“Disruption sucks,” says Robert Booth, product marketing manager at travel industry tech provider Amadeus. The company provides software, websites and mobile apps to airlines, travel agents, cruise companies and others, and is working with more than 100 of the world’s airlines.
In the US alone, more than 150 million passengers had their travel plans disrupted through cancelled and delayed flights in 2012. The fallout from this cost airlines more than USD 7.2 billion.
Airlines aren’t just worried about the immediate cost, though. Travel disruption makes people angry and worried – and nowadays, that anger and anxiety is immediately broadcast to thousands of others from their mobile phones. Barely a week goes by without a social media storm around the failings of some airline, whether it’s their fault or not. “The reputational cost to airlines of cancelled flights might be even higher than the direct costs,” says Robert.
Robert explains that Amadeus aims to do something about this with its new ‘Personal Disruption Companion’ smartphone app that it will launch this spring, initially with the Brazilian national airline TAM.
“Right now, if your flight is disrupted for some reason, then you’re most likely going to end up in a huge line at the airline’s desk in the airport. They aren’t set up to deal with 200 angry people arriving at once, and the problem just gets worse.”
But this is where Amadeus can effectively act to make everything better.
“The Personal Disruption Companion app is like having your own concierge that will solve all your problems when a flight is cancelled.”
Let’s say your flight is cancelled for some reason. The app notifies you what’s happened – clear communication is half the battle here – and shows you alternatives, which you can pick from right inside the app. While there’s a lot of complexity going on behind the scenes, the interface is simple, clear and calming.
“So it will show you the next available flight and maybe offers you some compensation, like a restaurant meal and/or an upgrade to first-class. For most travellers, these kinds of ‘soft compensation’ are very acceptable.”
“But then it also offers alternatives, which can be wholly adapted to each individual traveller, and can learn from previous choices you’ve made.
“So if you’re travelling with children, then it might offer a trip to the zoo this afternoon, with a flight in the evening. A solo business traveller would receive an entirely different set of options.”
Taking the stress out of the situation, offering clear alternatives that have been tailored to your needs and putting the power back into the hands of the traveller can do a lot to make her feel that, though the cancelled flight is inconvenient, she’s being looked after properly and the airline is doing all it can. Social media rage incident averted.
When you make your choice – which involves a single tap – the app works behind the scenes to send and receive dozens of messages: retrieving your new boarding pass, making sure your luggage goes onto the new flight, getting you any coupons you might need, and so forth.
This is also where HERE maps come in. “If you’re being sent to a new gate, the app will bring up the venue map for the airport and guide you to it. Similarly, it will guide you to your hotel if you’ve opted to wait till the next morning, or the zoo, if that was your choice.”
“HERE was the best choice for indoor positioning because it can operate using inexpensive WiFi, which most airports have already got.”
It’s never good to have your travel plans disrupted, but perhaps, if people are given control over the outcome and airlines invest in the technology to help them, then it doesn’t have to be a terrible experience either.
image credit: streamishmc