I strive to innovate, improve situations and fix what’s broken.
It’s a built-in function for me to try to fix what’s broken. since I can’t fly a plane or stop a blizzard, I brainstormed how I can help with what I can do: social media.
Airports have always been a hassle to me, but this weekend was airport hell. Record-breaking snow falling on Philadelphia brought the airport to a standstill on Saturday, which left it ready to bust on Sunday when two days worth of travelers were creating a bottleneck effect. Passengers waiting two days for flights and then three hours to check-in were losing their tempers at one another and at airport personnel, who in turn were actually screaming at travelers from the top of their lungs.
I thought, does social media have the potential to improve this situation, expedite the process or at least make people smile a little more?
Here’s my brainstorm:
- what if people could check in at the airport with a mobile device? Foursquare, Gowalla, Triout, etc all allow people to check in at restaurants, bars, stores, etc. What if an app could facilitate airport check in? Travelers could register their cell phone numbers when purchasing tickets, then check in from their phones upon arrival at the airport. Maybe they could even download the ticket onto their screen instead of printing. (I know this requires infrastructure, but hey…they do it for coupons).
- to take the idea of location-based check in further, suppose passengers could use their phones to check in at their gate or to check in near the gate (restaurants, bars, kiosks). This way, passengers could be located and/or notified when the flight is ready to board, when there’s a delay or when there’s a gate change.
- 24/7 customer service / Q&A via social media. The lines at the airport to speak with a customer service representative were so long that people with simple questions were starved for information. Employees were losing their cool answering the same questions again and again. If there were any form of customer service via social media, they could answer the question once for all to see and save themselves time and energy.
- 24/7 customer service would also have benefited me this weekend, when I learned that the call center for damaged baggage claims is only open business hours. I flew Friday evening, at which point the airline destroyed my checked baggage which came back to me soaking wet. Wrapping paper on the gifts inside was disintegrating, my clothes were dripping, my shoes were saturated…And everyone I spoke with told me I’d have to wait until Monday to get my questions answered.
- Hashtags. What if the flight number became a Twitter hashtag to track conversation going on about the flight and the gate. First and foremost, this facilitates the spread of information. Gate changes and flight delays could be announced to passengers as well as to their family members and friends wanting information about the flights. If everyone could follow the updates on Twitter, it would save the passengers from calling/texting a list of people about every update. A secondary benefit would be that this could also get passengers talking to one another. If you’re stranded in an airport for two days, it helps to make a friend.
All in all, social media improvements won’t mean that your flight can take off in a blizzard, but it just might make the experience a little more pleasant. I actually heard someone scream profanities at a flight attendant announcing another delay.
I do owe a shout out to the kind couple who befriended me in line and helped me get my baggage on the plane. It was a pleasure to meet you, thank you!
Safe holiday travels, everyone. Add your ideas below!
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