A lifeline in a crisis: How Tangiers managers struggle to switch off

Some jobs don’t end at 5pm.

Some jobs stay with you long after you’ve put the phone down for the last time and logged out of your work’s computer.

Being an operations manager for Tangiers International is one of those jobs.

Carlos Hernandez, who joined the Tangiers team in May, is responsible for facilitating the company’s global network of local agents, healthcare providers and case managers to get people out of some truly sticky situations.

It might be someone stranded with a paralysing injury in Libya or a sudden illness deep in the Congo – whatever the crisis, Carlos won’t be satisfied until he knows that a solution is in sight.

He said: “It’s inevitable that you become emotionally involved, especially when the repatriation goes on for a while and you’re on the phone to family members and employers. You develop a relationship very quickly – in just matter of days really. You’re like a lifeline for them.”

It’s this emotional investment that means Carlos sometimes can’t resist getting back online after he’s clocked off for the day – making sure a plane landed safely, or that a patient was picked up on time.

Carlos, originally from Tenerife, Spain, had a long and winding journey to end up with Tangiers International – working in Northern England for several years before eventually being employed by a travel assistance company.

It was this role which introduced him to the plight of stranded or injured tourists all over the world – often attempting to overcome local bureaucracy, unscrupulous healthcare providers or just a lack of information.

He recalls coming to the aid of a young tourist in Thailand’s capital Bangkok who’d been taken to a private hospital after fainting. The hospital had slapped her with a medical bill of several thousand dollars and confiscated her passport – essentially holding it ransom until she paid up.

Carlos took the case: advising the girl, liaising with the embassy, and reminding the hospital of their legal obligations. Eventually, the girl was able to leave – shaken-up but grateful to have escaped what amounted to an attempt at extortion.

With Tangiers, these situations have come thick and fast. But one major advantage, Carlos explained, was the way the company operates, working with more than one hundred local agents on the ground who can utilise hard-won local knowledge to resolve issues like these much more efficiently.

One recent case, in which an elderly nun had been stranded in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, springs to mind for Carlos. Requiring urgent medical attention for a spinal injury, medevac companies were sought to safely fly her into Europe.

In a matter of hours after being notified, Tangiers had spoken to the patient in person, arranged medical evacuation and cleared all the necessary legal hurdles for her to fly into Malta.

Carlos, who now lives back in Tenerife, explained that cases like these often began with a simple question: “How the hell am I going to get that lady out of the situation?”

He continued: “What we do at Tangiers is we have people actually on the ground and they can go to the hospital directly to resolve these situations.

“It’s really satisfying when you are put in front of a really bad situation like that and you find the solution out of it.”