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11 January 2021 | Case study

Aegean case study: Automating passenger communications to transform operations and passenger experience

For airlines, the manual task of handling schedule changes is labour intensive. Airline staff have to contact thousands of booked passengers to advise them of the changes, note whether they accept or reject the change, and update every PNR individually. 

With over 61 aircraft, operating across 151 destinations in 44 countries, Aegean Airlines was using four full-time agents to manage schedule changes manually via phone and email. For planned schedule changes the carrier would use a small call centre to accommodate the higher volumes and ensure all passengers were informed and re-accommodated on time. This manual approach was not only a huge operational burden on the airline but also caused unnecessary stress for its passengers.

Aegean approached 15below in 2012 to help automate its schedule change handling to relieve this strain and to improve customer service with enhanced communications. But it didn't stop there: For the last eight years, we have worked together closely and developed a fantastic partnership with innovation at the core. 

Project objectives

Aegean Airlines needed a more robust marketing and operational notification process to cut unnecessary costs and improve the overall passenger experience. The key top-level objectives for the airline were to:

  1. Reduce time and resource required to process and manage routine schedule changes, cutting operational cost and allowing staff to focus on business-critical activities.
  2. Enhance passenger communications and retain high levels of customer service during times of planned and unplanned disruption.
  3. Process and manage routine schedule changes quickly and efficiently to improve the guest experience.

Project design and deliverables

Following a detailed requirements workshop, a tailored solution was outlined proposing the application of 15below’s Disruption and Queue Manager solutions. This would enable the airline to:

  1. Create operational efficiencies with bespoke business rules to automate all manual processes. This included automatically placing PNRs into actionable ‘accepted’ or ‘rejected’ queues, revalidating accepted schedule changes and updating the PNRs. This freed up agents to only address unique scenarios that needed human interaction.  
  2. Keep all impacted customers well-informed of changes to their travel plans with delivery of personalised email and SMS notifications in their preferred language. Using pre-defined communication templates, Aegean could automatically notify passengers of their flight changes and next steps for changing their flight booking. On acceptance, they would then be sent a booking confirmation.
  3. Quickly and easily identify unresponsive customers who had not responded or accepted the proposed schedule changes, or those that had more complex requirements. This enabled schedule change agents to focus on high-priority cases and removed the need for extra seasonal staff. 

Phased implementation

The project was delivered in three phases, giving Aegean Airlines complete control over deliverables, and allowing the team time to coordinate other operational changes required alongside the project. The phased implementation also gave time for tangible results to come in, offering the team reassurance in the changes being made.
 

Table showing the increasing percentage of PNRs that were automated over the different phases of the project

The result

By 2019, Aegean Airlines had automated nearly 80% of schedule change communications using 15below’s notifications and workflow platform. By lifting the manual burden, the operational impact of seasonal peaks has been removed and additional staff are no longer needed. As a result, agents now have the time and resource to focus on providing exceptional customer service.
 

Graph showing the proportion of schedule changes handled via manual and automated processes at Aegean Airways

Continuous improvement

Since the roll-out of this project, there have been additional enhancements to the solution’s functionality:

Olympic Air

In 2016, Aegean Airlines incorporated all domestic network schedule change notifications operated by Olympic Air into its automated platform solution. This was achieved with the creation of additional Olympic Air-branded templates and business rules.

Integration with Amadeus Altéa

When the 15below platform was originally implemented for Aegean in 2012, it was integrated with Amadeus COM API.  In 2016, Aegean chose to migrate to Amadeus Web Services which was also being used by other 15below customers.  The project involved migrating the 15below platform and all associated notification workflows: All processes were re-mapped to the new web service integration for the retrieval of booking and flight data, as well as the two-way interaction for customer responses and PNR updates, such as queue interaction, booking remarks and flight level status updates.

Aegean has since implemented further projects with 15below

Flight Status notifications

15below’s Flight Status solution allows airlines to keep their passengers up to date with reliable, relevant information about any changes to a flight. Following the successful implementation of the Disruption and Queue Manager products, Aegean approached 15below to consult with them and their App provider, Sapient Nitro, to implement a solution that would offer further operational efficiencies for the airline as well as a great experience for its customers when any changes were made to their travel plans. 
Based on events triggered from the Amadeus Altéa DCS system – which are passed to 15below by Aegean via a web service – Aegean now automatically triggers updates to passengers for the following events:

  • Departure delay
  • Gate change
  • Gate information 
  • Gate open

Flight Status events are processed within the 15below rules engine to determine when a notification should be generated – 15below then re-utilises the contact logic used for other Disruption notifications to extract the relevant contact information from bookings and pass to Aegean’s app provider for delivery.
The airline is now able to reduce the stress involved with changed travel plans, and a reduction in calls to the contact centre and staff interactions at the airport.  The alignment between 15below and Sapient Nitro brings peace of mind for Aegean that a consistent message is being triggered across different disruption scenarios.

Seat changes 

When Aegean performs aircraft equipment swaps and internal aircraft configuration changes in the reservation window, it can result in changes or cancellation of seat assignment in Amadeus Reservation. 

Aegean introduced a chargeable seat policy and as part of this, a new requirement was raised to automatically inform passengers when seat changes occurred either independently, or alongside a schedule change.  Bookings impacted with a seat change are identified as part of 15below’s automated Queue Manager workflow processing - where a schedule and seat change occurred, content is output into the existing Schedule Change Notification, where only a seat change has occurred, a new automated notification is generated.  The usual logic to identify email and SMS contact details is applied, with the notification output like the one shown below. In the case of a changed seat (ie not cancelled) a deep link is generated and included in the notification, navigating the passenger to Aegean’s Change Seat page on their Manage My Booking site. Any complex PNRs, such as groups, or those without contact details available, are added to a separate queue to be handled by Aegean. 

Schedule change and seat change notification from Aegean Airways

Schedule Changes for Travel Agency bookings

Aegean and 15below have recently started to work on the latest enhancement to their Disruption processing, which will bring travel agency reservations impacted by schedule changes into the same process as direct bookings. Travel agency bookings account for a high proportion of Aegean’s overall reservations. However, data in the Amadeus PNR is presented in a different way and requires determination of the PNR history to source the information to be used to categorise the type of change and for presentation of the old/new itinerary in the notification.  Alongside this, changes to source additional contact information to support these notifications will be introduced.

This is a further effort to continue to automate additional scenarios for the Aegean contact centre.

Testimonial

"By relying on the 15below platform, and the expertise offered by the team, we’re now able to communicate with our customers with no restrictions. We can identify bottleneck points in our operations and alleviate the pressure on staff with maximum efficiency – providing a better experience for them and, most importantly, for our disrupted passengers. 
15below has been a dependable and efficient partner, demonstrating an unparalleled depth of knowledge and understanding of Aegean’s business processes. By introducing automation at a controlled rate, they’ve helped build a sense of reassurance and trust across the entire business. 
We are at the start of a journey with automation that will continue to change and improve disruption management for us, and across the whole industry." 
Aris Kamvysis, CIO Aegean Airlines