Guest Post: Delays, disruption, disappointment - how legacy technology is impacting the passenger experience

Guest Post: Delays, disruption, disappointment - how legacy technology is impacting the passenger experience

Philip Hinton, SVP and head product sales of IBS Software, outlines areas for improvement

Disruption is a daily challenge for airlines, often caused by events beyond their control (such as the weather) and has seen factors like the ongoing labour disputes, strikes and technical outages across UK airports intensifying delays. Travellers have undoubtedly experienced significant travel disruptions in recent times, according to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, more than a third of all UK flights were delayed in 2022. It’s no surprise that for passengers, air travel has become notorious for delays and disruption.

Such delays are understandably fuelling customer frustrations and anticipatory anxiety around travelling. IBS Software’s recent research found that nearly half (45%) of travellers worry about their future travel plans being disrupted. Critically, the research also shows the impact of flight disruption on the air travel industry, as travellers look towards staycations instead (18%), and the consideration of alternative airlines or modes of transport (16%).

For airlines who are aiming to build lasting, loyal customer relationships, flight disruptions can be detrimental. And the legacy technology in place across the industry is often adding to the problem by taking longer to reach resolutions, making it harder for clearer communication, and resulting in poor customer experiences.

Legacy technology continues to crack

Outdated, legacy technology is a massive hindrance to the aviation industry. These systems are often difficult and expensive to maintain, unable to easily integrate with advanced digital solutions, and are fundamentally hindering the growth potential of many businesses. It’s no wonder that airlines are already investing around $37 billion dollars into their digital infrastructure, because without updated technology they are at risk of system failures, cybersecurity threats, and enforcing a negative customer experience.

In the midst of external contributing factors, airlines cannot afford to have poor technology slowing down recovery after disruption. To remain competitive, and gain customer loyalty long term, airlines must adapt to a digital first approach so delays will not exacerbate the operational failures of airline systems.

Rebuilding trust with tech and clearer communication

Currently, it takes only 64 minutes for passengers to see red after a flight delay, but before they reach this point, airlines can work to use technology to maintain trust, and resolve issues as fast as possible.

With digital, airlines can get to the root of the delay faster. Making better decisions in the moment, performing at full operational potential, and assessing how to allocate resources to reduce the impact of the disruption for customers. Technology can even be used to pre-emptively mitigate the risk of delays, by helping to reduce manual errors, combat scheduling issues, and identify security concerns.

Crucially, despite the disappointment travellers inevitably feel towards delays, 84% would be more understanding towards airlines that were transparent about the issues behind disruption. With a digital approach, passengers can access flight information from their mobile phones, receiving updates in real time from airlines on their flight. The opportunity for airlines to build and maintain trust with passengers lies in their ability to communicate during delays.

If airlines continue to rely on legacy technology, they will be limited in their ability to handle disruptions. And it won’t matter how clearly they plan to communicate or how apologetic they are, they will fundamentally be unable to effectively contact all their passengers, or employ personalised offerings, and the customer-airline relationship will drastically suffer.

When airlines can communicate clearly, quickly and act effectively, the impact of delays can be minimised, building a better customer experience. Digital solutions must be used to tackle the impact of disruptions, for both crew and passengers. Though external factors play a role in delays, it is the legacy technology plaguing the airline industry that continues to exacerbate effects of disruption, causing prolonged and unnecessary disappointment for many passengers.