Crowne Plaza Dulles' Cautionary Tale: How Tech Aided 350 Stranded Travelers

By David Welliver, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport | November 11, 2010

For most road warriors, travel is practiced exercise honed by lots of experience. But when veteran road warriors take the family along, the equation changes and the stakes riding on a smooth trip go up. Since the holiday travel season is just around the corner, here is a cautionary tale about a worst case scenario that shows how technology can come to the rescue.
 
Last winter's record-breaking snows in the nation's capital created challenging conditions for hotel guests. Nowhere were things tougher for traveling families than at the normally busy Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport in Washington, DC where guests were snowbound in the award-winning hotel for four days. The blizzard closed the airport and put guests in a rare 'lock-down' condition that proved the value of on-property airport flight information.
 
Heavy weather slammed Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia with more than two feet of snow stopping airport operations cold and closing highways throughout the region. Even when snowbound airports resumed limited operations, many flights were canceled or delayed. Guests at the Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport, located near the Capital's busiest airport, fared better than many grounded travelers thanks to the hotel's in-room flight status information channel that gave them real-time updates of flight operations and took pressure off the front desk and concierge staffs.
 
The Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport, recipient of InterContinental Hotel Group's (IHG) Torch Bearer Award in 2009 and 2010, is in the business of providing guests with services that make their travel safe and pleasant, but none of its guests were prepared for the four-day blizzard that hit Washington last winter.
 
Real-time flight info
Fortunately, the property offered a guestroom television channel from Flyte Systems dedicated to real-time airline flight information from Washington Dulles International so guests could track their flight delays with some confidence. Flyte Systems posts real-time airline flight arrival and departure information, not FAA-regulated scheduled departure times that do not list delays caused by weather, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, and crew availability. This information kept guests safely at the hotel until they were sure they could get a rescheduled flight out.

For four days, the property was home to more than 350 grounded guests who were confined to the hotel because of widespread road closures due to deep snow. With every guest concerned about the scrambled departure schedules and not missing their long-delayed flights, they were grateful they could monitor their status of their flights from their rooms. This was a valuable service to guest, but also helped the property staff because it cut down on calls to the front desk asking for airport information.
 
The CP Dulles Airport's Houlihan's Restaurant & Bar did a huge amount of business because guests stayed on property rather than attempting to wait-out the delay in a crowded Dulles International boarding area before roads closed completely.
 
Having reliable airport flight information helped guests stay safely out of the weather with a confident knowledge of when their flight would be rescheduled. The property benefited from the revenue it earned by providing services to snowed in guests.
 
David Welliver has been in the hospitality industry his entire adult life working nearly 30 years for DC-based Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company. Welliver's devotion to the hospitality trade is evidenced in a variety of posts including board of directors to the Virginia Hotel & Motel Association, Charter Member of the Herndon Hospitality Association and many others.
 
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