Sabre Airline Solutions recently released a special report on the airline customer experience – a hot topic for airline leaders across the globe. Written by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the report highlights insightful findings from survey research and in-depth interviews with industry executives. This is one in a series of blogs on the key takeaways from the report.
Tomorrow’s travelers will increasingly become human “data packets” – constantly transmitting and receiving digital information. Details about reservations, flight updates and payments will be combined with GPS locations, weather and traffic changes, restaurant reviews, and social media profiles. Airlines that can collect, analyze and act upon this information will have a better understanding of their customers’ needs and personal preferences.

Viewing travelers as data packets is not as cold as it sounds; the approach would allow airlines to minimize inefficiencies and maximize personalization. This makes for happier customers who arrive at their destinations on time.

With less room to cut at the low-cost end or add on the luxury end, United’s EVP for marketing, technology & strategy, Jeff Foland, sees the industry poised to go through a “technology-enabled renaissance,” focused on tailoring the customer experience to the benefit of the passenger. Clearly, data is central to that vision. [1]

United handles 3.5 petabytes (or 3.5 million gigabytes) of customer data, he points out. “The challenge,” he says, “is making that data come alive, so we get a better picture of the individual customer.”[1]

“In the next 10 years, technology, and information technology in particular, will be what matters most” in improving industry service and efficiency, says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a boutique research and advisory firm focused on the global travel industry. Better and more sophisticated use of information — across the full trip, from the moment travelers begin researching flights to their post-trip feedback — can help airlines achieve greater efficiencies and deliver a more personalized experience. How data are collected, used and transmitted can even bring to business class and coach some of the features of first class. [1]

Making sure that they have the most complete data packet possible is the first step for airlines if they want to deliver a seamless yet balanced interaction – trips that are coolly efficient, but warmly personal.

  • Read more about viewing customers as “data packets”.
  • Download the PDF article on viewing customers as “data packets”.
[1]          The Economist Intelligence Unit, “The future of air travel: Improved personalisation and profits through the integrated use of customer data,” Sabre Airline Solutions, Southlake, 2014.