Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Chaos Theory

P6096193Image by Ingy The Wingy via FlickrThe chaos in Europe's skies is continuing quite nicely, with irate passengers all asking the same question we asked under the ash cloud: why on earth aren't the airlines communicating with us? All we want is information and perhaps even access to rebooking facilities.

Having given up on Virgin Atlantic, whose failure to communicate extended to a Twitter account that tells you it can't do anything and directs you back to the call centre (and a GSA in Dubai that is as much use as a chocolate welding mask), we rebooked the inlaws onto Etihad (at almost twice the price, I have to say. Airlines, slow to help passengers rebook or endorse their tickets to another airline were nevertheless quick enough to ramp up their pre-Chrismas rates). The flight left just in time to be under the snow as it wended its merry way West from shamed Heathrow. They travelled to the airport down motoroways whitened with packed snow, getting to Dublin in perfect time to watch the airport close.

However, Etihad's handling of the situation was entirely a different story. They were met by meal vouches and, shortly after, a no-nonsense staffer who told them precisely what was going to happen. They were bussed to a hotel and put up awaiting the departure of the flight this morning following Dublin re-opening at 8am.

That's all it take, folks. A little respect for the customer and a little sensible decision making and communication. We all understand flights are delayed and cancelled - what's making everyone so riled up is being treated like mushrooms.

It seems to me that airlines can do some very simple things to ameliorate this type of incident:

1) Cut websites over to dedicated informational sites right away.

2) Suspend new ticket sales immediately, at least for the immediate future (say, 5 days).

3) Operate sensible Twitter accounts (Twitter has really come into its own through this whole incident, most major airports have accounts and airlines have started directing customers to Twitter too. As a real-time informational tool, it can hardly be bettered. But it's a TWO way street, people).

4) Open up rebooking facilities online to passengers. Build a rules based system for rebooking and, where necessary, endorsing tickets across to other airlines. This facility could be built on a 'dark site' basis, and brought into play only when there is major disruption. If your call centre people can deal with this screens, I think we can - don't you?

5) Now you've got the majority of people off your call centre's backs, you can dedicate it to handling the exceptional requirements of people in trouble, not just the everyday business of rebooking and finding out what's going on.

It seems so simple to me. Am I missing something? Or are the airlines?

Anyway, with the (fingers crossed) anticipated arrival of our belated guests and a million things to do before Christmas, it might go a little quiet around here so you'll just have to amuse yourselves...
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Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Have a very good Christmas with family, and looking forward to resumed service in 2011.

Thanks for the amusement in 2010.

Mich said...

Well said! Maybe after a few more disruptions, yani inshAllah...

Funny, how there is never responsibility on the airports for efficient clearing of snow. You would think Heathrow and Dublin airports were in the desert.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones and looking forward to a lot more here in 2011 :-)

Seabee said...

Chatting with friends in the UK yesterday they said along their street little old ladies were out with shovels & brooms clearing the snow from around their houses. They wondered why the authorities at Heathrow hadn't come up with technology like that...

The mushroom syndrome is something a lot of us have posted about repeatedly isn't it. It's the standard default position - if there's a problem, run and hide. Leave people stranded at the airport for several days, vainly trying to get information that would help them decide whether they can book a couple of nights in a hotel rather than sleep on the tiled floor of the terminal.

Merry Christmas and a good 2011.

lisa123636 said...

Caravan Parks
Wow soooo you guys really have nothing else better to do than argue with complete strangers

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