Act now to prevent holiday travel nightmares – Secretary Buttigieg urged 

Busy passenger terminal at JFK airport.
Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been urged to act now to prevent customer distress caused by likely flight delays and cancellations during the busy Thanksgiving and Holiday travel season.

In an open letter, New York-based voice AI specialist NLX wrote that the Secretary has a unique opportunity to advance the American air travel experience through passenger support, which can be done through easily implementable solutions already in existence.

“In 2020, taxpayers spent $54 billion bailing out U.S. airlines during the pandemic. The money was intended to help airlines stave off staff layoffs or furloughs, yet Bloomberg reported that more than 400,000 airline workers lost their jobs due to COVID-19,” wrote NLX Chief Executive Andrei Papancea in the letter.

“Despite airlines’ efforts to aggressively hire more staff, passenger support continues to be poor. Inside Hook reported that “some customer service centers are logging hold times up to 704 minutes.”

In May, The Wall Street Journal called the hours long wait to speak with an airline “an improvement. And now we approach a season when weather and dramatic increases in air travel heavily impact airlines annually.”

Providing better passenger service

But, the letter continued, in 2022 airlines can and need to provide better customer service to passengers:

● When flights are delayed or canceled, or gates are moved, passengers deserve immediate updates with clear and transparent next steps.

● Passengers deserve to be able to contact airline support in the language and method (voice, chat, etc.) of their choosing.

● Passengers deserve more inclusive, accommodating support for all different kinds of abilities. For example, passengers requesting wheelchairs or scooters should not need to wait on hold to get the assistance they require.

Passengers with visual impairments shouldn’t be forced online to read a webpage to resolve their inquiries (or accept a charge for live conversation) just to get the essential support they need.

Proactive communications

“The standard for customer service should be that passengers receive proactive communication about flight disruptions – as they happen – with clear information about the next steps and passenger options in the language, and channel (voice, text, etc.) of their choice,” continued Papancea.

“That standard should be that passengers can reach out to airlines in the channel of their choice, they are greeted by name, asked if they are calling about an upcoming flight, and given the option to self-service while holding their place in line or waiting on hold or for a call-back.”

“The bar should be set so that passengers deserve a more inclusive customer service experience and should not have to wait for hours on hold to schedule the assistance they need during transit.”

Where customers have been able to resolve their inquiries through customer self-service, hold times have dropped and agents have been able to handle more complicated requests. At the same time, customer satisfaction and trust has risen, and the American air travel experience truly improved.

Automation can help make each of these expectations a reality. Better yet, automation is cost-effective (cents, not dollars), scalable according to demand (unlike call centers), and easily integrates with the systems airlines are already using.

“We call on Secretary Buttigieg to be our ally and continue to be a champion for all passengers and flyers. Easily implementable solutions exist today.”

“We are happy to help him experience the difference automated, personalized customer self-service can make during travel for himself. NLX is happy to meet with him to discuss the solution further.”

About NLX

NLX is one of eight AWS Conversational AI Partners and an AWS Travel and Hospitality Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Competency Partner. Our clients include some of the world’s largest airlines that are actively trying to improve their support, but there’s more that can be done.

One client, in particular, called NLX’s automated, personalized self-service solution “A win for customers, a win for employees, and a win for stakeholders.”

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