Can Airports Handle Flight Disruptions any Better?

Every once in a while we see hordes of airline passengers having to wait for hours at a time at airports because of some kind of disruption. Whether it’s caused by volcanic eruptions, extreme weather conditions or industrial action it can be extremely unpleasant for those involved. It’s a sad fact that some of these people vow never to fly again, purely because they don’t want to take the chance of suffering similar difficulties in the future.

For the managers and staff members of the airports themselves, a sudden influx of thousands of passengers coming in, combined with very few of them leaving, can be exceptionally difficult to deal with. In many cases, it’s not the fault of the airports at all, yet it’s their people that have to cope with vast numbers of tired, uncomfortable and downright angry travellers who aren’t able to do any travelling.

Anyone who has ever had a flight cancelled at short notice will know how frustrating it can be, but when dozens or even hundreds are postponed it can become a seething, irritable melting-pot of emotions. For workers who have to liaise with passengers, it’s something of a no-win situation, and it’s one that can even lead to the police having to be called in to quell the levels of disorder.

Keeping the people informed

There are some people who claim the airports, and perhaps the airline companies as well, could do more to keep people calm and relaxed, but it’s difficult to imagine what that would entail. They often provide free water, for example, and perhaps newspapers for those who want to read, but what else can they do? It’s not easy to keep huge numbers of frustrated individuals happy at the best of times, but when they’re missing out on their holiday time it can be almost impossible.

One thing that can and should be done is the provision of honest and accurate information. A heavy period of snowfall in the UK in 2011 resulted in train cancellations in all areas, and the one thing the passengers all agreed on was that not enough information was forthcoming. They could understand the travel restrictions, but they hated not knowing what was being done about them. Airline and airport proprietors will do well to bear this in mind.

Making regular announcements over the public address system will cut down on harmful gossip, for example, and will ensure passengers are aware that the proprietors have their interests in mind. Until normal service is resumed once again, information is the most vital tool of all.

David Rice is a regular air traveller from the UK. He works for a car hire company.

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