COVID-19 impacted business everywhere, but probably none was hit harder than the airline industry. Revenues plummeted as much as 60% in 2020 and aren’t expected to recover any time before 2024 fully. Arguably worse than the economic repercussions, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people think and feel about air travel. Who isn’t wary of spending hours in an enclosed cabin with a mass of strangers?
Airlines, therefore, need to prioritize making people feel good about flying again – as, with so many industries in this COVID-affected era, customer experience (CX) is key. Here are some approaches companies can consider fueling their journey to recovery:
Emphasize safety measures. Negative COVID test results are currently required for people to be allowed to travel. This is usually presented as an unfortunate necessity but should be explained as what it is – a guarantee that everyone traveling alongside you has, like you, tested COVID-negative. Other options, like online check-in and seat upgrades, can be highlighted to assure minimal contact before and during flights.
Make it as easy as possible. With rules and restrictions constantly changing, as vaccination progresses globally, travel requirements have become more intricate and confusing than ever before. Airline CX needs to guide passengers through the pre-travel process, not just with a link to or cut-and-paste version of convoluted regulatory legalese, but perhaps a simplified checklist paired with timely push notifications.
Anticipate customers’ challenges. Some airlines already offer easy, free flight cancellation, rebooking, and refunds, but that still leaves travelers scrambling to find safe transportation and hotels at their destination, particularly if post-travel quarantine stays are required. Providing something as simple as links to quarantine hotels or socially distanced restaurants can make a big difference in the customer experience.
Get ready for ‘revenge travel.’ Hearteningly, 77% of surveyed consumers have stated they’d be more likely to travel internationally once vaccinated. So companies need to be prepared, with not just the ability to ramp up CX and other personnel quickly, but the digital and operational infrastructure to handle any sudden surge in bookings. Online and self-serve capabilities should be in place to minimize possible bottlenecks.