Last updated: Airline customer experience: How to win back the returning traveler

Airline customer experience: How to win back the returning traveler


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Americans are flying again as airlines regain their footing two years after COVID battered the industry. According to recent survey data from travel app TripIt, traveler optimism and air-travel readiness are at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

This is definitely welcome news for the airline industry, which has weathered so much uncertainty as to when the world could—and would—start traveling again.

The return of passengers provides a massive opportunity to improve airline customer experience and recapture customer loyalty. For some brands, it may be a matter of re-establishing old relationships. For others, it can be a chance at a do-over. For new airlines, it’s prime time to disrupt the  competition.

No matter what, now’s the time for airline brands to make a great impression and build loyal customers. Here’s how they can get started.

Improve airline customer experience with sparkling service

When customers are dealing with flight delays, cancelled flights, or lost luggage, the support an airline provides is absolutely critical. Brands need to provide prompt and empathetic customer service that goes the extra mile to resolve passenger problems.

Above all, airlines must make it easy to get information about their flight and any disruptions. That can include offering apps and other digital tools that allow them to track their flight, alert them to delays, and reschedule flights.

With many travelers today on social media, airlines should leverage social channels to provide real-time customer service. By providing immediate updates on delays, offering perks to ease a traveler’s pain, or simply engaging with a passenger one-on-one to make travel fun, an airline can take their CX to next level and earn customers for life.

Rethink customer loyalty programs

The airline industry’s frequent flier programs have a long, but bumpy history. Airline customers are familiar with the perks of being loyal to any one brand, including frequent flier miles, free upgrades, and free checked bags. But they also know how complicated and frustrating the programs can be.

Now is the perfect time to consider ways to refresh and improve your customer loyalty programs. Put a priority on transparency and ease-of-use, making it clear what customers get in return for their participation.

American Airlines recently launched an updated version of its loyalty program focused on making it easier for members to earn status. With the new single-metric system, members won’t have to track miles or dollars to earn status. Members also now have more ways to get status with benefits like priority check-in and boarding.

The personal touch 

From the moment a customer becomes familiar with a brand to the moment they become a frequent flier with an airline, there are many touchpoints along the customer journey where airlines can create great experiences. Brands should take advantage of these micro-experiences to build and reward customers for their loyalty.

Here’s where airlines can take customer experience to the next level by focusing on personalization.

Using data-driven insights about customer behaviors—repeat destinations, fare class and/or seat preferences, in-flight food and drink orders—airlines can take action on these insights to personalize the booking, check-in, and in-flight experiences, as well as other touchpoints. Personalized experiences help streamline travel and make the customer feel recognized and appreciated.

Specialized offers based on their preferences are memorable, making it more likely they’ll return.

Boost the digital experience

From digital boarding passes to contactless screening processes, the airline industry has come a long way in its digital transformation. But, as far as the customer is concerned, there are still many opportunities to create better experiences by continuing to go digital.

Airline industry leaders can set their brands apart by creating completely digital experiences for their customers. This includes:

  1. Partnering with the Transportation Security Administration (or local security screening agency) to offer touchless security screening; no physical ID required
  2. Using biometric screening for the boarding process; no boarding documents required
  3. Enabling customers to place food and drink orders right from their seat-back screens
  4. A seamless app experience that keeps travelers in the know, from flight notifications to airport maps to where (and when) to claim their luggage

Nowadays, airline customers expect a frictionless travel experience. By providing sterling service, delivering personalized experiences, and ramping up digital capabilities, the industry can bounce back stronger than ever.

Every digital moment matters.
Are you making the most of them?

1,000 business leaders dish on how to stand out from the crowd with a great CX. Get the details HERE. 

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