Travel is a memorable experience.
And for airline brands in particular, travel presents a unique opportunity to interact with customers through multiple stages of their experience: from planning and booking to boarding and baggage. Multiple interactions also mean multiple opportunities for customers to have a positive – or negative – experience with a particular airline.
To win customers and build true loyalty, airlines must work to ensure travelers have an excellent experience at each of those stages. That starts with addressing – and eliminating – the most common stressors customers experience during airline travel.
The shopping experience
The shopping experience starts when customers begin searching for flights. They want to know: When should I buy a flight? How do I know I’m getting a fair or reasonable price? How do I know what’s available? The most common frustration customers experience during this phase is navigating fluctuating prices and availability. Shoppers often become uneasy or unsure that they’re getting a good deal or choosing the right flight for their specific wants or needs.
This might sound intuitive, but airlines can improve a customer’s shopping experience by attempting to eliminate confusion. Ensure your website (both mobile and desktop) are user-friendly and easy to navigate. Include information that’s honest and transparent about changing flight costs and availability.
Help customers be confident in their purchase decision by clearly communicating different flight options. Be clear about what each option does – and doesn’t – include so they can be sure they’re purchasing a flight that fulfills their needs.
The booking experience
Once a customer understands various flight prices and availability and they’ve selected an airline, they’re ready to book. One of the biggest stressors during the booking experience is understanding seat options. Customers want to know: Do I have a designated seat? If so, which seat is it: aisle, middle or window? Where is it located on the plane? Answering these questions is particularly important for families traveling with children who want to be sure they aren’t separated.
Seat selection is a crucial part of the booking flow. Though most airlines already ask customers about their seating preferences during the booking process, problems arise when the customer’s desired seat isn’t available, or worse, advanced seat assignment isn’t available at all. This is where airlines can help customers understand what not having an advanced seat assignment means for them.
If there are no seats available on a particular flight, explain why not. Tell them exactly what they need to do to be able to choose a particular seat: maybe that means picking a different flight date or purchasing an upgraded fare. Either way, they’ll stress less (read: have a better experience) about their seating arrangement if they know exactly what they’re signing up for ahead of time.
The traveling experience
The traveling experience begins when customers check in for their flight (usually 24 hours prior to departure) and doesn’t end until after they’ve picked up their checked baggage at their destination. The information airlines share – or don’t share – with customers during this time is crucial to ensure a seamless, positive traveling experience.
During this timeframe, tell travelers about the type of aircraft they’re traveling on and the amount of overhead bin space that will (or won’t) be available. Educate them about baggage options beyond just checking or not checking a bag. This is the time when they’ll likely be making those decisions.
This is a great time to pre-sell Wi-Fi and market helpful complimentary services like baggage tracking on their mobile device so travelers can see details about when their bags were scanned and which carousel they’ll be on after they arrive. Offer the option to utilize TSA PreCheck. Be clear that overhead bin space is usually at a premium and offer the option to upgrade and board the plane first if they want space for their carry on.
Communication is key
Most, if not all, airlines are providing the types of information listed above. However, the key is to make sure it’s is front and center throughout a customer’s airline travel experience. Show customers that what’s most important to them is most important to your brand.
Seating and baggage greatly impacts customer travel – don’t bury this information on separate tabs or links. Include it in their flight itinerary; it’s just as important as reminding them of their specific flight details. Make it easy for customers to book with you. Then continue to eliminate common causes of friction throughout their journey, even after they’ve purchased a ticket.
After all, whether or not they choose to travel with you again depends on their experience.