By James Harrison, UK Country Manager of Oxygen8
Over the last thirty years, there has been a boom in mobility in Europe and the past ten years have seen the ever-evolving EU Passenger Rights Charter introduce passenger protection measures across all modes of transport.
Once the Charter is fully in place, suppliers of each mode of transport will have a common set of principles that will incur serious legal obligations if not adhered to.
One of the laws that particularly interests me in my line of work is the communication obligations element of the Charter.
Passengers have the right to receive accurate, timely and accessible information before purchase, before and during their journey and in case of disruption.
What’s more, new technologies are encouraged for all modes, for example, the use of Smartphone applications, websites as well as social media.
After speaking with some of our clients regarding their concerns, I am intrigued to find out how this pressure has and will affect communications strategies and how they have, if at all, evolved to keep in line with the Charter – is mobile a front-runner for immediate interaction with passengers?
I am inclined to say yes from first hand experience working with the travel industry to increase communication levels.
For example, we work with Irish airline Aer Lingus who have taken advantage of one of our text-based solutions. I can confidently say that the medium of mobile has helped them out of some potentially problematic situations.
There was a situation when they needed an aircraft to come back early from Malaga and to realistically achieve this they had to notify passengers that they had to be at the airport 60-90 minutes ahead of schedule.
If this communication had failed to reach passengers, the onus would have been on the airline to accommodate passengers in a hotel in Spain, at their expense. As it was, 75% turned up on time. Before, they might have expected 10% at best.
Passengers want and need to feel that their trip will not be an uncertain or stressful event and the industry now holds a legal obligation to ensure that this is never the case.
But let’s face it; you can’t always rely on customers reading and acting on emails, for example, especially if contact needs to be made at unsociable hours or when passengers are already on holiday or away on business - particularly when faced with a situation like the one Aer Lingus had to deal with.
For me, these demands on the industry can only increase the move towards using mobile within communication strategies and as EyeforTravel's Gina Baillie predicted in 2012, travel brands who understand how mobile can enhance the entire traveler experience will be the winners in 2013.
It’s not a shock that statistics fall in favour of mobile when it comes to instant communication.
But when three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants now have access to a mobile phone and 98% of SMS messages are read within 15 minutes compared to only 22% of emails opened, ever, it won’t surprise you when I say that the use of mobile in communications strategies within the travel industry is about to move to a whole new level.
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