A British tech company has developed a smartphone solution for the long queues that are traditionally triggered by an abruptly cancelled flight.
Travelport, based near Heathrow, has come up with Resolve — a technology aimed at “automating the sourcing and distribution of hotel rooms, air rebooking and meal and transport needs into a single, seamless and paperless experience”.
The concept aims to do away with waiting in line for rebooking, accommodation and meal vouchers. Instead, the airline will invite disrupted passengers to choose from a menu of alternative flights, hotel options and meal allowances.
The firm say that around 10,000 flights a week are cancelled globally each week, with around 1,250 of them in Europe — which works out at one European cancelation every eight minutes.
When a flight is abruptly cancelled, Travelport says passengers end up “standing in long lines, with a lack of real-time communication, to wait for besieged airline employees to hand out paper vouchers that are required be presented at a hotel to obtain a room”.
Beverly Ashmore was one of around 180 passengers whose Luton-Geneva easyJet flight was suddenly grounded last month; their plane was used for a flight to Inverness and back instead.
She told The Independent: “The cancellation provoked a lot of stress and I was totally exhausted from all the standing whilst waiting for the flight in a cramped room, then queuing for ages. I’m not that young and have back problems. There was no seating, no refreshments. It was just awful.”
The airline said the crew would have exceeded their flight time limitations, following a weather-related delay of nearly an hour.
The new system is designed to remove the labour-intensive manual systems traditionally used to deal with what airlines call “IROPS” — irregular operations.
Derek Sharp, Travelport’s managing director for air commerce, said: “With a few simple touches on their mobile device, Travelport helps disrupted passengers to bypass the frustration of hotel and meal voucher lines and quickly be on their way to a comfortable hotel room.
“For airlines, Travelport Resolve helps carriers improve customer service performance during disruptions, avoiding serious damage to their brand and opportunities to build their relationships with affected customers.”
Tim Jeans, former managing director of Monarch Airlines, said: “Any technology solution which avoids having to stand in line at the ticket counter must be an improvement on the situation passengers face now.
“The biggest frustration for passengers when flights are cancelled at short notice is the lack of real-time information on which they can base their plans. It might even be cheaper for airlines as it might allow passengers travelling from home to simply return there and come back to the airport when their new flight is scheduled, rather than remaining there at the airlines expense, and the inevitable loss of goodwill that results.
“Provided cancellation protocols are clear and passengers can rely on the information the app gives them, then it’s a win-win for all parties.”