Skip to main content


Popular terms:

02 November 2018 | Blog

How to maximise the opportunities created by travel disruption

Travel disruption – such as delays, diversions and cancellations – costs the industry an estimated $35 billion* every year. With bad weather, strikes and security issues only just around the corner for thousands of travel providers, dealing with disruption effectively is essential to remaining profitable.

What’s more, in the age of customer experience, seizing the opportunities presented by disruption is rapidly becoming the key differentiator between brands and the most effective way to build customer loyalty.

What do passengers say would improve their experience during disruption?

Disruption isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so all your business can control is how you respond to it. IATA’s 2018 Global Passenger Survey identified some of the services passengers believe would make the greatest positive impact on their experience when their travel is disrupted.

  • 54% said they want real-time, accurate travel notifications.
  • 46% would like automatic re-booking of their flights and new boarding passes sent.
  • 38% want hotel accommodation and 26% would benefit from meal vouchers.
  • 22% said they would appreciate concessions on airport retail and restaurant options.
  • 17% would like baggage tracking information.

Statistics show passengers are most satisfied at stages of their journey when they feel they are in control – such as during booking and check-in. Unsurprisingly, dissatisfaction levels peak when the opposite is true.

Travel providers committed to delivering an unforgettable experience should, therefore, prioritise giving passengers the information they need and want – and at no time is this more important than during disruption.

Keeping passengers informed of the factors behind an act of disruption, how it will be resolved and what you can do to help in the meantime will lead to higher satisfaction levels, reduce complaints (including the sharing of grievances on social media) and drive customer loyalty that leads to repeat business.

When considering the sheer number of passengers that are typically affected by disruption, delivering timely information in a purely manual way will only lead to call centre overload and a line of agitated customers at the airport. And let’s not forget the staff who have to deal with them. So whether it’s a simple proactive advisory notification or complex re-accommodation instructions you need to send, automation is critical to success.

How do passengers want to receive travel notifications?

With real-time travel notifications the number one priority for passengers when their journey is disrupted, travel firms must consider not only the information, advice and re-accommodation options they provide, but also how they communicate with customers.

  • SMS is still the most popular choice among passengers
  • Smartphone apps are the fastest-growing method and the preferred option for approximately one in three passengers (up from one in five in 2016)
  • Email is the third most popular platform; chosen by just over 20% of passengers

More than 2.8 billion people around the world use the two most popular smartphone messaging apps – WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – every month. Getting the message right is only half the challenge; ensuring it reaches the right people using – you guessed it – the right channel at the right time is the other half.

One leading airline sends itineraries to passengers via their Facebook account so they are able to communicate directly via Facebook Messenger. This has benefits for both airline and customer, with the former successfully steering passengers away from its call centre queues and the latter enjoying a smoother experience as their personal and flight details are present, meaning they do not have to spend time confirming them at the start of each interaction.

This seamless conversation is the result of a successful collaboration between auto-generated messages and a human touch.

Many travel providers benefit from using a solution that gives confirmation that notifications have been read and that changes to an itinerary have been accepted or rejected. This can also prove advantageous to customers, who will typically receive a follow-up confirming their choices, allowing them to feel in greater control of their situation.

It’s crucial that your various communication channels integrate seamlessly. Remember that your customers will typically switch from SMS to email to social media and back again, sometimes numerous times each day. Their preference will often depend on where they are in their journey or what they are doing at the time.

Travel providers need to be in a position to view the entire conversation with passengers across all these touchpoints if they are to get a clear and accurate understanding of what has taken place so they can respond accordingly.

What else can you do to ensure a smooth journey?

Your disruption strategy is an integral part of the service you offer to customers, but some of the features of it can be rolled out to the benefit of passengers whether they are affected by hold-ups or not. Keeping passengers informed every step of the way is no longer a perk, it is a must.

Other factors that are important to passengers include:

  • 82% want to know the status of their flight
  • 49% like updates about their baggage and the current wait time for delivery
  • 46% appreciate information about queues at border control
  • 25% enjoy destination-related information
  • 19% want to know more about their travel provider’s products and services available to purchase

It’s clear there are tremendous rewards available to ambitious, forward-thinking travel companies who take the next step in delivering unforgettable customer experiences through real-time, informative travel notifications across a multitude of platforms. Don’t let your business give up a competitive advantage by failing to act on the demands of the modern traveller.

Passengers now expect travel providers to oversee a smooth and stress-free service from booking to arrival and beyond – and that is particularly important during disruption. Being able to join the dots for your customers through the sharing of real-time, personalised information will greatly enhance their experience and strengthen your brand.

*T2RL 2016 Airline Disruption Management