To learn more about the relationship among data, technology and airline operations, and the ways these affect customer service and profitability, Sabre and Forbes Insights surveyed 100 operations, marketing, information technology and finance executives from the world’s largest airlines. Sabre and Forbes Insights combined the survey results with executive interviews to create a series of briefing papers.

As this series’ previous papers, “Bridging the Gap between Airline Operations and the Passenger” and “Putting Technology and Data in Sync” have noted, the value of real-time data for airline operations coupled with an integrated IT platform can transform on-time performance, improve customer service and boost profits. This will happen with integrated business process improvements that link data from different parts of the airline and translate it into actionable insights.

“The challenge is how to get accurate data on a real-time basis in an efficient way, and how to transform it to actionable knowledge in a way that makes sense for the operations,” says Dr. Jassim Haji, director of information technology at Gulf Air.

The third and final in the series, “Shifting the Operational Mindset to Process Integration” makes note of the survey results showing that airline executives need more integrated business processes for daily operations, and are taking steps in that direction.

For example: IT overhaul geared for a competitive advantage. Gulf Air engaged in a wholesale overhaul of its IT processes to effectively gather real-time data and act on it, for both overall excellence and improved disruption recovery, Haji says. The changes “came from the realization that acting quickly on data helps to avoid potential disruptions, turns negative passenger experiences into positive ones and allows us to be ahead of our competitors,” he adds.

Improvement of the customer experience. Finding better ways to harness customer feedback is one process changing at WestJet. The airline is now replacing a 70-question passenger survey with much shorter surveys for its fliers, all aimed at specific parts of the operation. The intent is to then share the results quickly with frontline teams at hubs, which will ultimately create a positive feedback loop to enhance customer service and improve metrics such as on- time percentage, baggage handling misconnects and overall customer satisfaction.

“At the leader level, they will see the verbatim customer comments and can follow up with employees directly to improve the customer experience,” Mike Byrom, director of guest experience for the Calgary, Canada-based carrier says. Byrom elaborates, “The surveys aim to provide a broader set of actionable data for operations control to work with. The program is part of a larger effort to enhance operations and give WestJet’s operations center leaders actionable data from all areas of the carrier – all with the goal of making more optimal decisions,” he adds.

Disruption management: The toughest test of business process integration

Disruption management raises the stakes for an airline’s success or failure. Effective disruption management can improve the customer experience and even build loyalty by outperforming competitors in the most difficult conditions.

On the other hand, high-profile operational meltdowns create negative media attention that can haunt operators for years, harming customer perception and profitability. In fact, the effectiveness of disruption management practices is measured mostly by its impact on passenger loyalty and sentiment.

The price of mishandling disruption management is enormous. The airline industry collectively incurs hundreds of millions of dollars in added costs from disruptions by weather or facility constraints. Applying new technology tools on both the commercial side of the enterprise and the customer-facing side helps mitigate events.

To learn more, download the third and final in the Forbes Insights and Sabre series, “Shifting the Operational Mindset to Process Integration.”