According to The International Air Transport Association (IATA) as many as 4.4 billion passengers flew globally in 2018. Despite the record number, there was still 18.1% of unoccupied seats. For many airlines, empty seats can result in massive loss per trip. Tackling customer experience in the airline industry is key in determining whether an airline can succeed or fail.
However, is not all that straightforward for these airlines. Over the years, competition between low cost and full service airlines have impacted customer experience in both positive and negative ways.
It’s a well known fact that number of airline passengers will continue to grow over time as can be seen from the figure below.
In the 1970’s, there were just about 310 million passengers flying compared to over 4 billion in 2018. Usually, for any businesses to have a large pool of customers is a good thing, yet with so many passengers around we can still witness airlines shutting down or making massive losses on a yearly basis.
Why is it the case, you might ask?
First of all, lets look at the fact that because there are many passengers flying and airlines recording ground breaking profitability, airlines will be more inclined to re-invest in more aircraft, while this is obviously good for the industry or carrier, it can bring a negative effect in terms of customer experience due to the rise of service disruption and congestion.
Coming up with solutions to maintain and improve customer experiences while reducing travel friction has been a challenge for the industry.
One airline which has constantly stayed on top in terms of revenue and providing excellent customer experiences is Singapore Airlines. The airline was ranked 1st in terms of positive customer experience in core markets such as Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong while coming 2nd in New Zealand.
In 2019, Singapore airlines was named the 2nd best airlines in the world coming behind Qatar airways. Stellar customer experience has a positive impact on business revenue and that proved to be the case as the airlines recorded their highest ever annual revenue of $16.3 billion in Q1 of 2019.
Dealing with disruptions
In the airline industry, customer experience is tested when there are disruptions. From a recent Sabre and Forbes insights report, 80% of airline executive agreed that disruption management and flight optimization are the key factors which can improve operational performances and customer experiences.
In the case of Singapore Airlines, paying key attention on reducing stressful communications is an utmost priority when dealing with disruptions. Customers are constantly updated and kept informed about missed connections or long delays. Staffs are also trained to anticipate customers questions so that the chances of miscommunication occurring is low.
Behind the scenes, the company uses advance communication and an agile crew management system which constantly keeps real data flowing.
For the majority of airlines however, dealing with the ever changing customer expectations is a challenge ever more so when the customers have seamless frictionless digital experience in other areas of their lives.
Airlines which soar above the rest are leveraging data and digital means to remove friction from the customer journey and improve customer experience both on and off the aircraft. This enables them to form a better personalization experience for customers.
By analyzing the whole process, it is not only airlines that have to play a key role in the industry but also airports as well. Efforts such as improving baggage handling process by introducing new technologies such as RFID is a good sign.
Further cooperation between airlines and airports is needed to improve customer experience. With the ever rapid development of the travelling industry, the demand for air travel is increasing and this means there will be more opportunity for new competitive ideas.
For now though, it seems customer experience is vital in determining whether an airline can succeed or falter.