Disruption management – the new norm

What if storm-weathering is a permanent event?

Holidays are a time of fun, family reunions and travel for my family. Variable weather often accompanies this exciting time of year – regardless of which hemisphere we are in.

Weather changes can lead to chaos at airports, especially when passenger numbers may be up to 25% higher. Shepherding a tired family around an airport where flight delays and confusion reign can put a dampener on even the most exotic holiday.

While dealing with potential child meltdowns, I often think of how the poor airport staff must cope at times of disruption, when they are forced to deal with multiple adult meltdowns as well. Their burnout rate during our fun times must be high.

How climate change compounds these issues is a concern. Last month, the Fourth National Climate Assessment report in the USA was issued, highlighting the cascading impacts of climate change for our economy and societies. The UN Intergovernmental committee preceded the US report with a document of their own, detailing the impacts of global warming. Meanwhile the UK issued a report a few days later, predicting dryer summers and wetter winters, as well as an increase in ‘once-off’ events. A sobering thought at this time of year.

Hope for the best but prepare for any weather

The travel and transport industry is intimately affected by climate change and so must prepare for the worst – and hope for an outcome that we can (literally) live with. Along with these considerations, over the past 30 years, airline traffic has been on a steady 5%-7% annual increase, reaching just over 4 billion with further expected doubling in the next decade.

Hong Kong International Airport – experts at PAXEX

Having flown into Hong Kong International Airport at various times of the year, I have come to expect variable weather patterns. Typhoons are an unwelcome visitor on a regular basis, often causing major and minor disruption at the airport.

Whereas the major disruptions can shut the airport for a day or two, minor disruptions causing delays and missed flights impact more passengers. Once the typhoon passes, the airport, airlines and all the stakeholders need to work extra hard to get the planes in the air and make sure that the passengers and their bags are safely on-board.

That is why HKIA turned to Elenium to help them bring the kiosks to passengers, in order to cut the queues and improve passenger satisfaction during disruption. There are now over 100 Elenium kiosks at the airport; a number which will vastly expand over the next few months.

This means that when disruption occurs, recovery is quick and seamless, with no need to channel passengers across a major airport. They can be served with minimal displacement and minimal misery – a win-win for all. Their focus on PAXEX has been noted – Hong Kong International Airport has recently received the International Airport Review Airport of the Year award.

Power to the Passengers

When disruptions impact any airport, they change plans for thousands of people – both passengers and staff. At a time when passengers are often tired, stressed and annoyed, it does not take much for emotions to boil over. Even the most seasoned travelers can lose their cool.

A multi-channel, full scale assault in communication, empathy and processing is the only way to tackle this. People, process and technology. Allowing the passengers to choose between their own devices or airport provided equipment and people will empower themselves to choose the channel they consider to be the most efficient, given their preferences, which in turn will reduce queues and stress at the chokepoints.

Portable kiosks were built for disruption

Portable kiosks allow the airport and airline to easily bring the equipment to the passenger, instead of channeling hundreds or thousands of passengers through manned Transfer Desks which most of the time are in the wrong location. Keeping the passengers and equipment in one, relatively manageable location. This permits the staff to assist passengers requiring a higher level of assistance with more care, time and empathy, resolving issues and questions as they come up.

Checking in a suitcase or ‘Check-in in a suitcase’!

… And then sometimes it is more efficient, cheaper and faster to combine a device and human being to eliminate queues. There’s also a lot to be said for the human touch during difficult and disruptive times.
Or, perhaps an airline prefers to provide seasonal or occasional service (large conferences, cruise ships, seasonal deployments), rather than permanent infrastructure.

In these scenarios, we’ve created a ‘Check-in in a suitcase’. A bit larger than a carry-on and weighing just over 10kg, this solution quickly increases throughput at any time during a busy season.

Have a pleasant journey

Disruption management involves so many moving parts: aircraft, staff, passengers, baggage, airport equipment and air space. Although disruptive events impact all stakeholders, every stakeholder looks at disruption a little differently, depending on the people and assets for which they are responsible.

At Elenium, our key focus is the passenger and how to reduce disruption impact. This is where we channel our energy, using robotics, AI, high-resolution cameras and expert teams to help our clients.

We will never be able to prevent disruption, but we can always work on making the recovery easier to ensure travel is as pleasant as possible.

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