The 2017 IATA passenger survey is a must-read for anybody working in the air transport industry. Short and impactful, it reveals passenger satisfaction levels at different points in their journey as well as their service expectations, particularly when it comes to all things digital.

In terms of overall satisfaction, Europe is by no means the worst of the global territories surveyed (Africa scores just 40%), but with only 52% of passengers satisfied with their last travel experience, there is definitely room for improvement. So, what is letting us down? The top three frustrations are not wholly unexpected, focused around the moments when customers typically experience delays and a lack of information: 1) bag collection 2) self-service bag drop and 3) border control and immigration.

In response to these kinds of frustrations, IATA claims the air transport industry “needs to be more agile and be open to re-think the current state”, grouping the key levers for improvement around 4 themes:

  1. Digitalisation
  2. Passenger in control
  3. Value of time
  4. In-flight experience
  5. Well-informed passenger

The last point resonates particularly strongly with our team here at Deolan and the IATA report expands on what this means for passengers:

  • Two thirds of passengers (63%) say real-time information would improve the travel disruption experience, making it by far the top choice
  • Customers now expect flight notifications via a range of channels including SMS (42%), Email (26%) and smartphone apps (28%)

The need for real-time passenger communication may seem obvious and simple but making it a reality isn’t easy, due to information that is fragmented siloed, hidden, duplicated, modified and corrupted across thousands of IT systems in different organisations. In other words, recording, retrieving and distributing information about future flights is a problem - doing it in real-time even more so.

A perfect example of the problems this causes is in the management of flight schedules. As anyone in air transport will know, the flight schedule forms the basis for how ground assistants plan their resources, their equipment and their work. But unfortunately, it’s very volatile information, changing constantly and requiring never-ending updates with regards to following details:

  • Flight number
  • Departure and/or arrival time
  • Type or size of aircraft
  • Routing, i.e. Arrival or departure city
  • Connection city
  • Number of stops
  • Flight cancellation

Aside from a minority of airlines who provide regular updates directly to their ground partners, for the vast majority, the information is delivered sporadically and in an unstructured way, often containing partial information about a specific change. This means that various versions of the flight schedule end up being assembled within the different teams who require it, using a variety of different sources. It is time-consuming, inefficient and greatly increases the chance of human error.

Bridging the gap between operations and the passenger experience, as suggested by IATA, will therefore not happen if there is not a radical change in the way information is recorded, updated and communicated to the right stakeholders. The name of this change is “centralisation”, but not in the way of a large, central database. This centralisation will happen in the form of a smart “collaborative platform”, which has strong capabilities including:

  1. Providing a central location where different stakeholders can record flight information to be accessed and viewed in real-time by their colleagues and partners
  2. A central database of flight information to enable real-time passenger updates and highlight areas for service improvement
  3. A system which is flexible and can be tailored to different use cases and the needs of different teams
  4. Quick and easy to set up, intuitive and enjoyable to use

What do we make of all of this then? Put simply, digitisation in the air transport industry has been an extremely slow and somewhat agonising process due to the prevalence of legacy tools, including Word, Telex and email.

This is exactly why, at Deolan, we are constantly innovating our technology to bring the power of digital collaboration to grounds operations, airports and airlines teams, with a tool that is as easy and intuitive to use as social media platforms. And most importantly, it provides the foundations needed to deliver the kind of travel experience that passengers have long been demanding.

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