Hughes RPA Case Study | How a ‘bot’ is helping passengers and crew from major domestic and international airlines get away on time

Andrew Sullivan, Head of Systems at Equity Transport Group (ETG), is no stranger to problem-solving in high-stakes scenarios. However, the experienced IT leader says ground crew transport is a high-stress situation for everyone, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

“The transport industry has always been high-paced, but in the wake of the pandemic, we face a new set of challenges, from industry-wide driver shortages to highly unpredictable flight schedules,” he says. 

“And when getting people to the airport on time, you must ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. It’s a high-stakes situation that can be stressful for everyone involved." 

Under ETG’s Hughes brand, the organisation moves approximately 3,000 business and first-class passengers and crew members across both major international airlines and one of Australia’s leading domestic airlines each week.  

The booking process for these passengers was manual, something Sullivan says was an outlier at an organisation that prides itself on its technology.

“The airlines would email their passenger and crew ground transport requirements to our team 48 hours before arrival or departure. Then a member of our team would manually enter the booking. Updated booking information would then be received 12 hours beforehand. 

“We’re a technologically advanced organisation, so this process was unusual, but it was working fine, so it hadn’t yet been reviewed.” 

However, Sullivan admits that the post-COVID travel landscape changed all that.  

“Pre-COVID, there weren’t many changes between the original booking and confirmation. But airline travel has changed. It is far less predictable, so we were dealing with many last-minute changes.” 

So, Sullivan went into problem-solving mode. Working with a trusted technology partner, the organisation now has an extra team member – a robotic process automation tool they affectionately refer to as ‘the bot’. 

“The bot runs the process for us now, monitoring the email inbox and parsing the information into bookings. It can be triggered by timing, activity and keywords, or started manually when required.  

"The bot acts as an extension of the team who does the administrative and data entry work. It runs 24/7 and enables our team to focus on what they do best – providing world-class support to our clients and passengers."

And this round-the-clock support is critical. Dealing with passengers and crews worldwide means bookings come in at all hours. 

"International flights depart and arrive from very early morning to late at night, so we might receive booking info at midnight for the following day. The bot has us covered, running at all times, even those hours where we aren't heavily staffed. This way, the coming day’s flight info and related bookings are updated and ready for the team to allocate chauffeurs." 

The bot also flags when the team needs to contact a customer about a revised pick-up time due to flight schedule changes or when there is a special client request that needs attention to detail.

“The bot is not about replacing that human contact – it’s about enhancing it. The bot does the highly repetitive administrative tasks, so our people can provide the high-quality customer service our customers have come to expect.”