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How Airlines Cope With Seasonal Spikes

Every year, many businesses wait for the summertime sales or holiday rush. More customers is a good thing, right? Well, yes, but not in every aspect. Airlines, for example, hit a seasonal spike every Summer, which, while it brings in tons of customers and cash, can be difficult to keep up with. So, how do airlines handle this extreme increase in travelers every year? All-in-all, by rolling with the punches and being prepared well ahead of time.

It's a well known fact that summer is the busiest time of year for travelers. "Summer vacation" is a known phrase in every U.S. household. Kids, college students and teachers have more than two months off from school, making it a prime time to steal away for several days. Since the Summer comes with relatively mild climates, this is a great time of year for first-time flyers to get their wings. Don't forget to add in business travelers who fly often and year-round. Factor in the Summer Olympics every few years, and you've got a serious increase in flyers.

The airlines themselves aren't the only ones inundated with rising numbers of travelers. Everything related to air travel, from the pilots to the airport's retail shops, are affected in some way. The airports, border control agencies and ground handlers are affected as well. Plus, seasoned travelers and all passengers are affected by the spike in business, which changes ticket prices and waiting times at the airport.

How do airlines prepare for and handle the sudden and extreme increase in consumers? It goes without saying that opening extra terminals and scheduling more flights will help to keep up with the surge. Above and beyond that, though, airlines have a few tricks up their sleeve.

Modern Technology

Think of it in terms of a specific scenario: You're in charge of Information Technology (IT) for a specific popular airline. Not only is it the Summer season and passengers are overwhelming airports, but bad weather is threatening the safety of flyers. With modern technology, you can update air traffic information and grant employees and other users permission to use certain applications and online tools. All-in-all, technology helps get all staff members on the same page so that changes can be managed efficiently.

Self-Service

One hugely effective way to get airline procedures running like a finely-tuned machine is to provide self-service experiences for guests. "Won't passengers feel like they're not being helped by the airline, though?" Absolutely not. Studies and polls have shown that the majority of travelers actually want to take things into their own hands. Being able to handle everything from printing out luggage tags at home to getting through security swiftly means less hassle and stress at the airport. This gives flyers a feeling of control over their itinerary and at the same time takes pressure off of airport staff. It also means that passengers who do need help can get the attention they deserve.

Technology Meets Mobile Phones

To get the best of both worlds and help airlines keep up with the Summer influx, cloud technology and self-service become one-in-the-same thanks to advanced mobile technology. Approximately 70% of air passengers carry a smartphone (according to a 2012 survey). Mobile applications and WiFi access means that passengers can use their smartphone to book a flight, pay for their tickets, check-in, board the plane and even keep track of their baggage.

Plus, passengers can keep track of flight status via their smartphone. This means that if a flight is delayed or canceled, the passenger doesn't have to wait until they reach the airport to find out. This can cut down on how crowded the airport is, which is highly beneficial during peak travel times. Consider this: you live in New York City and are flying out of JFK Airport for the holidays. You check the airline’s mobile app and you find out that the flight is delayed due to bad weather at your destination. Thanks to synced cloud technology that's delivered to you via your cell phone, you can spend an extra four hours at home instead of waiting around at the airport. Both the passenger and the airline are happy.

One of the best ways for airlines to handle peak travel times, like the Summer or the holiday season, is to have these practices in effect year-round. The last thing an airline should do is try to instate brand new technology at one of the busiest times of the year. The learning curve for the airline's staff members and passengers, plus any hiccups in the technology, will just make systems run less smoothly. By having these tools running efficiently at all times, peak seasons will practically run by themselves!

-Lorenzo Aiello

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