A weather event or dreaded technology blip has delayed or canceled flights in your airport.
Your staff scrambles at the gates, trying to respond to passengers and help them find alternative ways to their destination. Tensions are high, and customers are not happy.
To defray nerves and improve the response, you whip out your airline’s secret weapon: a mobile tablet loaded with an application that provides real-time visibility into customers’ location and travel data.
Knowing exactly where your million-miler is waiting, you walk into the rewards lounge and calmly ask to speak with “Mr. Smith?,” pulling his profile up on your device at the same time.
“I see you were headed to Chicago. As you may be aware, your flight has just been cancelled. We have reserved a seat for you on our next departure, but we would like to suggest a solution for getting you to your destination despite our challenges. I have an open seat on our Midway flight boarding now at Gate A5. Can I make that change for you, and send a map to your phone to help you get to the gate? May we arrange a car to drive you to your original destination O’Hare?”
Before a grateful Mr. Smith can even say “thank you,” you add this: “I also sent a complimentary drink ticket to your app so you can relax with your favorite Chardonnay.”
Sound too good to be true? I bet Mr. Smith thinks so.
This scenario illustrates several ways digital applications can improve airline operations and customer experience.
- They can enable real-time visibility into where passengers are in the transit track. Stuck in security? Going to miss a connecting flight? The visibility helps airlines make better decisions about holding or releasing your seat and about optimal reaccommodations.
- They allow for mobile service during time sensitive or irregular operations. When activity picks up at the gate, customers can get lost in the fray. A mobile digital application lets customer service agents locate and attend to specific customers wherever they may be.
- They create a high-touch, high-value, highly personalized interaction for the airline’s best customers and others who opt in to the app.
- They increase efficiency as airlines gain more insight into customer behavior and preferences in real time.
Most airlines have very little insight into how passengers move through the transit track today. They know when a customer checks in and when he or she boards a plane. What happens in between is anyone’s guess.
Would it be valuable to know the average time to deplane from row 24 of an A-319 with an 85% load factor is 11 minutes? Similarly, could it be useful for an airline to know it will likely take that same passenger 9 minutes to go from arrival to departure gates?
The digital application I’m envisioning here – an ecosystem, really, that pulls data from geolocation, customers, airlines, IoT and other sources – allows airlines to “see,” in real-time, how customers move through security or travel from one gate to a connection point. This can help gate agents make better decisions about how long to hold an aircraft to accommodate late passengers, and let them quickly spot an open seat on another plane that would better serve delayed customers.
My colleague talked in a recent blog post about how customers can benefit from this type of smarter travel. As you can see from the scenario I sketched out here, the benefits to the airline are many as well.
… And you can bet Mr. Smith will be logging miles with your airline for years to come.
Michael Henne is Industry Sales Leaders for Consumer, Retail and Travel and Transportation, CSC Americas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.