Managing Travel Disruption: Don’t Let Chaos Take Control

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Managing Travel Disruption: Don’t Let Chaos Take Control

When unexpected disruption affects airlines there is much they can do to keep their passengers calm and collected writes Neil Chalk.

  • The French ATC strike led to over 5,000 cancellations and 500,000 delay minutes (Eurocontrol)
  • Targeted notifications via a range of send channels can reduce passenger worry and stress
  • Proactive communications to passengers can reduce the impact on an airline’s call centres

As the disruption event unfolds, such as the recent air traffic controllers’ strike in France, keep your customers updated with a simple, single landing page. Keep the page short and as jargon-free a possible and then link to more detailed information held elsewhere. Publicise the link to the landing page across social media platforms where the passengers are most likely to see it, for example, your Facebook page or Twitter feed. This also allows passengers to access the information, where you haven’t collected contact details for them.

About the strike 

The ATC strike led to over 5,000 cancellations and an unprecedented level of delays. Over the two days more than 500,000 minutes of flight delays were recorded. To put this into perspective, since the beginning of 2013, only 18,434 minutes of delay average per day were recorded (Source: Eurocontrol). That’s a lot of people impacted and journeys disrupted, leading to a lot of confusion, worry and stress. It’s critical in this time to be proactive in communicating to your passengers, letting them know about changes to their flights as soon as possible. Offer them the possibility of a refund and for flights that are cancelled or delayed for more than 2 hours automate the collection of an EC Regulation 261/2004 claim.

What to do 

  • Use a multi-channel approach 

While passengers from the affected flights are being re-accommodated send out targeted notifications using a range of send channels to provide timely updates. Email is a quick and easy way to disseminate information but also consider text messages and automated voice calls for short notice delays. Make sure that your communication platform can target the correct message in the most appropriate way with the minimum of fuss.

  • Transparency and coordination rule

As your reservations staff are dealing with the bookings it is vital to keep the call centre staff up to date. After all, it’s not just the passengers who need to be calm and collected. Make sure that your frontline agents can see in the booking remarks when you tried to contact, did they accept a change? Has it since been subject to a further change? Integration of what is being communicated, and to who, into the systems used by front line staff is vital with a rapidly changing operational environment.

  • Smooth the refund process

Once the disruption is over the work isn’t finished, now is the time to offer statutory refunds and vouchers. With any large-scale disruption your call centre will probably be overwhelmed, so make sure you have an automated system to manage the notification of eligibility to your passengers and the collection of data back to the agents who can then concentrate on processing the refund.

Neil Chalk has been advising 15below customers best practices in communicating with passengers in his role as Configuration Consultant for the past 8 years. Photography: Anthony Hunt

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