Delays and cancellations are becoming the new normal in aviation, causing stress and financial burdens for both airlines and passengers. In an industry where customer satisfaction is paramount, how an airline handles disruptions can significantly impact its reputation.

Research conducted by CMAC Group evaluated 1,100 passengers who had taken a return flight for business or leisure in the past 12 months. The findings reflected a staggering 46% of UK travellers who claimed their experience with flight delays or cancellations, along with the airline’s service, would prevent them from travelling with the same airline again in the future.

When flights are cancelled or delayed – there’s a way to respond that meets expectations and retains loyalty. In this blog, we’ll explore strategies for managing disruptions and how to mitigate reputational risks effectively.

Proactive communication

One of the most critical aspects of managing disruptions is communication. Keeping passengers informed in real-time about delays, cancellations, and alternative arrangements can go a long way in minimising frustration and building trust.

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While airlines can utilise multiple channels such as email, apps and SMS to ensure timely updates reach affected passengers, 82% of travellers that were surveyed said that they want real people helping them during times of disruption. 77% of passengers agreed that in times of crisis, human contact and support will always remain invaluable above technology. Therefore, it’s important for airlines to cover all bases when it comes to communicating with those affected by disruption.

While technology can be used as an enabler, it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for airline staff to provide face-to-face informative communication to affected passengers.

Flexible rebooking options

When unforeseen circumstances such as weather disturbances or technical issues disrupt flight schedules, airlines must swiftly pivot to provide alternative arrangements and re-accommodate passengers. Whether it’s arranging alternative flights, offering vouchers for future travel, or providing accommodation and meal vouchers for extended delays, proactive communication and efficient problem-solving are key.

Out of the surveyed passengers who needed to arrange alternative transportation due to disruptions, only 47% claimed to have received assistance from the airline. By prioritising passenger needs and demonstrating flexibility in the face of disruptions, airlines can mitigate reputational risks and foster trust among clientele, ultimately ensuring smoother journeys, more satisfied customers and a competitive edge within the aviation industry.

Addressing resolvable issues

While some causes of aviation disruption cannot be avoided, data also suggests that staff shortages, cost-savings by airlines and flights being over-booked were also viewed as major factors. These are areas that could be addressed, with necessary changes made to enhance the service provided to customers. Dismissing accountability for these aspects could amplify passengers’ negative brand perception when evaluating the overall experience with airlines.

Transparency and honesty

Transparency is key when addressing disruptions. 38% of travellers rated airline communication as ‘Poor’ or ‘Very poor’, which highlights their need for clear, transparent information. Without this, confusion and frustration are caused for passengers, and this can have a lasting effect on the reputation of the airline.

A transparent dialogue, where airlines are honest with passengers about the reasons behind disruption and the steps being taken to resolve issues, is pivotal in upholding the brand’s reputation.

Priority assistance for vulnerable passengers

During disruptions, prioritising assistance for vulnerable passengers such as unaccompanied minors, elderly individuals, and passengers with disabilities should always be facilitated. Airlines must ensure they receive support, whether it’s assistance with rebooking, accommodation, or accessing necessary services at the airport.

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Many airlines do provide an inclusive approach to accommodating vulnerable travellers. Failing to do so constitutes negligence, casting a stark contrast between those who adhere to these standards and those who do not, significantly tarnishing the reputation of the latter.

Empowerment of ground staff

Ground staff play a crucial role in managing disruptions and mitigating reputational risks. Empower them with the authority and resources to resolve passenger issues promptly and effectively. As the face of the brand, providing comprehensive training to ensure they are equipped to handle various scenarios with professionalism and empathy can significantly help to diminish the anxieties of travellers affected by disruption and improve their overall experience with the airline.

Post-disruption follow-up

Once the disruption has been resolved, airlines should conduct a thorough review of the incident to identify areas for improvement. Reach out to affected passengers to gather feedback on their experience and address any outstanding concerns. Demonstrating a commitment to learning from disruptions and implementing necessary changes can help rebuild trust and enhance the airline’s reputation in the long run.

In conclusion, effective management of airline disruptions is essential for safeguarding reputation and maintaining customer loyalty. By prioritising proactive communication, transparency, flexible rebooking options, assistance for vulnerable passengers, empowerment of frontline staff, and post-disruption follow-up, airlines can navigate disruptions with resilience and minimise reputational risks.

In an industry where trust is paramount, investing in robust disruption management strategies is not just a necessity but a competitive advantage.

Seamlessly handle aviation disruptions with ground transport excellence

CMAC excels in promptly providing alternative passenger transport and accommodation solutions with unparalleled responsiveness, providing airlines with a valuable contingency plan for travellers facing disruption.

Our dedicated team of experts is available round the clock, 365 days a year, operating internationally to offer seamless support whenever and wherever you require it. Employing cutting-edge technology, we ensure a stress-free booking process, complete with GPS tracking on all vehicles, stringent driver vetting, and collaboration with a compliant supply team to prioritise passenger safety.

This service holds immense value for our airline clients amidst disruptions, with the capability of transforming adverse situations for customers and showcasing an agile and adaptable approach to tackling aviation challenges.

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Explore the potential of CMAC’s ground transport solutions and how they mitigate reputational damage by driving operational efficiency. Reach out to our committed transport specialists today at: [email protected].