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INTERVIEW WITH JONI STREHLKE, AIR TRANSPORTATION MANAGER AT DOCHERTY INCENTIVES & MEETINGS

Posted On: August 1, 2017

You will wish all your future flights were booked by Joni Strehlke. She is the air transportation manager for Docherty and she has all their program participants’ air travel organized for the best possible flight experience in terms of booking.

When did you realize working in the travel incentive industry was your passion? My passion for travel came in my younger years. I was in between jobs and waitressing full time when I decided I should go to travel school. I always loved to travel and thought this would be a good way to experience the world. I started working in an agency booking business and leisure travel. After a couple years of that I worked strictly at a corporate agency. I was then recruited by one of my fellow employees and friends to work at an incentive agency. Since then I haven’t looked back. It has been 20 years and still counting!

What is your title and what does a typical day/week/month look like for you working at Docherty? My title is Air Transportation Manager. Starting every November and December I am busy with our programs that travel in January. I send itineraries to our travelers to be sure the names, dates and itinerary is correct before confirming their airline tickets. Then I prepare itineraries for each traveler’s final packets. Next I check for and update travelers with any schedule changes, and monitor flights on group arrival day to be sure all travelers arrive into their destination. The programs keep me pretty busy through May. The early summer months through the fall I am working with airlines to block seats for the following year’s programs, getting the files set up, trying to look at how to improve processes and procedures as well as archiving my files.  

What is the biggest challenge of your job? Trying to get assigned seating for our travelers. The airlines will only assign a preset amount of “free” seats prior to departure. Our travelers would then have the option of purchasing “priority” seats, try to assign seats when they check in online 24 hours prior to departure, or wait until they check in at the airport.  

Do you travel for Docherty? I travel with groups on the programs when my schedule permits.

If yes, what is one destination you're always excited to return to and why? Ireland: the people of Ireland are so friendly and it is so beautiful there.

What is your secret to getting through long flights? Wear comfortable clothing and slip-on shoes (vs those you have to tie), try to get up and move or if you’re in a middle or window seat, flex your feet often to keep your circulation going. 

Food is an enticing part of world travel...what is a meal or a dish or a dessert (or all the above!) you will never forget? I guess there is one that really sticks in my mind. I was on a self-driven vacation with another woman and we stopped in San Remo, Italy for the night. We had dinner at a local restaurant and I ordered a “crouton” salad. I had no idea what I was ordering but it seemed “safe.” I was expecting a typical leaf lettuce salad with croutons. What I received was totally different. It was a large crouton with, from what I remember, tomato, cheese and a lot of other deliciousness on it. Does not sound that enticing in this description, but it was wonderful!

When you're not traveling, what does the perfect weekend look like for you? Staying home and getting projects done around the house. 

What is one item you've picked up during your globetrotting that is a special treasure to you? I have a few pieces of beautiful jewelry I picked up in Ireland. I also bought some Celtic rings for my husband and sons.

How do you know a destination is a good place to travel? In other words, what do you assess first? The people? The scenery? The food? The cost? Depending on the size of the program, I look at the airlift to see if it is a good fit, meaning are there enough flights to get a group to the destination. Price of the airfare is also a factor in the final decision.

You must be an expert packer by now...do you need to make packing lists or can you pack and leave in 30 minutes and remember everything? Have passport, will travel! If I needed to I could be ready in 30 minutes with what was needed. 

That being said...if you could only bring 5 things with you on an international trip besides the clothes on your back, what 5 things would you bring? My passport, cell phone, current adaptors, toothbrush and clean underwear.

In your opinion and experience...

...where can the best wine be found? Ireland it is! And Guinness would be my “wine” of choice (no surprise to those who follow me on Facebook). 

...what was the most relaxing location you visited? It really wasn’t a location—it would be cruising. I have been on two cruises and both had a day or two at sea. It was very relaxing to just sit on the deck in a shaded lawn chair while reading a book. Those were trips I personally found very relaxing since I seldom have time to read at home.

...what was the biggest surprise during travel? Again, it would have been one of the cruises. We flew into San Juan, Puerto Rico a day earlier than the cruise was scheduled to leave—just to be sure we were there and wouldn’t miss the boat! While we were in our room the night before the cruise, we got the news that Hurricane Bertha would be arriving within the next day. The cruise departed the port early due to the hurricane and some of the travelers had to fly into the next port and missed the first two days. That was a surprise!

So many people have world destinations on their bucket list...do you? Are there places you want to visit but haven't, yet? Alaska. I really want to take an inside passage cruise and land tour. I was in Anchorage for a couple days for ARC training when I first started in the travel industry years ago. I did not get to see much but would really love to get back to see more.

If you could only relive 5 minutes from one of your travels, which 5 minutes would they be? This past April, my older sister and I traveled with our 83-year-old mother to Ireland. Ireland has been on her bucket list as her grandfather came to the US from Ireland. There were a lot of 5 minutes I would relive on that trip. My mother was so happy to be there. To see her and be with her during that trip was priceless!