With so much going on inside the cabin and at the airport – hungry kids, shrinking seats, no outlets to charge your phone – it’s easy to forget that air travel is a supposed to be a “people business”. That’s why airlines are putting more focus on passenger experience than ever before because something has gotten lost on the way to lower prices, safer flying, and higher margins.
Airlines are doing what they can within the confines of the cabin by offering IFEC, local food and beverage, and other passenger-centric perks. JetBlue has been an innovator in this regard, working with local suppliers to source craft beers, wines, and more.
But let’s be candid for a moment…overall, do passengers see airlines as being people-friendly? When passengers arrive at the airport, do they feel like the airline “has their back”? Does the airline help make their journey easier and less stressful? Is it easy for passengers to connect with the airline before or after the flight?
In some cases, yes. But how can more airlines “think outside the cabin” and really connect with passengers to give them a better overall journey?
Taking Responsibility for Passenger Experience
The gap between what many airlines think they’re doing for passengers and how passengers actually feel has been growing for quite some time. But instead of dwelling on who’s to blame or how it happened, let’s just agree to fix passenger experience little by little.
And really fix it; not just pay lip service. Each unit or department within the airline organization – and not just the director of passenger experience – has a responsibility to put passengers at the heart of everything they do, including airline strategy and budgeting. It’s about taking a more customer-centric approach like many on-the-ground retailers have been doing for years. The retail sector has raised the bar so high for customer experience that passengers aren’t just asking for it – they automatically expect a great experience.
If your airline needs a gentle nudge to become more passenger-centric, here are 3 common stress points you can identify, anticipate and solve for passengers right now:
Some airlines offer a baggage tracker to passengers via a mobile app, eliminating the stress of waiting and worrying about the potential of lost luggage. The upshot of this approach for airlines is that they can reduce passengers’ stress triggers (worry, boredom, anger) while boosting the opportunity for an ancillary service offering. Delta spent $50 million on its RFID system for baggage tracking, but as more airlines make the investment, the industry overall is seeing results. According to SITA, the mishandled baggage rate has fallen by more than half since 2003.
The boarding process is one of many built-in opportunities for passengers to turn potential “losses” (long lines, no bin space) into gains (jump the line privileges, guaranteed bin space). Passengers simply open an app on their smartphone and pay for what they want, right there at the gate with no assistance from the desk. Best of all, what might normally be considered a luxury purchase (seat upgrade, jumping the line) suddenly becomes a worthwhile gain to a tired, frustrated, or busy passenger. More airports like Orlando International and London Gatwick are streamlining the boarding process with biometric technology, and many customers are willing to pay extra to the airline to keep their journey moving with the same ease.
Passengers need a “locus of control” where they can see several parts of their journey and plan ahead of time. They don’t want to arrive at the airport like it’s an anonymous taxi drop-off. During airport arrivals, airlines can boost passenger experience AND extend their selling window to after the flight, simply by connecting passengers to other services (limousines, hotels, activities) through the airline app. Airlines generate $57 billion in ancillary revenue every year, amounting to $15-$17 per passenger. But your selling window doesn’t have to end at the arrivals gate – you can double, triple or quadruple ancillary sales by catering to the “connected” traveler at their destination.
And there you have it – three common stress points that airlines can solve right now to improve passenger experience and extend their selling window before and after the flight.
Investing in Passenger Experience with Guestlogix
If your airline has other priorities besides baggage tracking or airport sales, that’s okay – just be sure to put passengers at the heart of those other decisions, too. What matters is your commitment to incremental changes that directly improve the everyday passenger experience. The goal is to make every passenger feel first-class, even if they aren’t flying first-class.