Blog KnowledgeisPower2

Knowledge is Power: Why Context Matters to the Travel Industry

Anyone who works in the travel industry knows disruption is unavoidable. In fact, 18% of all flights worldwide were delayed by more than 30 minutes in 2015.

There are certain events that are beyond our control. We can’t force security lines to move any faster, we can’t prevent bad weather and we can’t immediately fix every mechanical problem.

Yes, it is certainly true that change and disruption are inevitable in travel; however, it is also true that the effects can be minimized. How we manage disruption is what really counts, and alleviating the impact of disruption is a matter of staying informed. The more you know about something, and the earlier you know it, the more equipped you are to take action.

Expanding the Meaning of Individual Facts Through Context

A flight is delayed. That is a fact, but without context, what does it mean? It’s important to recognize that the same delay may impact different travelers in very different ways, depending on the overall context of their trip.

You must be able to answer more complex questions:

  • How that delay influences your travelers
  • Who was merely inconvenienced
  • Which trips were completely compromised

By answering those questions, we can start to learn the context of disruption and from that context we can learn how to best help our travelers, create efficiencies and start measuring performance in a meaningful way. With the limited view that agencies, airlines and airports have into all sides of a traveler’s trip, how can they access this context? It begins with looking at the right data.

The Power of Flight Data and Trip Data

Our flight data comes from hundreds of sources, which gives us the most comprehensive and accurate view of the flight ecosystem and the disruption that happens within it. But we work with much more than just flight data. We ingest data sets across a broad spectrum, including flight information, itinerary information, weather data and much more. It’s in the combination of all of these data sets where the most value can often be found. By integrating flight data with trip data, we’re able to provide you with more complete information about flights right down to the passenger level. We’re able to provide you with context.

From airlines to agencies, any segment of the travel industry can benefit from having a true understanding of how disruption impacts their travelers. Having that context is invaluable because it empowers organizations across the industry to provide better support, improve communication, increase cost savings and achieve differentiation.

The integration of flight data with trip data opens the door to the full picture of travel, from what’s expected to what’s happening to what actually happened.

What’s expected

Traveler A is a business traveler who needs to get to a very important meeting. They book a flight through their Travel Management Company (TMC) and have a complete plan in place for how they will get to their meeting. They will start in Orlando and have a connecting flight in Atlanta before they reach their final destination in San Francisco with a towncar picking them up and driving them to their meeting.

Traveler B is a leisure traveler who is using a few vacation days to visit a friend in San Francisco. They book a flight through an Online Travel Agent (OTA). They will start in Boston and connect in Atlanta before they reach their final destination.

Traveler C is another business traveler who is already on a business trip in Atlanta and needs to get back home to Los Angeles. They booked a flight directly through the airline without a TMC. They’re going to fly out of Atlanta, connect in San Francisco with a 45-minute layover and then travel to Los Angeles.

All of these travelers now have a trip planned–it represents what they expect to happen. As their trip gets closer, they’ll be receiving notifications from apps, airlines, OTAs or TMCs to alert them of changes in their itinerary and the status of their upcoming flights.

What is happening now

After a traveler books a trip, it remains in a state of flux until that traveler has arrived at their final destination. Whether the traveler changes a flight on their own, changes are forced upon them because of operational delays or their TMC makes a change in their best interest, that trip will go back and forth between “what is expected” and “what is actually happening.”

Fact: The flight from Atlanta to San Francisco has been delayed by one hour.

What it means: Traveler A is at risk of arriving late and missing their meeting in San Francisco. Traveler B has extra time to grab a coffee at the airport, but is getting frustrated that they’re wasting their vacation time. Traveler C is at risk of missing their connection to Los Angeles, which means they may need to spend another night in Atlanta if they change their flight.

How they were informed: Traveler A received an email from their TMC. Traveler B received an email from the OTA they booked with. Traveler C got a notification from their travel app.

Combining flight data and trip data empowers organizations within the travel industry to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time. The context of the trip makes the information more relevant and actionable and suppresses extraneous details that aren’t useful.

What happens now: It’s time for the agencies and airlines to deal with the repercussions of this disruption. The TMC serving Traveler A has to implement a plan to support them and communicate with them until the issue is resolved. Traveler B has to communicate with the airline to stay updated on the status of their flight. Traveler C has to reach out to their corporate travel manager and the airline to find their own resolution.

Support and communication throughout a traveler’s journey must extend beyond the flight status of a single flight. We have to stitch together the whole picture of that journey using trip information so agencies and airlines can stay informed and empowered to mitigate the effects of disruption. We combine flight data with trip data to serve the individual needs of the traveler in a way that makes travel easier for them and less chaotic for the organizations assisting them.

What happened

Traveler A’s TMC was actually alerted of the disruption before their flight from Orlando even landed in Atlanta. They were able to book a new flight to San Francisco so Traveler A could make it to their meeting on time. Traveler B finished their coffee and posted an angry tweet about the airline’s delay on Twitter. Traveler C was on hold for 45 minutes and wasn’t able to get a seat on a later flight, so they had to spend another night in Atlanta.

Now it’s time to evaluate the effects of what happened during that disruption. We can offer valuable reporting and analytics on the ever-changing components of travel, from trip information to the operation of a flight. In some cases, we can even provide issue resolution reporting for when a TMC stepped in to assist a traveler.

How does context influence you

What can we learn from the experiences of Traveler A, Traveler B and Traveler C? What lessons can we take away from the context of their journey so travel organizations can improve the way they operate?

Once we know what happened during a trip, we can start to provide meaningful insight into the effects of that disruption. We can start to explore:

How disruptions affected your travelers before, during and after a trip. Traveler A made it to their meeting, but Traveler C didn’t make it home as planned.

How much disruption actually costs in terms of poor traveler experience, lost times, unused tickets and extra costs for accommodation and business expensesTraveler C had to spend another night in a hotel on the company dime. They’re also feeling burned out by corporate travel and are considering looking for another job.

How you can proactively communicate with your travelers and implement a system to seamlessly deliver re-accommodation. Traveler A was re-accommodated on a new flight before they even knew there was a problem.

Reports on the overall value of an airline program per corporation as well as the value of exceptions to corporate programs. Traveler C’s company might reconsider whether they want their employees flying on the airline that experienced the disruption.

How you can be empowered to make early decisions by identifying flights and trips that are likely to be disrupted. What would airlines and agencies do differently to support Traveler A and C if they knew that a delay was likely to happen?

Trip Data Services

The services in our Trip Data Services portfolio have the ability to provide passenger schedules, monitor individual trips from the perspective of the traveler, monitor individual trips from the perspective of someone performing trip disruption management, and produce trip reporting and analytics. In the future, we’re going to be expanding our data sets to provide even more contextual value to our customers, including delay predictions.

But consider this: What if airlines and agencies could efficiently work together to handle disruptions and serve travelers? By integrating the flight data we collect from airlines with the trip data provided to us by agencies and other data sets we have available, we can provide an unprecedented level of visibility into the travel experience and the implications of a disruption. The key is to work together in an effort to make the travel experience better for everyone, from airlines and agencies to the passengers they serve. They can’t act alone and neither can we.

Interested in learning more? Contact us at tripsales@flightstats.com.