Massive earthquake disrupts study trips in Chile

A massive 8.8 earthquake struck 260 miles south of Santiago, Chile at 3:34 am on February 27, 2010 with intense shaking in Santiago lasting nearly 3 minutes. Communications infrastructure in Chile was widely affected, although damage to buildings and other infrastructure in Santiago was minimal. The Santiago airport was affected and closed. 52 MBA and EMBA students were on flights en route to Santiago when the quake hit and their planes were re-routed to 5 different airports across the Americas. 9 MBA students were already in Santiago about to start their international experience.

Austral Group response:

Despite most communications systems being out and information scarce, Austral Group managed to contact all relevant University officials who were located across the Globe to inform them of the situation on the ground.  We identified and contacted all re-routed and stranded students who were located in Santiago, Lima, Mendoza, Rio de Janeiro, Dallas and Atlanta.  Everyone was safe, although a bit shaken up. With worried parents and university officials frantically and unsuccessfully trying to contact the students, the Austral Group responded by uploading an informative web site within hours after the earthquake and utilized Austral Group's Twitter account and other social media to open up conversation lines and keep everyone informed of events on-the-ground in real-time.  Austral Group staff quickly went to work to resolve logistics issues and make itinerary changes for all groups that were affected by the quake.

Client assessment:

Our trip to Chile would have remained a nightmare of the earthquake and a disappointed journey, but for the Austral Group - now it is a pleasant memory. Gracias!

~ Ravikiran Rajagopal, Penn State University MBA Student (2009)

Click to read the student blog describing the powerful experience from a first-hand perspective.