A lot has changed at Travel Places in the past 25 years – from the size (and location) of our office, to the style of our work. We sat down with Director of Flight Operations, Helen Cox, to reflect on some of her memories, challenges, and achievements as she reaches her 25-year milestone with the company.
What made you apply for your first job at Travel Places, and how has the company changed since then?
I was approached by Travel Places founder, Bob Warren, having worked with him and his wife Chris on the Australian Grand Prix for 3 years whilst I was employed at Qantas Airways in their Groups department in London.
My first day at Travel Places was at the previous office, which was based in Arundel. Back then, the company had around 25 staff across the business and I started out as an Operations Manager. As the company expanded, I grew into an Operations Director role. The company employee count has nearly tripled since my first day, and now includes increased structure to the reporting lines and job functions throughout the business.
What changes have you seen in the industry over the last 25 years?
So much has changed in the industry in the past 25 years. Some of the main things that stand out to me include aircraft no longer offering smoking seats (they were always an issue for both smokers and non-smokers), electronic tickets, online check-in, Premium Economy, Business Class flat beds, First and Business class suites and airline alliances. In addition to this, the opening of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow, Concorde retiring, 9/11, Icelandic ash cloud and low-cost airlines are just a few of the major changes and/or challenges we have had to deal with throughout the flights and travel sector!
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
There have been so many moments that I have felt proud of our work, and 25 years is a long time. I would say that always being positive and finding a way through the logistical challenges, as well as enjoying the time I spend with the suppliers, customers, and colleagues that I work with. The Olympics and Paralympic movement in 2021 for the Summer Tokyo 2020 Games was one of the most challenging, but also rewarding, events I have ever worked on.
Read the full story on how Helen and the rest of the team successfully created a platform for success at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games, here.
You must have travelled a lot, what is the favourite place you’ve been to (both for work and leisure)?
I have been very lucky to have visited so many extraordinary places all over the world whilst working for Travel Places and there are very few I did not like. Working with Formula 1 has been a main focus for me during my time at the company, and being able to visit the Grand Prix destinations of Monaco, Singapore, Austin and Abu Dhabi has been special. On more of a personal side, my family and I have always enjoyed our visits to France, Italy, Greece, and Scandinavia. We are heading to Croatia this Summer which I am very much looking forward to!
What’s the best thing about working at Travel Places?
The best thing about this job and the industry is the challenges that each day and event create. It is an extremely rewarding role that allows you to work with a wide array of people, from airline personnel behind the scenes, to the front facing staff at the aircraft. It is a privilege to be so involved in the working of these companies and airlines.
What is one major challenge you’ve faced?
There have been a few over the years, but moving 15 people off the Montreal flight in 1999 onto a Concorde out of New York was an interesting one…. I have never been so popular in the F1 paddock when word got around that that is what needed to happen to help with an oversold flight! More recently, the pandemic has been logistically challenging since February 2020 and onwards. But we have been supported by our incredible staff, suppliers and brilliant customers and worked through every twist and turn to ensure the sports teams and media travel through 2020/2021 and into 2022, enabling sports events to run as smoothly as possible.
What is a fun, memorable moment you’ve had?
I feel so lucky because I have honestly had so many – we work with an incredible bunch of people at Travel Places, in addition to our many brilliant customers and suppliers. When I reflect on the last 25 years – amongst the hard work – there has been a lot of laughter and this will continue, I hope, for years to come.
And lastly, what has been your biggest “lesson learned”?
To keep going, there will always be a solution, never be defeated.