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After a fire in a Rome terminal forced other airlines into Delta's space, a team approach kept flights running smoothly. Free Gelato helped, too.
A recent effort to move Delta’s operation at Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International  Airport is becoming a case study in managing complexity and minimizing customer disruption in an industry well known for dealing with the unforeseen.
 
In May, a fire broke out in Terminal 3 and in June, plans were made to shutter the terminal while renovations were made. 
 
Thirty carriers from large to small that served T3 were consolidated into T5, Delta’s home in Rome. T5 doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to handle the increased traffic, and this meant occupancy was metered by airport officials and that customers had to wait outside the terminal prior to check-in. Delta had to give up four ticket counter check-in positions to accommodate other airlines.
 
But customers weren’t left waiting outside, and no customers have missed their flight.
 
“Other airlines were envious of our quick response and industry leading technology to support a fluid situation,” said Christine Marchand-Pardo, Delta's Director for Airport Customer Service--Europe, Middle East and Africa. 
 
Here’s how Delta teams on either side of the Atlantic worked together to pull it off:
 
Get the band together. 
 
A cross-divisional team created a strategy to mitigate check-in line waits and held a daily conference call  for a week to touch base on execution and needs to modify the plan as needed.
 
It included: Airport Customer Service teams consisting of Policy & Procedures, Strategy & Technology, Technology, Infrastructure & Facilities and Service Recovery; Reservations; ACS Technology; Information Technology; ACS Alliances; Operations and Customer Center; In Flight Services; Revenue Management; and Specialty Sales.
 
Communicate to customers.
 
Reservation Sales notified customers via email and text messages.  In six days, a total of 3,998 notifications ensued: 2,077 emails and 1,921 SMS texts were sent.
 
Delta issued a travel advisory and waiver on delta.com explaining the situation and offering itinerary changes penalty-free. Additionally, Delta was the only airline to reach out to cruise lines to make them aware and assist with customer notification. 
 
Deploy the technology.
 
Delta’s Detroit ACS and Cargo teams secured, packaged and shipped a Service Pod to Rome, allowing for flexibility to be mobile in the lobby, mitigating congestion. It also kept customers moving by serving three additional self-service positions with delta.com functions and one additional full- service agent position.
 
The setup allowed customers to submit online visa requests without having to see an agent and allowed customers to purchase tickets via delta.com.
 
Delta secured MiFi hotspots to not only support its technology but also to create log-ins for customers to use on their personal devices while waiting for check-in and to be used in the gatehouse to provide personal entertainment while they wait for boarding.
 
Take other actions outside the airport.  
 
The Operations and Customer Center delayed one of four departures to help mitigate congestion in the terminal. In-Flight Service instructed flight attendants to make announcements on flights in-bound to Rome about what customers could expect on their outbound flights. 
 
'Care While Waiting' … with Gelato.
 
ACS’ well-known “Care While Waiting” practice went into full force – featuring complimentary Gelato for customers, as they waited for their turn to check in at Terminal 5.
 
“Our winning formula was one, Innovation; two, Delta people; three, culture with a can do/make it happen attitude; and four, Gelato,” said Mary Loeffelholz, V.P.--ACS International.
 
Penalty-free changes to Rome customer itineraries are allowed through June 30. Teams are hopeful Terminal 3 re-opens soon.