Effective complaints handling is business critical for airlines. Operating in a highly complex industry, with numerous stakeholders, international operations and a high potential for daily disruption, customer complaints will always be part and parcel of the industry.

But airlines can achieve a huge competitive advantage by anticipating and then dealing with passenger claims quickly and transparently, saving themselves and their customers a lot of time and frustration.

Airlines are also under huge pressure from regulators when it comes to managing flight disruption and complaints. European Passenger Rights Regulations were introduced to protect customers that have faced delayed or cancelled flights, as well as those who have been downgraded or prevented from boarding. As a result, airlines must now hold passenger and flight data for five years, the period during which passengers are able to claim for compensation.

But despite these regulations and the business case for effective complaints handling, many airlines still fall short when it comes to addressing problems raised by customers, with research showing that less than a third (29%) of passengers are satisfied with how airlines responded to their issue. The same research highlighted that one of the biggest claims made by passengers was the lack of information received during travel disruption – something that, if done effectively, could help to nip complaints in the bud before they escalate further.

High profile cases of poor complaints handling also frequently hit the headlines, with airlines often accused of a lack of transparency. One such example involved Ryanair last year, which was accused of failing to make it clear that passengers had a right to claim compensation. Cases like this have a huge impact on customer satisfaction and retention, hitting profits and requiring even greater investment in customer acquisition to recover. The reputation of the entire airline industry takes a hit as a result.

So how can airlines reverse this trend?

While there are a whole variety of factors involved in the managing complaints effectively, in many cases airlines face an uphill struggle due to the complex supply chain and old-fashioned legacy systems that still exist within the sector. Turning around thousands of flights every day, each one involving numerous ground handling partners, makes tracking and recording potential issues fraught with difficulties. This then has a knock-on effect for customer service representatives required to locate details quickly when handling complaints and communicating with passengers, whether over the phone or via digital channels.

These issues might be ingrained, but the solution doesn’t have to be complicated. Deolan’s Logbook gives airlines and their ground partners a plug and play, one-stop-shop to digitisation, and a central location for storing details about every single flight. A social media style tool, it’s intuitive to use and streamlines complaint handling in a number of ways:

  • By giving airlines an integrated view of all their flight operations in one place, saving time trawling through a variety of systems and liaising with numerous different teams to find answers.

  • By providing quick and easy search functionality through intuitive tags, so flight and customer details can be recalled quickly when speaking to customers and handling complaints.

  • By creating a central database of all flight and customer data which can be fed into real-time communications with customers about flight disruption, ensuring they’re kept informed and minimising the chance of more serious complaints and compensation claims

Today’s digitally-savvy customers live in a world of instant answers, where their needs and convenience are placed at the forefront. Yet when they arrive at the airport, these same customers are too often faced with the complete opposite, with a lack of information, poor communication and inefficient complaints procedures if something does go wrong.

Managing disruption and handling complaints are inescapable parts of the passenger journey; they’re not going to go away anytime soon. But with the right data and collaboration facilitated by specialist technology, these processes can be used to enhance the customer experience, rather than making it worse.