Bloomberg News reports that airlines are working to notify passengers sooner of potential weather-related airline delays and cancellations. As a result of previous delays this year, especially in the Northeast, airlines are expediting their cancellation of flights. Six major storms have hit the region this winter.
The news comes as thousands of flights nationwide are again being canceled in the midst of another major snowstorm which is expected to strand travelers around the country over the next couple of days.
The Bloomberg article notes that by allowing earlier cancelation of flights, customers are being given the option to either try to fly before the weather hits or to wait at home, or at a hotel, for the weather to pass. The move is intended for airlines to avoid the logistical headaches and bad PR that comes as a result of passengers getting stranded at airports overnight and sleeping on chairs and floors according to Jay Sorensen, a former marketing director at Midwest Airlines.
“If you’re handling the situation at the airport, you’ve lost. It’s too late” Sorensen told Bloomberg.
Airlines such as Delta are now giving customers up to 72 hours notice of a flight cancellation and United will cancel flights up to two days in advance of a large storm.
Social media is driving this change and is also allowing airlines to better understand their customers and respond to their needs via social networks. When people are stranded at an airport due to flight cancellations, they are telling their social network via Twitter and Facebook. What was once an isolated unhappy customer, is now able to communicate to hundreds of people their displeasure with the airline. In response, airlines are leveraging the power of social media to better communicate back to customers. Delta Airlines recently notified passengers of an Atlanta ice storm in January via Twitter and used the social medium to communicate that is was suspending flights to Cairo until the political situation in Egypt settles down.
These new practices will be tested today as a new storm is expected to wallop a large chunk of the country from Dallas to Boston, with St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Boston expected to experience major delays and cancellations.
While airlines can’t prevent the weather, they can, and are, getting a lot better at communicating their plans further in advance of upcoming storms which is hopefully making travel rearrangements a little bit easier for passengers facing delays and cancellations this week.