It’s become a common problem at airports worldwide. Travelers are waiting at the gate, gearing up for takeoff, when the dreaded message comes across the loudspeaker and mobile devices: Flight 123 is canceled due to bad weather…or staffing issues…or traffic on the tarmac.
As reported by Newsweek, there have been more canceled flights within, into, or out of the US in the first half of 2022 than in all of 2021, making it one of the worst years for cancellations. Newsweek states that delays are up too, with more than 20% of flights in the US not taking off on time compared to 13% in 2021.
This isn’t an issue isolated to the US. China, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Brazil are just a few other countries experiencing major disruption mayhem.
The cause of this mess
A confluence of factors is creating the chaos. For starters, airlines are suffering from severe staffing shortages. Early in the pandemic, pilots, flight attendants, and other airline employees were encouraged to take buyouts or early retirement packages. Training programs also were put on pause, further shrinking the number of people joining the industry. With travel rebounding faster than most had predicted, carriers are struggling to rehire and retrain crews – particularly pilots, who were already in short supply before COVID-19.
Airports also are experiencing a labor crunch, leading to a sharp decrease in employees on the ground. The ensuing long lines at check-in points, delays with baggage handling, and air traffic control holdups are compounding the disruption issues.
Complications like that are why London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol, two of the busiest airports in Europe, made the controversial decision to cap the number of daily passenger departures. Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye, who anticipates this level of flight disruptions to continue for 18 months, recently told Bloomberg that the cap could last until next summer.
The swell in demand due to so-called “revenge travel” by the vacation-starved also is contributing to the problem. After analyzing more than 40,000 travel itineraries, Allianz Partners estimates that, because of easing restrictions, the number of Americans traveling to Europe this summer has soared 600% compared to trips taken during the same time in 2021.
Despite the high demand, airlines have had to cut the number of flights and routes they operate, making it much harder for passengers to rebook when flight schedules skid off course. It can be especially challenging when bad weather is the cause for domestic and international cancellations and passengers seeking alternative options are flooding the customer service lines all at once.
The impact on business travelers and companies
Delays and cancellations can negatively affect the bottom line of a company sending employees out on the road. On top of the additional expenditures for extra hotel nights, meals, taxis, and entertainment, there are intangible costs the company is paying for too – like lost productivity and traveler frustration.
When business travelers are tied up getting flights rebooked, meeting plans changed, and people home updated, they are robbed of time that could have been spent working on a presentation, catching up on emails, and making calls. Even if they have plenty of time waiting at the airport, they lack the privacy, comfort, and optimal working conditions needed for productivity.
Disruptions can also eat away at travelers’ personal time. Delayed flights often lead to late nights, less sleep, and fewer moments with loved ones. Especially with the pandemic causing many to prioritize their well-being, anything impacting their personal life can motivate workers to seek new jobs. When you tally up the costs of replacing an employee – from recruitment efforts, interviews, and training – things can get expensive.
Employing a disruption management tool
While there’s nothing you can do to minimize disruptions, you can minimize the pain of them by equipping travelers with a disruption management solution that helps get travelers rebooked in a flash. Such tools can reduce friction, boost productivity, and ease headaches, but they are not all created equally, so look out for these key features when selecting one:
- Immediate, proactive service.
When there’s a disruption, there’s no moment to spare – everyone will be trying to reach the airline’s customer service line simultaneously. So you need a service that automatically contacts travelers and offers rebooking assistance the second a flight’s been canceled or delayed. Better yet, what if travelers were notified of a disruption before it’s even been announced at the airport? That sometimes happens when you have an automated tool monitoring itineraries in real time.
- Super-fast rebooking options with multiple airlines.
When a mass of passengers is fighting to get on the next flight to the same destination, your travelers need to be one step ahead of the game and know all their options. Look for a tool that immediately provides recommendations right to their phone for alternative flights from a full range of suppliers. Therefore, if the carrier can’t reroute your travelers right away – a growing problem today with fewer flights and routes available – your people can pivot quickly with another airline.
- Agents who are instantly connected to travelers’ profiles.
It makes a difference when travelers can speak or chat to a travel counselor who has access to their profile and already knows the status of their trip. This way, they won’t have to hang on the line while information is looked up, apprise the agent of the situation, spell their name in a noisy setting, and miss out on a seat that went to a passenger who didn’t have to jump through all those hoops.
- Ability to share real-time flight status.
After their new itinerary has been sorted out, the next thing most impacted passengers do is update people back home and at the destination about the change of plans. A disruption management tool that allows travelers to share their real-time flight status with any contact in their preferred channel can make the task of informing loved ones and colleagues super easy. Keeping them abreast of the latest developments can be as simple as sending a link to a webpage with constantly updated flight information.
- Insights on the impact.
To better support travelers with future disruptions, it’s helpful for travel managers to know how previous delays and cancellations have affected employees. A tool that includes data on the number of flights impacted, the percentage of travelers engaging with the disruption management tool, and the airlines most affected can help travel managers improve their duty of care.
American Express Global Business Travel is hosting a “How to Manage Today’s Complex Travel Disruptions” webinar to help business travelers navigate this delays and cancellations.
Click on the links below to register:
- APAC: October 6, 2022 at 4:00 pm AEDT/1:00 pm SGT/10:30 am IST
- EMEA: October 20, 2022 at 2:00 pm BST
- US and Canada: October 20, 2022 at 2:00 pm EDT
And to learn more about a solution that can help you manage disruptions, click the image below.