Air travel has a communication problem
May 15 2019 07:56 PM
Alex Macheras
Alex Macheras

By Alex Macheras

“Your red-eye flight tonight is delayed due to operational reasons, but once refuelling commences, we’ll be able to secure our slot, receive clearance, push back and depart soon after.” For most people, all they understood from such an announcement from the flight crew was “depart soon after.”

It’s true to say that air travel today has a huge communication problem, and while our industry is excellent at innovating and pioneering into the future, we’re racing ahead at lightning speed without ensuring everyone else (other than ourselves in the industry) is also up to the speed — and newsflash; they’re not.

Time and time again, I receive emails from passengers who feel somewhat intimidated by air travel. They feel there’s so much they don’t understand, and I’m not simply referring to the complexities of the physics of flight, but rather why their ticket says “operated by another airline,” or what a “codeshare” is. Every industry has its jargon, but it seems aviation isn’t the best at explaining the jargon that directly affects passengers, and instead, the industry would rather presume that everyone possesses the knowledge of 5% of the world’s most frequent flyers.

For passengers who only travel once or twice a year, their expectations can be largely set on the previous trip. But the truth is, aviation moves at such a fast pace, airline acquisitions take place, deals are struck, mergers occur, and alliances form. This all has the capacity to significantly change the A to B passenger journey and leaves many feeling confused about an aspect of the journey.

For example, airlines should make an effort to clearly explain what a codeshare agreement is to their everyday passengers, and then go on to ensure they are crystal clear by highlighting information such as “you booked to fly with us, but your flight will actually be flown by another airline, this is their name, etc.” Yes, some airlines are doing this already, but there are too many that simply don’t bother for the sake of “it’s just business.”

When flights are delayed, communication breaks down even further. Like with any problem, being kept in the loop and knowing what has happened and why often leaves you feeling a little less frustrated, and a little more understanding. Aviation has tough guidelines as it is.

We are told to arrive to check in by this time, clear security shortly after. Don’t be late to the gate, the aircraft will not wait, etc. Henceforth, is it not completely justified that passengers are left angry and confused when the reasoning for a lengthy delay is described as “operational reasons?”

Yes, airlines do not want to complicate things further by highlighting the specifics of the problems that may arise and cause delays; but the industry owes it to passengers, the sole reason why air travel exists, to be as truthful and transparent as possible.

*The author is an aviation analyst. Twitter handle: @AlexInAir

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