Cost-Effective Ways to Improve the Airline Passenger Experience – Part II

Pilot smiling with flight attendants

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Dr. Jennifer Yugo, and I wrote about research-proven tips to increase the airline passenger experience. As margins continue to shrink in this high-fixed cost industry, airlines must constantly look for innovative ways to improve the passenger experience. As we mentioned in the  previous blog, airlines deal with a post 9-11 world coupled with shrinking profit margins, fuel costs, heavy regulation, and the need to attract a diverse demographic. So how can an airline differentiate themselves from a sky of other airlines, especially when they are all going through the same struggles?

Building strategies that improve the passenger experience is one sure-fire way. But why is the passenger experience so important? Because it builds loyalty to your brand; and with so much ample competition, building loyalty is a significant consideration. Speaking from a passengers’ point of view, and as someone who has spent their fair share of time on a plane, I require a few things when I am flying: a safe airplane, skilled pilots, a reasonable ticket price, and a variety of departure times and options. I expect a few other things: on-time departures, to be treated respectfully, an efficient boarding process, frequent flyer benefits, and an overall smooth flying experience (sans turbulence, of course). What do I value? I value an airline that cares enough about me as a passenger to hire people who actually enjoy going above and beyond to meet my needs and expectations. People that want to WOW me, regardless of the price I paid for the ticket. That simply means doing the little things: showing genuine compassion, humor, friendliness, and a great attitude, regardless of the type of passenger they are dealing with. It’s someone who is a great fit for the job and really loves it, and it’s those personal qualities and attributes that really impact the passenger experience.

There is a lot of information out there that delivers ideas on how to improve the passenger experience. Unfortunately, much of it is pretty expensive. Here are a few more passenger-centric solutions that can have huge returns with little investment:

  • Define Your Culture. An intentional culture sustains success by defining what you believe and what you value. Culture is the core values and beliefs held and lived by your team that determines what your brand looks like to passengers. How do you care for your passengers? What do you want to be known for? How do you elicit passenger loyalty? Why is it important? It all starts with defining the foundation of your culture, and what success looks like for your brand. Then, hire only those people that fit within that framework.
  • Hire Flight Attendants That Foster and an Emotional Connection with Passengers. As I mentioned, being treated respectfully is something I expect. But Flight Attendants that go above and beyond set an airline apart from the competition. For example, someone who demonstrates empathy at the appropriate time, that can emotionally connect with passengers, and actually cares about doing that. Someone who does more, even when doing less would be acceptable. This helps foster brand loyalty.
  • Measure Pilot Professionalism. Pilots can be an important addition to helping improve the passenger experience. Pilots that present themselves in a professional manner and communicate to passengers essential information at the appropriate time can assist in building brand loyalty. There are even Federal requirements for standards of professionalism for commercial and private pilots. Innovative assessments that measure pilot professionalism can help weed through the thousands of highly qualified pilots that all have the required flight time, licensure, ratings, and experience. A positive passenger experience does not have to be left solely to the Flight Attendants.
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A myriad of research has shown that improving the passenger experience is not just the right thing to do, but it’s critical to building a business that lasts. Taking genuine care of your passengers will give an airline the edge they need to not only remain competitive, but to create loyalty.

This is the second part of our series, Lean But Not Mean, where we’ll highlight ways you can provide remarkable stakeholder experiences while reducing costs and increasing profits. Next week, we will continue to address other research-proven tips to increase the passenger experience. Stay tuned!

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