A couple of years ago, I organized a Publishers Conference in Costa Rica involving 30 magazine owners from 11 countries. The host hotels, the Melia Carriari in San Jose and the Melia Playa Conchal on the Pacific Coast, picked the dates, November 28 to December 5, with the group to spend three days at one resort and three at the other.
The trouble began when the group desk at Continental, the sponsoring airline, kept changing the participants' itineraries because of Thanksgiving bookings in and out of Houston. They had people flying from Rome and Madrid three days ahead of schedule. It was a mess.
On the day before Thanksgiving, I took a red-eye to Houston to Continental's headquarters, having no idea who I would meet with but knowing I had to do something. I arrived at the airline's "Customer Care" office at noon, when people were scheduled to go home by 2 p.m. When two of the customer care reps saw what had happened to my itineraries and that the attendees were from the media, they realized the event would be ruined, and Costa Rica and the new resort would lose press coverage (let alone that Continental might get some bad press).
One woman worked with me until 9 that evening to put attendees from all over the world on the best flights and to send everyone a fax with their flight plans. She saved the day--and Costa Rica wound up getting 84 pages of editorial coverage worldwide and two hours of TV coverage nationally.