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Behind the Scenes: The Allianz Travel Assistance Hotline

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Allianz - assistance hotline call center

Cruise ship outbreaks. Major earthquakes. Stolen passports. Snowbound airports.

Crises like these are all in a day's work for the 22 travel experts who staff the 24-hour travel assistance hotline for Allianz Global Assistance customers. From their office in Richmond, Virginia, they solve problems for travelers all over the globe.

To us, they're an elite team of travel specialists. To our customers, they're heroes. We'll take you behind the scenes to show you how travel assistance works and get their expert travel tips.

Are you an Allianz Global Assistance customer who needs help while traveling? Call collect from anywhere in the world: 1-804-281-5700.

A day in the life of an Allianz Global Assistance hotline expert

When a call comes into the Allianz Global Assistance hotline, staff never know what they're going to hear. "Every day is different," says Kim G., an Assistance Coordinator Senior. "It just depends on what's going on in the world." She remains calm, explains exactly what she will do, and assures the traveler that she will be in touch. "Depending on where they are, you may be it," she says. "You may be the only lifeline."

"You start to have a feel for what sorts of things to look for in cases that might go sideways," says Assistance Coordinator II Taylor Anne R. She remembers one customer who needed emergency medical transportation in a part of the world where ambulances sometimes take hours to arrive. Using her skills and contacts, Taylor Anne secured transportation in 30 minutes. "It was a good moment," she says.

The assistance coordinators do more than just field calls. Each one is responsible for a certain number of travelers' cases, so they're constantly relaying messages to family members and getting patient updates from hospitals around the globe.

Assistance Coordinator II Valerie Z. remembers one customer who, while visiting family in Europe, suffered a stroke and broke her leg. Valerie helped schedule her surgery and rehabilitation overseas, then arranged for her to travel back to the United States with a nurse. Valerie spoke with the woman's anxious daughter daily, keeping her updated on her mother's condition. It was all covered by the customer's travel insurance policy.

"To me, it was a routine case," Valerie says. "I do the exact same thing for everybody." But the daughter was so grateful that she sent Valerie flowers — a gesture she never forgot. "I feel like I connected with somebody so much," she says.

Travel tips from the Allianz Global Assistance hotline experts

The travel assistance coordinators have seen almost everything that can possibly go wrong on an overseas trip. Here are their best travel tips to help you stay safe.

  • Make sure you're covered for existing medical conditions. Nothing is more difficult than talking to a customer who's seriously ill and having to tell them their existing medical condition's not covered. "We can offer to still help them," Kim says, but without coverage, there's not much she can do.

Travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance does cover existing medical conditions, but only if certain conditions are met. Don't leave it to chance: When purchasing travel insurance, call our insurance advisers at 1-866-884-3556 to make sure you're covered.

  • Leave copies of travel documents at home. You already know you should bring copies of your passport, credit card and insurance documents with you, but you should also leave copies with a trusted friend or family member. Also make sure that person has the information needed to send emergency funds to you overseas, just in case.
  • Put all the important stuff in your carry-on. Many people pack insulin, or other essential medications, in their checked bags — and then the bag gets lost. Medications, travel documents and a change of clothing all belong in your carry-on.
  • Notify your credit card company of your travel plans. The Allianz Global Assistance hotline team often gets calls from travelers panicking because their credit cards aren't working. This is usually because the company, unaware of the customer's travel plans, has placed a hold on the card to prevent fraud. Travel assistance staff can help, but it's easier to take care of this before you leave home.
  • Respect local culture and customs. Travelers — who are already stressed and anxious because they're dealing with a crisis overseas — sometimes forget they're no longer in the United States. They might get insulted when hospital staff ask them for a credit card or can't speak to them in English. Valerie gently reminds them that "they're in somebody else's country," where the culture, language, values and customs are different.
  • Don't put off your bucket list travel. Older travelers are more prone to injuring themselves in falls, so "it's good to travel to the more exotic places when you're young," observes Taylor Anne, whose last trip was to Ethiopia. Here are a few more tips on planning your travel bucket list.
  • Buy travel insurance. The travel assistance coordinators aren't just employees of Allianz Global Assistance — they're customers, too. Before joining Allianz Global Assistance more than 14 years ago, Kim says, "I had no idea that travel insurance was even a thing." Now, she says, buying travel insurance is the first thing she does when planning a trip with her husband. "Because life and travel both are sometimes so unpredictable. You just don't know."

Richmond-based travel writer Muriel Barrett has a terrible sense of direction, and has spent many happy hours getting lost in Barcelona, Venice and Jerusalem. Her favorite travel memories all involve wildlife: watching sea turtles nest in Costa Rica, kayaking with seals in Vancouver and meeting a pink tarantula in Martinique.

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Apr 25, 2017