This week’s blog post started at 30,000 feet. After three hours on the plane (heading from Boston to Denver), the pilot announced that we were already starting to make the turn to head back to Boston due to poor weather conditions in Denver. I was listening and watching for panic to set in around me. Who would be the first person to ignore the “fasten your seatbelt” sign and stand up in outrage? Who would press their button to call the flight attendant? Who would start swearing and scaring the small children on the plane? To my surprise, no one! I wish I had been recording the reaction, but within seconds of the pilot’s announcement everyone in my row and those in front of me had pulled out their device of choice and started logging into Wifi (thank you @Jetblue). The plotting, planning, and communicating that followed at 30,000 feet allowed everyone to remain calm and before we even landed people were talking about the next flight they booked or explaining that they contacted their family and everyone is aware of the new plan.
I have to imagine that without wifi and without our personal devices, the plane would have been in an uproar and the poor flight attendants would have been battling booming voices just to admit that they didn’t have any answers. Thanks to the digital age, I had a calm, albeit bummed out, flight home. At one point, one passenger announced that the Denver airport’s twitter account said that the airport was actually open, but the pilot later updated everyone to let them know that with 2 inches of snow coming in every hour and low visibility, the airport had officially closed and planes were no longer allowed to land.
Looking at Denver Airport’s twitter feed today, I’m beyond impressed with the constant updates they were providing yesterday as well as the replies they were tweeting in order to keep customers informed and happy. What a difference it makes that they were not only transparent, but doing their best to personally respond to customer concerns. In this case social media was able to improve efficiency at the airport, provide better customer service, and in general provide more, real-time awareness about ongoing issues that effected a wide range of people (employees, customers, public safety workers, taxi drivers, etc).
This experience got me thinking about the ways in which travel has improved as a result of current digital capabilities. It’s safe to say that as far as ground transportation is concerned, GoogleMaps and Waze has improved our routes and timing, reduced the number of speeding tickets some of us might have otherwise received (thank you @Waze), and planned better.
But when it comes to air travel, what benefits now exist? We’re no longer on hold for hours at a time to make a flight reservation, confirm if our flight is on time, reschedule a flight, or to cancel reservations.
We no longer have to print or keep track of our tickets as we can use email, a specific airline’s app, or Apple Wallet at keep our digital ticket on us at all times.
Everything is available at a push of a button – how lucky are we? I can use Wifi, no matter where I am in the world, to find the best places to eat, popular sightseeing spots, and the best museums and hotels.
(Seriously though, if you ever find yourself in Florence, Italy you will be doing yourself a disservice by not making a reservation at La Giostra. I had the meal of my life there!)
At 30,000 feet, travelers can make new or different travel arrangements, they can let those waiting for them on the ground know the new plan, they can send that email that just can’t wait, and they can rest at ease knowing that they can be connected if you need to be. From a customer service standpoint, when airports and airlines are connected to travelers at all points of their journey (some even before their journey begins) allows for a smoother experience for all involved.