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Innovation: Something About the Weather

The last few weeks you haven’t been able to turn on the news without reports of blizzards or some other massive storm clobbering the U.S. and even Europe. To say that bad weather has been taxing on travelers of late would be a gross understatement. Everybody complains about the weather, but is anyone doing anything about it? Actually, someone is. No, airline passengers can’t change the weather. But behind the scenes, companies that drive the technology which power the airlines are hard at work.

The last few weeks you haven’t been able to turn on the news without reports of blizzards or some other massive storm clobbering the U.S. and even Europe. To say that bad weather has been taxing on travelers of late would be a gross understatement.

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Everybody complains about the weather, but is anyone doing anything about it?

Actually, someone is.

No, airline passengers can’t change the weather. But behind the scenes, companies that drive the technology which power the airlines are hard at work.

Weather delays place huge loads on airlines’ outdated electronic data systems, that is, the systems the carriers use to manage passenger flow in and out of airports. But new information technology systems will enable carriers faced with bad weather or other travel disruptions to manage their fleets, reschedule flights, and reaccommodate passengers on their or a partner airline’s flights in a fraction of the time it takes today.

But take it a step farther. Can this same family of streamlining technology inside the airline change how you on the outside react to and deal with travel disruptions? What possible use could it be when, say, a blizzard has closed Logan International Airport?

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Good question. The reality is that while Valentine’s Day travelers in Boston understood they would experience flight delays because of the snow and ice, many ended up having to sleep at air terminals simply because area hotels could not accommodate the overflow.

How could technology have made a difference?

Simple. Today hotels and airlines have the technology to link airline delays with locally available room inventory. The question is what airline will step up and use this technology to not only get travelers where they are going, but to make sure they can find a hotel room when bad weather means that they can’t.

At the same time, meteorology may drive more accurate predictions of flight delays on specific routes. In fact, I can foresee a time when the synergies of statistical analysis, probability theory, and data modeling will be tapped by new technologies to give travelers a far better picture of flight delays even before they get to the airport.

The possibilities are limited only by the imagination. As the technology matures, airlines will become far better at connecting with customers.

And, you, the flier, should have far fewer reasons to have to cool your jets.

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Airline Futurist • Miami • rbuckman@amadeus.com • www.amadeus.com

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