Airline Performance Depends on Flyer-Focused Retail Customer Service, According to PwC

The report highlights key enhancers derived from various consumer behaviors such as balancing technology, listening to feedback, improving comfort, elevating connectivity and bundling fees, based on input from more than 2,000 business and leisure flyers...


Mobile devices are flyers’ number one travel companion—not only for travel-related activities but also for sharing their flight experiences.  PwC’s Experience Radar found that only one in five travelers are satisfied with how airlines address their complaints, while 99 percent of travelers worldwide share memorable experiences with others. Bad stories are told and retold, with social media giving longer shelf life to these negative experiences. Since social media can intensify and lengthen negative impact, airlines should proactively listen to passengers through multiple channels to detect and resolve issues early, and utilize dynamic influencer programs to encourage positive brand development.

Provide a new class of comfort

Flyers now seek an array of options, finding comfort not only in seating preferences but also in food, entertainment and the option to be able to sit next to travel companions.  Most leisure travelers want more space, though how much they are willing to pay varies.  Overall, leisure travelers will pay a seven percent premium for extra leg and recline space and a six percent premium for extra hip space.  Complimentary upgrades are a leading driver of great experiences and support repeat business.  In addition, nearly one in five business travelers will pay for upgrades out of pocket, if offered at a discount.  Airlines also need to recognize the different preferences of comfort depending on cultural and socioeconomic factors.  Building data-driven product and promotion competency is key as it spans food, entertainment, lighting, seat space, and upgrade programs, among other services.

Elevate connectivity

Travelers want to stay connected from the ground up—whether for work or entertainment.  On-board Wi-Fi is becoming a standard service, and PwC’s report revealed that 70 percent of business flyers demand Wi-Fi access for longer flights.  Meanwhile, leisure passengers who use a personal device spend on average 40 percent of their flight time using Wi-Fi. Among these leisure travelers, there is also a high preference for Wi-Fi specifically with young travelers who are 1.7 times more reliant on in-flight connectivity than baby boomers.  The ability to access Wi-Fi and content on personal devices rather than seat-backs is notably higher internationally, where tablet ownership is also higher.  To compete effectively, airlines should invest more on innovative digital connectivity and deliver customized service offerings based on usage levels and device preferences.

Bundle fees

Airlines have improved profitability by offering a wide range of ancillary services. Many flyers, however, prefer bundles that suit their travel needs and don’t require them to pay multiple fees. The attractiveness of such bundles differs by consumer segment.  For instance, more cost-sensitive flyers are attracted to bundles offering Wi-Fi, food and beverage, and baggage.  More affluent business and leisure segments seek bundles that extend to the terminal with services spanning concierge, on-board lounge access and luggage pick-up and delivery.  Flyers who travel frequently or have companions are more likely to pay for bundled ticket options that allow future flight changes.  Airlines have to carefully develop tiered and customizable packages with amenity options based on customer data and preferences.  Providing transparency of various fee structures and offering flexibility to flyers is also important to building goodwill.

Experience Radar also highlights how local culture and practices across developed and emerging markets impact different types of purchase decisions for consumers. The report delves into the various flying preferences of business and leisure flyers from Brazil, China, U.K. and the U.S. to show how certain flyers are more inclined to pay for various premiums depending on various cultural factors. 

For a copy of PwC’s Experience Radar, please visit: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/industrial-products/airlines-airports/index.jhtml. For more information on the survey methodology behind the Experience Radar series, visit: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/advisory/customer-impact/pwc-experience-radar.jhtml.

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