The travel industry moves to preempt customer complaints

When Jason Plott’s Western Caribbean cruise was delayed because of dense fog in Galveston, Tex., earlier this year, Carnival offered two possible resolutions before casting off: Either a full refund or an abridged cruise, which included an onboard credit and a discount off a future vacation.

Plott didn’t like either choice.

“It wasn’t enough,” says Plott, a director at a Lubbock, Tex., software firm. His family couldn’t return home early without incurring an airline change fee. And the shortened cruise skipped their favorite ports of call and the offer meant that they’d have to take another Carnival cruise — something they were reluctant to do.

Travelers are faced with decisions like Plott’s every day. Something goes wrong — a flight is delayed, a hotel room is flooded or a rental car breaks down — and they’re made an offer that they have to accept or reject on the spot.

Increasingly, those offers are being generated with the help of technology, either directly or indirectly. Carnival relied on external technologies such as its Twitter account to keep passengers updated, as well as internal systems to proactively deliver a set of identical offers to every passenger on Plott’s cruise before they boarded, according to Aly Bello, a company spokeswoman. “Most of the guests chose the option of sailing on the modified voyage,” she says.
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