The summer of 2015 broke a lot of records for UK airports.
According to recent data from OAG, Heathrow handled almost four million passengers in July alone - a staggering increase of more than 200,000 from the year before. Naturally, this continued increase in passengers is placing a lot of pressure on UK airports and it has never been more difficult for airlines to ensure they are still providing high levels of customer service while handling increasing demand levels.
With Heathrow operating at capacity, the increased volumes are generated for the most part due to optimized schedules that drive more local and transfer traffic. While this is clearly revenue-optimal, it puts enormous stress on the ecosystem during disruptions.
The sheer strain that airlines are under can be seen when looking at the number of flight cancellations that are incurred during peak times. This summer for example, Heathrow suffered a 19% increase in flight cancellations and a 15% increase in delays, when compared to the same period in 2014 (according to OAG).
High load factors, schedules with very little slack built into them, and schedule disruptions caused because of weather or other events act as a perfect storm, inconveniencing thousands of passengers and having a long-standing effect on picking the airline (or hub) for their next travel. As you might expect, during peak periods of demand, cracks like this can start to appear at major airports, something that only serves to highlight the strain that airlines themselves are under.
High load factors have become a year-round phenomena, thanks to increasing global traffic, increased ability of airlines to leverage their alliances and partnerships, and increased sophistication of Network Planning and Revenue Management systems that drive additional traffic.
Even though the busy summer period has now passed, airlines still face the challenge of ensuring they are able to cope with the huge volume of passengers in their various guises. The busy summer months may translate into increased pressure throughout the value chain, but there is still much to be done to prepare for the coming months, after all, succeeding in such a fast-paced and competitive environment poses a number of challenges.
The travel industry is in need of bold new ways to address operational pain points and stay ahead of the curve. That is precisely why WNS recently unveiled its latest technology suite for the industry, something that has been specifically designed to help travel companies do everything from better handling disruption (re-booking passengers on delayed flights), more efficiently managing queues and even plugging revenue leakage.
As an example, the just-launched Disruption Management tool does an end-to-end re-protection of affected passengers, completes their rebooking and re-issue of tickets seamlessly, notifies them, keeps the airline informed of the changes, all in a matter of minutes.
The benefits of this suite are vast and can go far beyond streamlined processes or cost savings. They show that, when working with the correct partner, an airline can experience a host of other rewards as well, including enhanced efficiency, better management decisions, improved customer satisfaction and, ultimately, revenue growth. These are all imperative at a time when airlines are being pulled from both a cost and customer service perspective.
With the busy summer period having been and gone, it is now time for the travel sector to stop, think and take check of what could be done to better streamline and improve operations.
Taking initial steps to streamline processes now may achieve time and financial savings tomorrow.