Airlines Stretched Too Thin

Cutbacks, outmoded systems leave fliers hanging during delays.


"No airline has a decent method" for recovering, he says. "They just say, 'Get these planes out as soon as possible.' There's no strategic plan."

His firm is one of several developing information-management tools that could help them decide faster when to delay or cancel flights, plus when and how to reorder operations to quickly reposition planes and crews where they're needed.

Sabre Airline Solutions, a travel industry consultant, says each minute of delay costs an airline $70, on average, and that delays and cancellations chew up more than 2% of airline revenue each year.

To reduce those costs and improve customer service, Sabre is developing tools to rearrange the itineraries of hundreds of displaced passengers in mere minutes.

Currently, that process can take several hours and be "quite an emotional experience for both the traveler and the agents helping them," says Gordon Locke, a Sabre vice president. "Think of it: Passengers could be handed their new itineraries and boarding passes as they exit the plane upon returning to the terminal."

Not all passengers would like the solution worked out for them by the Sabre technology, Locke concedes. But those who do will be on their way quickly, giving airline agents more time to deal with travelers who need to make different arrangements.

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