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13 May 2024 | Blog

Navigating customer journeys during airport gate disruptions: An opportunity to build loyalty

With expectations around customer service increasing at an exceptional rate, the need for travel brands to deliver seamless passenger experiences is greater than ever. From booking to boarding, every touchpoint matters. However, sometimes unforeseen challenges arise that are completely out of your control. 

Recently, incidents at two major airports left passengers stranded in long queues due to malfunctioning border gates. While these issues were beyond the control of the impacted carriers, they highlight the critical role of proactive, timely communication. We recommend that our customers carry out regular Customer Journey Mapping to help empathise with their guests and minimise the impact of such disruptions.



What can airlines do when disruption hits? 

Picture yourself as one of those passengers. You've landed, hoping for a quick exit from the aircraft and a smooth journey ahead. But instead, you're met with long lines at border control because the e-gates aren't working. Time ticks by as you wait, feeling frustrated and powerless by the unexpected delay. Perhaps your family is eagerly waiting for you on the other side, or you are being held back from starting your holiday. Regardless, you have no control over the situation and that’s a horrible position to be in.  

In moments like these, airlines can't fix the technical problems themselves, but they can ease some of the strain these problems put on passengers and the airport staff who are the first touchpoint for travellers looking for help. 

Here's some examples of what airlines can do to support passengers during unforeseen acts of disruption: 

  • Pre-landing communication: A prompt announcement before touchdown informing passengers about potential delays and wait times allows them to adjust their expectations and plan accordingly. Clear communication builds trust and reduces uncertainty, enhancing the overall passenger experience. 
  • Hydration on arrival: Offering complimentary bottled water as they depart can be a welcome gesture for passengers as they join the queues. Providing refreshments like this demonstrates genuine care for passengers' well-being and will help reduce some of their discomfort during extended wait times. 
  • Accessibility considerations: Announcing the location of essential facilities, such as toilets and baby changing rooms during pre-landing announcements can provide some much-needed reassurance to passengers, particularly those that have disabilities, are elderly, or travelling with young children. These notifications can be dynamically personalised and sent only to those with SSRs or other data in the PNR. 
  • Informed staff: To ensure effective support for passengers, it's crucial to notify staff first so they can help where needed. Delaying passenger communications can provide an opportunity for staff to "catch up" and be fully informed about the situation. Empowering staff in this way enables them to provide reassurance, guidance, and assistance, ensuring that passengers feel supported throughout their entire journey, not just while they’re onboard. 

While these measures will not fix the technical issues, or eliminate the delay, they demonstrate a commitment to passenger well-being. By prioritising passengers’ experience on arrival, despite the uncontrollable situation, you will build customer trust and loyalty by establishing yourself as a brand that genuinely cares. Even with unforeseen challenges, such as gate malfunctions, proactive gestures like these can leave a lasting positive impression on passengers. Ultimately, it's these moments of care and consideration that define the customer experience and set travel brands apart in a competitive industry. 

 Source: Qualtrics

Improving passenger experience with journey mapping 

At 15below, we believe that customer journey mapping is not just a nice to have, but an essential process to understand and enhance every step of your passenger’s journey. Our comprehensive guide on Customer Journey Mapping offers valuable insights and practical tips for travel brands looking to elevate their customer experience strategies. This guide was co-created with Jerry Angrave, the founder of Customer Experience consultancy Empathyce and a member of the Heathrow Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Despite external challenges, all brands have the power to make a positive impact on the customer experience, one thoughtful gesture at a time and by investing in Customer Journey Mapping, you can proactively anticipate and address potential passenger needs, ensuring smoother journeys and build lasting loyalty.  

To learn more about the importance of customer journey mapping and how it can transform experiences for your passengers, you can read our blog post; "5 Reasons Why Your Travel Brand Should Invest in Customer Journey Mapping".