How mobile has led the evolution of customer service in air travel?Mark ForsterTravel
Air travel is generally considered a pampered way of traveling for customers. Providing Premier experience, such as well-maintained seating areas in airports, the beaming smile of the air hostess greeting you at the flight door and food served at your seat, has been the USP of this mode of travel. In fact, the level of service has today become uncompromisable in the fiercely competitive airlines industry. With the advent of the smartphone era, it’s natural that the expectations of service and the ways in which it could be delivered have evolved. In this blog, we look at what are the major contours of these changes, and what the airline industry stands to gain with the right moves.
One of the biggest changes in human requirements over the past quarter of a century, has been the need to stay connected. In the airlines sector, there have been solutions for this at different points in time. Initially, aircrafts utilised specialised phones connected to their systems that enabled users to make calls (these are still available in some aircrafts today), while, of late, few airlines have allowed restricted use of mobile phones to access some features like messages and emails.
Apart from regular and airline owned network options, third party network providers, like Gogo, are also entering the airline industry. They enable users to access audio and video services as well as WiFi networks during the flight. Additionally, most airports today offer free or paid wi-fi access to their customers and visitors. These facilities highlight the industry’s responsiveness to latch on to emerging technologies, also creates an important foundation to evolving towards the smartphone era. Let’s now look at where all mobile phones can fit or are already fitting into the process of flight travel.
The process of travelling in an airplane begins with planning one’s travel and purchasing tickets, which used to be a time consuming activity not very long ago. Internet changed that. Today, we have hundreds of websites that enable users to find and book tickets. With the smartphone boom, mobile app developers are taking over this process and most traditional planning and booking websites have launched connected apps to enable customers to plan their travel while on the move and also be able to purchase tickets quickly.
In parallel, The customers’ expectations of service have also changed. Users now expect to get a quick response to their queries from airlines and find quick solutions on mobile platforms, depending on which, users lose no time to take to social media platforms like Twitter to air their love or discomfort.
In addition, mobile apps such as iPhone’s passbook have been instrumental in providing travellers a paperless, and therefore less hassle, way of procuring and managing tickets through to checking in. Therefore, it is not surprising that, most airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Virgin atlantic and British Airways, have launched their own mobile apps by working with app developers to enable users to plan, book and manage their tickets. However, the possibilities don’t end there.
Along with the features discussed already, airlines mobile apps allow for interacting with the airline staff - for example for requesting information or changes. These apps can also quickly update the users via push notifications to let the customers know of any changes in flight timings and departure gates. Also, airline companies can personalise the airport experience by notifying flyers of their check in time and calling them to the gate at the right time.
And it’s not just airlines that can take advantage of the ubiquitous smartphones. Airports could also enhance the customer journey using mobile apps. One example is the Heathrow mobile app, that enables customers and visitors to interact with the airport and its services. These apps provide the users with airport timing updates, shop listings information and terminal maps. More features can be implemented by mobile app developers which enable users to interact with new technologies like iBeacon, which can tell the customers how to move around the airport efficiently and to show relevant locations, making the daunting process of air travel a seamless experience for the traveller.
Do you have any ideas that would change the face of airline industry using mobile apps? Is there something we missed above? Let us know!