As this happened to me three times in the last three months, I have had to deal with the consequences. I have been lucky. I haven’t been stranded without money. I haven’t had major problems or the need to traipse around hotels and then book at exorbitant rates. I haven’t had to look after or keep happy young, easily bored children. I am not even moaning about the fact that I have had to make unnecessary trips to airports or pay for hotels I couldn’t use. If you travel a lot, life can bowl the odd googly at you. But out of it, I do have one thing I want to be changed.
One airline texted me to say my flight was canceled, adding at the bottom, “apologies.” They gave me at least seven hours warning which, given that the situation was out of their control, seemed reasonable. The problem is in the rebooking. To do that I either need to get on a website or ring a telephone line. My moan, no that is too strong a word, my interest is the endless time spent hanging on or trying to get onto a website that is being bombarded by other travelers in the same position. I appreciate the airline’s problem in having to rebook people but can’t help wondering if there isn’t an easier way.
At the end of February, my flight was canceled because snow closed airports in the north-east of the United States. As usual, as I was at the airport, I had to queue or phone to rebook. After about 20 minutes I got through on the phone to be told I was rebooked onto the same flight tomorrow. The problem was that I was only at that place for one night before going to the next. I was rebooked to the final destination. But it showed that technology could handle some of the work. It could rebook so why couldn’t it text or e-mail me so that I, at least, would be removed from those people who didn’t have text or portable e-mail facilities? The overworked airline staff would have fewer people to deal with so people could have solutions faster.
With the volcanic ash, the problem is that no-one knows definitely when airspace would re-open. But airlines could judge whether people are day trippers (two flights in the same name/contact details on the same day) and remove them from the later flights when airspace might re-open and use the seats for people who are on the outbound portion of their ticket. As happened yesterday in a few cases, the airline could lay buses on to take people to the nearest available airport. Why couldn’t it lay on a train taking the passengers from a couple of flights together. This doesn’t overcome the problem of people traveling overseas but it might be a start.
Airlines have teams of people who work on planning for every eventuality. Maybe they should ask their own passengers for ideas.