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07 October 2020 | Blog

Disruption management: Your opportunity to impress

Hasse Joergensen, Senior Manager Passenger Experience at IATA recently wrote an article on Disruption Management as a new industry area. We thought it was an incredibly relevant piece, and with 20 years of experience in disruption management, we wanted to add some additional insights to highlight how important it is that airlines focus on this area in the current climate.

Loss of customer loyalty and reputation

“In the age of consumer choice and social media, there is a high risk of losing customer loyalty and reputation. Fair or unfair, if a situation is not handled well, the customer may never return. On the other hand, a well-managed response to accommodate the affected passenger could create real customer value and increase loyalty.”

You may have seen the following research that we included in our eGuide – A case for automation your business can’t ignore:

  • 17% of your passengers who have a negative experience with your airline will post their story on Facebook.1
  • The average person has 155 friends on Facebook.2
  • Of those 155 friends, 9% are likely to see your passenger’s post.3
  • 40% of people are put off using a business due to negative reviews.4
  • Based on the average profit per passenger of $6.12, an airline carrying 10 million passengers with a disruption rate of 22% could lose $4 million each year as a result of negative feedback on Facebook alone.5

Bear in mind, this includes Facebook alone. Include a plethora of other social media platforms, review sites, forums, and word of mouth and your losses are set to be significantly higher.

And while you could argue profit per passenger is unlikely to be in the black this year, the volume of people disrupted with constant schedule changes, and their propensity to complain during a year of high-stress is likely to be higher than ever. It’s just not a risk worth taking when airlines need to be doing everything they can to set themselves up for future success.

Making a difference becomes an opportunity to impress

“The cause of the disruption becomes less important – be it a severe weather conditions or a misplaced bag – it really all comes down to how an airline or an airport handles the problem at hand. This is where you can make a difference. It becomes an opportunity.”

We recently wrote a blog called Be the hero: Your passengers need you more than ever because it’s a topic we feel very strongly about. As we say in our post, it is not technically the airline’s responsibility to ensure the passenger is ready to fly. But what happens when they get to the airport and either have to join a long, stress-inducing queue to get things resolved, or are told they are unable to fly because they have the wrong documentation? The airline will be the one that is blamed anyway. You sold them the ticket, you know more than they do, and you had the opportunity to communicate with them, so why shouldn’t they be angry?

But more than that, if our industry’s survival is reliant on people having the confidence to fly again, it’s in everyone’s best interests for someone to take charge. And on the flip-side of the social-media/reputation coin, a positive response when things go wrong is what you want your passengers to shout about. Passengers understand things may not run as smoothly as they did pre-pandemic, but the reward for trying to cover all the bases as early as possible; to preempt and avoid issues is trust in your operations and your brand. And with trust comes return custom and evangelism.

Being able to contact your passengers

“The passenger journey begins at home and…potential time and travel disruptions can happen any time prior to the departure.... It is key that the airlines can get in touch with the passengers within that timeframe and not just upon their arrival to the airport. Preferably, contact information must be captured at the time of booking.”  

Being able to communicate with your passengers before they set off for the airport has always been important, but with the number of changes being made to testing requirements, quarantine rules and health & safety mandates on the ground and on board the aircraft, regular communication is no longer a nice-to-have. 

And this is why airlines need to ensure they have access to contact details from the moment the booking is made. We know that’s easier said than done, and the updates made to IATA’s Resolution 830D in 2019 have improved the situation somewhat, but there are still travel companies that are struggling in this area. 

The airlines in our community are able to go one step further as we automatically search for and correct contact details in the PNR. But we don’t stop there. If these details are missing we look in loyalty and CRM systems to find the details that airlines need to be able to communicate vital information about their booking.

If you are going to give your passengers the best chance of a smooth, stress-free experience, you HAVE to start communicating early and give them everything they need to know before they get to the airport. Take a look at our blog post on preparing your passengers at home for more thoughts on this topic.

You don’t have to do it by yourself

“There is a high expectation of consistency for personalized services throughout the journey without having to manage all segments separately. This implies that solutions in aviation to overcome and manage disruption may involve many other parties than the airline and the airport.”

With the huge variation in mandates and requirements by country, route, airline and airport that seems to change almost daily, you will struggle to personalise your communications without automation. We talked about the power of using dynamic content in a recent blog post on the answer to dropping passenger engagement rates. Effectively, trying to keep up with infinite variations by creating segments, each with a separate notification template, will quickly lead to errors and will not offer the hyper-personalisation that passengers need and expect. 

There are many suppliers out there with a highly personalised offering that we bring together in one place to offer the ultimate personalised experience. Take a look at our best-practice example of what a pre-departure communication template should look like to give you an idea of the level of detail you could offer each of your passengers. From something as simple as the weather at destination to more complex solutions like eVisa applications based on their individual circumstances, from incredible suppliers like Sherpa and TravelDoc

These are the things that, in our experience, make all the difference to your passengers. It keeps them informed and empowered from the moment of booking all the way through to arrival. Automated communication allows you to maintain an open, honest conversation with your passengers, It keeps stress to a minimum for passengers and staff whilst offering a cost-effective solution to cut budgets and teams


Take a look at this case study to see how Swoop used the 15below platform to bring the time it takes to communicate an act of disruption down from four hours to 15 minutes.


1 Experience Matters; 2 Telegraph; 3 Hootsuite; 4 BrightLocal; 5 15below ROI calculator