Scoping a Passenger-centric solution to Airline disruption management (IROPS)

If there’s one thing a passenger hates hearing more than “Your flight has been cancelled”, its “We apologize for the inconvenience, but as soon as we have more information, we’ll let you know.” Most irregular operations quickly turn into communication disasters. And lack of information or incomplete information leaves passengers more frustrated with the airlines. A few months past, an American LCC mismanaged their crew rostering, leading to 2000+ cancelled flights, 400,000 irate passengers and a host of negative social sentiment. One passenger summed up the key issue with IROPS with this tweet -“2% of your customers’ travel plans are in ruins. Due to lack of info, the other 98% are terrified!”

Whether manual, mechanical or natural, irregular operations affect approx.140 million passengers annually, costing USD60 billion to Airlines. Airlines dread irregular operations for its direct impact on airline costs, image and reputation, negative sentiment in social media, and potential revenue loss that is often not measured. Some of the cost and impact of irregular operations account for include:

  • 8% of the worldwide airline revenue
  • USD 3.9 Billion loss in demand
  • USD 16.7 Billion cost of passengers’ time lost
  • USD 4,000 for rebooking per crew (US)

Scoping a Passenger-Centric Approach to IROPS: While operational and crew expenses are easily calculated and managed, the cost borne due to passenger experience can be heavy and long-lasting. Today’s connected passengers, armed with mobile devices and at least 4 social profiles can influence hundreds – including potential customers – at the touch of a finger.

Consider this – 54% of passengers with a bad IROPS experience shares it with 5+ people. Or 39% of the passengers who have a bad experience avoid the airline for 2 years. For mainline airlines this amounts to 24 million profit loss and for a LCC airline, this amount to 6 million in loss. So by controlling the communications touchpoints, airlines have an opportunity – create brand loyalty and word-of-mouth leading to an increased market share. Other pain-points outlined by passengers want addressed:

  • 53% flight rebooking support
  • 51% most frustrated by a lack of communication
  • 63% want real-time information during disruption
    (SMS-42%, Apps-28%, email -26%)
  • Social media response increases customer advocacy by 20%

Whether it’s one passenger or a thousand, airlines lean to develop more passenger-centric, omni-channel customer service across communications, passenger re-accomodation/rebookings, operations and crew.

1) Communication Touch-points: The key to an effective communications response during IROPS involves timely-shared information among all crew, ground staff and passengers. On average 39% passengers expect social media complains/queries to be handled in 1-hour. Quick updates can increase advocacy by 20% and lack of it can decrease advocacy by 45%. To handle social communications, one needs a multi-lingual airline disruption management services team in place. Digital contact center services, on-demand ramp-ups can help settle passengers, keep the crew empowered to address the most pressing issues at hand, instead of running pillar to post trying to manage the situation.

a) Digital Contact center: By casting a wider net of communication opportunities for airline customers, airlines can to improve experience. IGT digital contact center can become a strategic solution for lowered costs, omni-channel and seamless communication. It provides 24X7 support in voice and non-voice channels such as web, mobile and social to specifically target omni-channel requirements of the connected customer via
• Social (chatbot, communications, updates),
• Mobile (apps, messaging platforms, SMS)
• Voice (On-demand ramp up, speech analytics, email, rebookings and customer service)

2) Airline Operations: Letting Technology optimize efficiency: Airlines can use technology to optimize customer experience, implement re-accommodation solutions, develop personalized self-service tools, and analytics to prioritize passengers based on status and value. Particularly, minor and moderate delays provide airlines the chance to influence passenger attitudes about disruptions with re-accomodations, rebookings and social media chat support.

a) Enhancing Passenger Experience with Intelligent Re-accommodation:We see a rise in adoption across all self-service communication channels. And Robotics becomes a key supportive technology here for passenger support. For ex: Automated re-accommodation technology has become part of airline efficiencies to reduce pressure on operational staff, but it lacks in solving the customer experience problem. Chatbots provide a greater degree of personalization to empower passengers to their needs. The IROPs Re-accommodation Chatbot facilitates flight reservation and re-accommodation with multi lingual support on multiple messenger channels. In cases of delays and minor hitches, it works well.

b)Provide Complete Transparency on Misplaced Baggage: During IROPS, baggage is often misplaced. IGT’s Baggage Claim Digitization framework is an end-to-end process automation that streamlines the complete baggage claim filing process. It uses customizable components and a responsive user-friendly web based interface that helps passengers file their lost baggage complaint online. It helps in reducing filing time, but mostly to moderate a bad experience by making the baggage management claims filing transparent.

While technology cannot curtail irregular operations, a passenger-centric approach enables airlines to deliver better experiences to build the kind of loyalty that will impact long-term value and revenue.  By using technology to do the groundwork in empowering passengers with transparency and choice helps towards positive passenger sentiment. The integrated quality of operations – rebooking/ re- accommodation, social media communications, baggage, and contact center in a standardized solution is required. IROPS comes and goes, but good service stays forever.

About the Author:
Renee Kishore is digital marketing specialist, and a published author. A researcher and writer of change tactics and technologies in travel and other verticals, she frequently posts across the digital ecosystem. With 9-yrs of experience in communications and marketing, Renee has a passion for discussions and can be reached at: