The Flight Disruption Nightmare

By Saniya Shah

I think we can all agree that flight delays and cancellations really suck. You are either trying to get to your destination or just get home and all of a sudden you have to wait that extra hour, 5 hours or sometimes even days to get there. Our startup, Pilota, is aiming to solve exactly this problem: flight disruptions. We sat down with travelers to hear about their experiences with delays and cancellations. As you can imagine, we heard some crazy stories and want to share a few of them with you.

A Long Weekend at the Airport

Rachel, a Senior Research Manager, recounted her experience trying to fly home from a work trip in NYC to San Diego. She was at the airport on Thursday evening and waited hours for her flight that was continuously delayed until it was finally cancelled. When she spoke to the airline agent she found out that almost all the airline’s flights around the country had been grounded due to tornadoes in Atlanta, the airline’s main airport hub. The agent advised her to come back to the airport in 4 hours and try to fly standby on the 5am flight. When she returned to the airport early that morning and got to the gate, she realized that she was 29th in the standby line. She then waited in line at the airline counter with many others who were also trying to figure out how to get to their destination . While in line, she looked at options for trains, buses or other flights. When she finally got to the counter, they gave her two options: she could either wait in the airport all weekend and try to get on a flight on standby or come back on Sunday morning- the earliest she could be guaranteed a seat on the flight. Instead of reaching home on Thursday evening from her work trip, she finally arrived home on Sunday evening. The airline’s attempt to remedy the situation was to offer her a $50 voucher for her experience because “it was all due to weather and [there was] nothing we could have done to prevent it.”

Richard’s Recurring Sleepover at the Airport

Richard, a former Implementation Project Manager at Epic, was traveling about 75% of the time while at Epic. When I asked him about his experiences with flight disruptions his first response was, “I have slept in the airport about 10 times.” He elaborated by explaining that his office was based in Madison, WI which has a very small airport with very few direct flights. Therefore, he almost always connects via the other larger airports and delays and cancellations were a common occurrence for him and his team. He recounted the “song and dance” the airlines would go through- delaying the flight over and over again for hours until it was about 2 am only to announce that the flight was cancelled. He explained that disruptions are such a common occurrence at the airport that the airport actually has cots that they will bring out for passengers to sleep on while waiting for their delayed or rescheduled flight. Many times his team would just cancel the trip entirely and drive back to Madison because the disruptions were so severe, foregoing their meetings at their client sites.

Where We Come In

At Pilota, we aim to solve exactly this problem. We rebook travelers on a new flight for free during flight disruptions. We are airline agnostic, so we can book them on any airline, and use machine learning to predict the probability of a disruption occurring on their flight. If Rachel and Richard had Pilota their stories would have ended very differently. In Rachel’s story, we would have detected flight disruptions early on with our predictive analytics and rebooked her on a flight from NYC to San Diego on a different airline to avoid the disruptions on her original airline. Instead of spending a weekend going back and forth with the airline and trying to get on a new flight home, she would have been able to get home that very same night. In Richard’s story we would have been able to keep his team updated about the high probability of a disruption occurring to their flight and rerouted them to their destination to avoid the disruption. This would have saved him and his team the time, hassle and uncertainty they constantly faced at the airport. It also would have saved his company the money they spent on trips that they did not complete and allowed them to follow through on the client meetings they had to cancel due to the disruption. Thanks for reading, as we continue to grow our company we are always looking for interesting conversations. Shoot us an email! Check us out:

Pictured (left to right) Richard Hill & Rachel Gauvin

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