The challenge for airlines is how to react to rapid changes in customer behaviour: to create a personalised UX and be ‘always on’

The air travel industry is focussed on ways of driving greater satisfaction for the 4.3 billion global passengers who, more and more, expect the same sort of digital engagement at 35,000 feet as they enjoy on the ground. Recent market research reports are forecasting $30 billion ancillary revenue market size by 2035 from digitising inflight passenger experience.

Millennials currently represent the largest passenger group, with more than 1 billion travelling globally each year. Within a decade, Generation Z and Next Gen will each represent around 1.2 billion forecast passengers*. 

Yet it is apparent that the inflight engagement as it stands has been slow to keep up with the rapid changes in customer behaviour seen in the last decade or so. In this case, the main target market that the airlines have to cater to are the Millennials (aka Generation Y, born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (1997-2012).

These are, of course, the first generations to grow up with internet access, which naturally creates expectations that the savviest airlines are now responding to.

They have a digitally-enabled engagement approach both before and during travel. These passengers no longer want to be limited.

They have less customer loyalty than previous generations – criteria such as in-flight connectivity, price, layover duration etc. dictate their airline preference, which is why catering to their demands is important for airlines to gain market share and stay relevant in a competitive industry landscape.

What does this generation want?

Next Gen Desire 1: Always on Mobile

As well they might: in 2018, Millennials were already the largest passenger demographic of all (1,075,000,000); a figure which, by 2028, Generation Z (1,248,000,000) are forecast to surpass. 97% of Millennials and Generation Z-ers own smartphones – a figure that perhaps won’t come as a surprise. And, as the report details, such relentless connectivity shapes their preferences and attitudes.

Interpersonal Connection

Stay connected using social media, instant messaging

Self-Expression

Express themselves online

Convenience

Control over what they want to see, why they want to see

Next Gen Desire 2: On-the-move and impulsive buying

Travel, for Millennials, is seen as a necessity – integral to building life and work skills.’Generation Z, meanwhile, are digitally native, impulse buyers and have a ‘you only live once’ attitude. What both have in common, however, is a tendency to be destination indecisive and to book, if not at the last minute, then while actually travelling. Similar to on-ground experiences, passengers expect the same level of personalization and customization in-flight.

Factor in two fundamental desires of both groups – to be ‘always on’ with the expectation of a personalised UX – and the ways in which airlines can satisfy changing passenger demand and increase yields.

With these segments representing the dominant travel group for the foreseeable future, airlines must embrace their desires. Aligning airline connectivity-enabled cabin offerings with consumer demand to generate additional revenue while building loyalty, should be a strategy no airline can defer implementing.

But how?

By catering to this passenger segments’ need for personalized on-demand services. From revitalised WiFi based, onboard experience, to tailored e-commerce and destinations offers from ‘marketplaces’, creating unique digital experiences onboard is how airlines can create brand differentiation and loyalty. Airlines can access passenger data based on their preferences and past bookings to offer value-added and connected  services. 

An onboard experience such as this needs the right platform on which to flourish, which is where FrontM comes in. Our recipe is a range of engaging AI apps with features such as moving maps with POI, inflight social sharing network, in-flight quizzes infused with e-commerce rewards and creative shopping experiences. Moreover, our platform enables partners to create their own bespoke apps.

Our test cohorts are often school students. Because if Millennials and Generation Z are the future of air travel, we want FrontM technology to meet and exceed their expectations. 

Join us and help shape the future.

*Source: Dr Alexander Grous,2019, LSE High Sky Economics Chapter 3

Shagun Sahni

Author Shagun Sahni

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