Cramped seats and stale peanuts used to be the hallmark of most airlines. 

Today, the state of air travel isn’t quite so depressing – even if some budget airlines stand by their dedication to no-frills ‘efficiency’. 

Improvements are being made, with low-cost airlines also recognising that a positive travel experience is likely to lead to long-term loyalty. Experience is the operative word here, of course, as brands focus on reaching customers in the very moment of travel rather than before or after the point of booking.

How exactly? Here’s a few examples.

Easing travel worries

Losing luggage is most people's worst nightmare, but the arrival of tracking technology now means that customers can rest reassured their bags will be there to meet them on the other side.

Delta airlines was one of the first companies to introduce RFID bag-tracking, which captures highly accurate data stored on a special chip embedded in a luggage tag. Travellers can see their bags going on and off the plane via push notifications from the Fly Delta mobile app, which they can also access in-flight.

While this does not prevent mishaps from happening, it still provides customers with extra reassurance and peace of mind in the moment. 

Better entertainment

According to research by Gogo, 83% of global passengers are interested in airlines having Wi-Fi connectivity in-flight, with 23% willing to pay extra in order to get it.

While this service remains somewhat limited elsewhere, it is available to US passengers, with many airlines introducing ViaSat – technology that enables higher-speed internet access in the skies. 

As a result of this, airlines are also launching tie-ins with popular streaming services. Passengers flying on select Virgin America flights can sign into their Netflix account to stream shows to their mobile devices or tablets. Meanwhile, JetBlue offers the same service for Amazon Prime customers.

With 71% of global passengers desiring wireless entertainment on a flight, improvement in connectivity outside of the US is certainly in-demand. Luckily, it's definitely on the horizon. Qatar Airways is one other example, using its Oryx Communication system to allow passengers to send MMS and SMS messages as well as access the internet during select flights.

Greater choice and personalisation

It’s easy for airlines to treat passengers as a homogeneous group rather than as individuals, however some airlines are now focusing on making flying a personalised experience. 

One way is to offer greater choice when it comes to meals, with some even serving Michelin star food on flights, such as Air France and its partnership with Daniel Boulud.

Naturally, this can come at a price, but it’s not always reserved for business class. Premium economy has risen in popularity in recent years – a standard that’s somewhere in between economy and business, whereby passengers can also choose what extra amenities they’d like to pay for.  

As part of a Singapore Airlines premium economy ticket, passengers can access a ‘Book the Cook’ service that allows them to choose from a wider selection of meals, as well as reserve a meal up to 24 hours before a flight.

Meanwhile, it’s not only food that passengers can choose on KLM flights. The dutch airline has introduced a ‘Meet and Seat’ feature, allowing people to view the Facebook or LinkedIn profiles of fellow flyers as well as find out where they’ll be sitting. (With authorisation, that is).

This means that passengers can choose to sit next to people they know, or like a romcom that's just waiting to be made, check out the social profiles of neighbours they find themselves getting to know during the flight.

Related travel reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 26 April, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

The worst part of travelling by air is NOT the flying, but the airport experience. I would totally pay more to:
* avoid walking what seems like a mile to/from the aircraft, e.g. at Charles De Gaulle airport or Heathrow Terminal 5.
* pre-register with airport Wifi so it just works when you arrive, without e.g. you having to find the right (unmarked?) desk to register your tablet as at Singapore Changi
* get satnav-style directions to the gate for my plane, and to the train or hotel shuttle on arrival, especially at multi-terminal airports like Hong Kong.
* automatically get new water bottles after security has confiscated mine, so I don't waste time finding a shop and standing in line.

Etc. etc. It's not rocket science guys, and airports are big, so this must be far cheaper than cramming even more tech into a titanium tube.

7 months ago

Per Lind

Per Lind, Co-founder at IOTA Foundation

You seem to have forgotten about how biometric authentication can improve the boarding experience significantly! Watch this space.

7 months ago

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Richard Hoolahan, Digital Manager at Banking

Completely agree with what Pete Austin said above. The worst part of travelling is the experience building up to boarding the plane. We had a daughter last year and flew back to the UK from Vancouver, Canada. There is such an inconsistent experience at each airport in terms of rules for what you can carry for a baby. Vancouver was fine with us boarding with the distilled water we brought for our then 4 month old daughter. They even allowed us to take the pram/stroller to the front of the plane and a steward then took it to pack in the hold all.

The experience landing at Gatwick is one I'd rather forget. After a 9 hour flight with a baby, you don't need a 2 mile walk carrying the baby because Gatwick staff didn't bring the pram. The return journey via Manchester was even worst. They threw away the baby's distilled water and went through all my wife's and baby's bags. My wife had packed them in order of when our daughter needed to be fed on the plane. I obviously lost my temper with the security guard and told him my experience at YVR was completely different and staff was willing to help us.

My point here and also to Pete Austin's points, is that there needs a level of consistency between the experience at the airport and the experience in flight. More needs to be done at ground level than in the air. Especially for families.

7 months ago

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Martin Wright, Managing Director at Customer Journey Consultancy Ltd

The big changes that Nikki mentions are great however it’s the small, human touches that don’t cost a lot that make the biggest impact (see http://customerjourney.uk.com/customer-journey/small-things-make-a-big-difference-to-cx-engagement/).

I saw another great example of this last week when flying on my birthday with a transatlantic carrier with a reputation for great customer experience. They sent me an email on the day which was a great touch but then the on-board crew failed to back it up with a personal acknowledgement.

The disconnect between great process and poor human follow-through left me feeling distinctly miffed. They managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Frankly it would have been better if they hadn’t emailed me, I would have assumed they simply didn’t know and left happy.

7 months ago

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Richard Hoolahan, Digital Manager at Banking

Happy b'day Martin. I hope that makes you feel better!

7 months ago

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