By Ekelem Airhihen
Being invited to speak at the Hydromet Africa virtual conference in October, 2020 got one thinking about this subject matter. While the various modes of transport are affected by weather, aviation perhaps is greatly affected by weather compared to other modes of transportation. Every phase of flight has the potential to be impacted by weather. The moments of truth the customer meets with can be affected by these weather elements. These have effect on whether the customer experience will be positive or negative.
Today, businesses are in a survival mode with a need to return back to pre-covid-19 growth and profitability and even to exceed them. For transport business as in other businesses we have idle assets in terms of human resource, property, plant and equipment. Restrictions in movement due to lock downs have affected the fortunes of businesses. Health concerns have added costs probably to all involved in the transport industry value chain. Leveraging on technology people are learning new ways to live their lives both at work and for leisure. All these affect transportation business across the value chain.
Areas in which weather and climate affect aviation are temperature, precipitation (snow and rain), storm patterns, sea level and wind patterns. With climate change, changes in these weather elements affect all players in aviation and, indeed, transport. Temperature change affects infrastructure, performance of aircraft (as well as other transport vehicles of the other modes of transport) and demand patterns. Where patterns of precipitation change these could result in increased delays and cancellations even as strong storms could lead to increased schedule disruptions. Rising sea levels have been said to have the ability to reduce airport capacity and cause network disruption as also changing wind patterns could increase turbulence, affect journey times and lead to disruptions. It becomes imperative that pilots need to know weather conditions for take-off, enroute and at their destination airfield and possible diversions also. These I believe are not peculiar to air transport alone. Owners and operators of other means of transportation by rail, road and sea also have these concerns in differing measures.
Performance reductions as a result of changes in weather and climate have negative economic effect on players in the transport industry. This therefore raises the imperative to plan for changing weather conditions to reduce vulnerability to these elements of nature. Itemising the moments of truth the customer will face under various weather conditions will help plan and prepare for the customer experience. Soiled, wet and dirty buses during and after rainfall, is always very repulsive and a source of negative customer experience. So also is a hot, smelly and noisy bus during dry weather to cite a few examples.
Meteorological service providers can better understand the needs of transportation industry by appreciating that they are involved in the customer experience. The industry players require proper and timely weather forecasts to plan for their customer experience. Also they need not keep quiet and be subsumed in the back end. Their voice will need to be heard so that other members of the transport industry value chain appreciate them.
Integration of meteorology with transport management like is done in aviation where aviation meteorology and air traffic management are increasingly being integrated will be a top priority as we look into service maturity in the industry. Continuous improvement of this integration process will offer competitive advantage to those who embrace it and improve the bottom line for them as it leads to improved customer experience and service quality.
Planning for changes in weather conditions implies looking ahead in the long term. Doing so in the context of climate change, will require, not just scenario planning, but also collaboration among all industry players. Collaboration will be not only in terms of data sharing but also in terms of capacity building to be able to meet the growing needs of the industry. It implies that emphasis on data collation, storage and analysis will become a priority. An empirical approach in planning and decision making will offer strategic advantage to the industry players.
Weather and climate services where embraced can help in cost containment and revenue optimization, improve safety of assets and passengers, help in security measures as it affects men and machines and affect customer experience which when positive leads to increased revenue. So embracing these service advantages will involve employing and retaining people that will lead to capacity development, better quality human resource and service while generating more income and improving profitability.
• Ekelem Airhihen is a Chartered Accountant and Airport Customer Experience Specialist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org