In the recent past, if there is just one industry that’s been through a rough patch, it’s the aviation industry. From skyrocketing fuel prices to mysterious disappearances, it’s been a wild ride for both passengers and airlines alike. Yet, amidst all the chaos, one thing that remained constant: the importance of the customer experience.
That’s why Clootrack, a customer experience analytics platform, recently conducted a study to determine key findings about the airline customer experience. The study analyzed over 27,000 customer reviews from the world’s top 12 airlines and found that the top five customer concerns are customer service, flight delay, flight cancellation, boarding, and booking experience. It’s almost like the airlines are playing a game of bingo with their customers ‘ frustrations.
But what’s causing all of this dissatisfaction?
The first concern is customer service.
If you’re a frequent flyer, you’ve probably experienced unresponsive staff and a lack of communication during flight disruptions. According to the report, 67% of 14,000 travelers ratings had an unfavorable experience with customer service. This discontent produces problems for airlines, which must prioritize enhancing the consumer experience.
The second concern is flight delays.
For a frequent traveler, delays are typical, yet they continue to be a source of frustration for passengers. The sub-themes that form part of a flight delay include disruption of travel plans, a lack of customer service and support, a lack of communication and refunds, meal vouchers and hotels, and the cost of further flights and hotels.
The third concern is flight cancellation.
Unexpected cancellations, repeated cancellations, problems with the cancellation window, problems with the cancellation process, unhelpful customer service agents, lack of hotel accommodations, meal credits, compensation, and free Wi-Fi are some of the subtopics that make passengers fume.
The fourth concern is boarding.
Passengers are annoyed by the delays in boarding, inefficient boarding processes, long queues, and unhelpful customer service agents.
The fifth concern is the booking experience.
Passengers are fed up with complicated booking processes, errors in booking, lack of transparency, and unhelpful support.
From cramped seats to culinary complaints: addressing the issues
Let’s not forget about the major disparities in the customer experience between business and economy classes. Economy class passengers feel cramped in narrow seating, lack legroom, and are annoyed by the hard seats with little cushioning. The food and beverage options are often bland and skimpy. The catering issue is made worse by the inadequate food and beverage selections. These are scarce in both amount and variety, frequently bland, meager, and unsuitable for the duration of the journey. Business class passengers, on the other hand, get to enjoy comfortable seats, lot of legroom, and a variety of high-quality food and beverage selections.
Again, not all passengers are happy with the airline experience. Particularly women frequently express dissatisfaction with the quality and selection of food offered during flights. Airlines appear to be still figuring out how to cater to female interests when it comes to in-flight dining. On the other hand, men seem to be content with the beverages and meal service. Perhaps it’s because they’re just glad to have a cold beer in their hand when flying at 30,000 feet. Who can say?
When it comes to popular customer profiles, the study found that airlines still see a lot of solo leisure travel, couple leisure, and family leisure travel. It seems that despite the rise of remote work, people still crave a good old-fashioned getaway.
However, not all flights are created equal. Customer service tends to be a sore spot for flights from Miami and Manchester, while flights starting from Doha tend to have higher negative experiences around ‘flight delay.’ Passengers on Dubai flights, on the other hand, reported greater negativity with baggage. It just goes to show how diverse the flight experience can be depending on the route and airline you choose.
What can airlines do to improve customer experience and keep their customers happy?
So, what can we take out of this? Well, for starters, airlines need to focus on the basics.
According to the study, efficient customer service that demonstrates empathy is the key. In the event of a disruption, such as a flight delay or cancellation, passengers expect clear and prompt notification.
Airlines must train their staff to be more helpful and responsive. Quick responses to passenger concerns, such as arranging alternative flights, refunds, complimentary meals, accommodations, and local transportation, can help build a positive image and long-term relationships.
Maintaining high transparency in operations and activities can also help build customer trust and positive relationships. Airlines must interact with their consumers as soon as possible and offer them with as much information as feasible.
In-flight entertainment, plush seating, and scrumptious food and beverage options can all contribute to a better customer experience. Legroom, friendly service, and decent food are still paramount when it comes to the overall customer experience.
Additionally, airlines need to remember that different customers have different needs. Women, for example, may enjoy a wider variety of food options, whilst men may be more interested in beverage options.
Ultimately, the airline business exemplifies the significance of the passenger experience. Whether going to a business meeting or on vacation, you want to know that your needs are being met. Airlines can stay on top of their game by listening to their customers and addressing their issues.
After all, the sky may be tumultuous, but airlines can assure a smooth flight for their customers with a little attention to detail.
Global Airline Industry Trends: Customer Review Analysis of Top 12 Airlines Worldwide offers a look into the minute details of what passengers expect from airlines.
Join the discussion on the CX See Why show hosted by Dan Gingiss, an international CX keynote speaker. He was joined by Noam Alon, Captain of a major U.S. airline, to discuss customer experience in the airline industry.
Uma Bhat is a Customer Experience and Consumer Insights leader at Clootrack, a real-time customer experience analytics platform. Uma is focused on helping brands to decode customer data and transform customer feedback into intelligence.