Wed, Oct 3rd 2007 4:08pm
It will come as no surprise to air travelers that this year has been the worst on record for flight delays and cancellations. Since technology failures played a role in some of the year's worst headaches, it's a fair question to ask whether better technology might fix what's broken with air travel. There's little debate that the nation's air traffic control system needs updating; contentions arise over who will take responsibility for it. Yet, while the FAA and the airline industry might spend another decade hashing out major infrastructure upgrades, the airlines should be investing now in technology that can provide relief to their customers in the short term. Investments to improve areas such as crew management, gate management, and flight scheduling, would take compounding bites out of the problem of delays. Yield management systems, technology in which airlines already invest substantial sums, could be tweaked to account for goodwill lost to cancellations and delays. Most significantly, more information given to air travelers, both at the time they purchase tickets and at the time they fly, will arm them to make better decisions about when, where, and whether or not to get on an airplane. Airlines would do well to consider how technology innovation could improve their customers' experience. Much as JetBlue distinguished itself early on by offering superior service, passengers will reward an airline that provides an overall better travel experience. Airlines need not fear the costs of making these investments, because the cost of not making them could be much higher. Witness, again, JetBlue, whose reputation and stock price have still not recovered from customer relations missteps made earlier this year. Instead, airlines that employ new tech to take some of the pain out of air travel may join the growing number of companies who find themselves rewarded by shareholders for providing better service to their customers.
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