a way to get them home today and that we were able to make the trip the best it could be as they have been through so much.”