Yesterday on the way home from work I was hypothesizing with a colleague about the next hot topic that will hit the travel industry. Once mobile and social media go the way of dynamic packaging and metasearch, being no longer buzz words and instead move into the category of products that just happen to generate some occcasional buzz, what will take their place.

Her suggestion was Service Recovery. I’m not sure it is a sexy enough topic to fill conferences, but I couldn’t come up with anything more inspiring. Only recently I mentioned that this topic will now be taken more seriously by airlines in a wake of the impact the Iceland volcano had on carriers (and had written positively on Continental in this regard long ago), so let’s wait and see if Service Recovery ever reaches true buzzword status.

Amadeus has been working with SATA, Saudi Arabian and others on improving passenger notifications using the AACC product, and I also saw some interesting stats on Southwest earlier today along a similar line.

Southwest has dramatically increased the number of customers served via its proactive outreach–sending more than 5.5 million messages to passengers in the last 18 months to notify them of flight delays, cancellations and gate changes. By reaching more passengers with personalized notifications and enabling them to self-select new flight options or transfer to an agent if necessary, the airline has decreased the amount of time passengers spend on the phone with an agent or standing in line at airport service counters.

No doubt that moving servicing calls out of the call centre and either onto the web or pushing this information to passengers is a massive cost saving for airlines (and in most cases actually improves the passenger experience as well), but I have to admit I’m not quite sure exactly what to make of all of the numbers quoted below.

…over the last year, Southwest has increased the number of flight notifications sent by 138 percent, the number of passengers notified by 28 percent and the number of “live” answers by passengers by 18 percent.

Maybe I didn’t have time to read it all well enough, but what is a “live” answer? And why is it written as “by passengers” and not “for passengers?” Please feel free to enlighten me if I’ve missed something obvious here.