Collecting data for airlines
Airlines can use airport passenger research to develop new services.
Did your last flight meet your expectations? Would you recommend us to a friend? Airlines love asking you these questions a day or two after your flight. The results are used to calculate as satisfaction rating and a “net promoter score” (NPS) indicating whether you would recommend the airline’s flights to friends and family.
Better NPS scores translate into more customer loyalty, higher demand and more sales, higher revenue and boosted profits.
The metrics are designed to be measurable and meaningful, with questions like “would you recommend us to a friend?” Yes, no or maybe answers are comparable across everyone who answered the question. Alternatives like giving a score out of ten create ambiguity as one person’s nine is another person’s seven.
But many people complete these surveys hours or even days after the flight is over. By then the journey has become a distant memory and things that people loved and hated at the time are forgotten.
Whizzy revenue management tells airlines everything they need to know about how tickets are bought and should be priced. Data generated from call centres and post-flight interactions help understand complaints and issues with servicing. But the airlines know next to nothing about their passengers as individuals and how they feel on trips.
At Surveyapp we reckon that the best time to learn about how people really experience travel is during the journey itself.
What better time is there to understand how people feel about the airline and airport than immediately after they went through security, got off a plane or picked up their bags? A smartphone survey 48 hours later will tend to understate the positive or negative emotions a passenger felt at the time.
There are three categories of questions that airlines can answer to learn more about their passengers by conducting research in the airport.
Opportunity 1 – how was your flight really?
First is how they enjoyed their flight. Passengers getting off flights want to get home as quickly as possible, so research kiosks placed at arrivals gates are unlikely to generate many responses. But while people wait at baggage reclaim they have some time – kiosks and download-a-survey QR code posters placed here will do better. Some questions airlines might be interested to answer include:
Are passengers feeling well rested after a flight? Particularly relevant for overnight flights in premium cabins or longhaul flights in any cabin
Are people hungry – did the airline’s meals do their job?
Are people waiting too long for their bags?
What are people going to do next? Like going to their home, office or hotel.
Asking these questions at the point of arrival will give robust and reliable answers that are emotionally raw. The results will tell airlines how well their in-flight service is performing. It may also identify areas for investment or show where previous investment has delivered good results.
Opportunity 2 – what do you want to buy?
The second type of insight that airlines can obtain as part of airport passenger research is what people do immediately before their flights. Some will go shopping, others will enjoy a meal or drink and lucky frequent flyers might access a plush lounge (see article).
There may be opportunities for airlines and airport retailers to boost demand by working together. For example, if airlines learn that a passenger enjoys buying handbags or shoes at their hub airport, they can proactively send a promotion or voucher valid at an accessories shop at the passenger’s turnaround airport. When the passenger arrives for their return flight they then already know where to go shopping.
The restaurants and cafes which passengers choose in the airport might indicate the sort of food and drink they enjoy. Airlines can then recommend suitable venues in the destination city, with a promo or sweetener inspiring the passenger to visit.
The retailer benefits due to improved awareness and more people coming in to buy. The airline can benefit if they earn a commission or referral fee. As airlines like AirAsia begin to operate their super-apps and the industry gets creative with IATA’s New Distribution Capability, a communications standard, the necessary back-end systems to make this work will be put in place.
Retailing opportunities need not be confined to the time that passengers spend in airports. Take away the time for check-in, security and getting to the gate, and a three hour airport experience might only allow an hour to 90 minutes in the shops.
But the passenger might then spend anywhere between five and fifteen hours on a longhaul flight. They are a captive audience for retailing content that airlines can stream through the in-flight entertainment system or on-board Internet.
This technology has high potential to revolutionise duty free. No longer will products need to be loaded in small drawers and trolleys in a space-constrained galley. In the future passengers will be able to buy-on-board and have the products delivered to them at the arrivals gate.
Even passengers who do not buy might have a better flight if the airline uses the space saved to load tasty treats. London-based British Airways gives all it’s longhaul economy class passengers travelling on daylight flights a Magnum. This large ice cream lolly covered in chocolate is popular in the UK and surprises and delights passengers halfway through the flight.
When on-board retailing services are rolled out they will start generating rich data about what does and does not sell on flights. But to get started airlines will need to use data collected from airports about how travellers shop. This will help identify the right products and services to prioritise on each flight.
As passengers swipe their boarding passes to make a duty free purchase, it should be possible to tailor retail offers depending on the flight’s origin and destination. Since goods are not needed on the plane itself, just at the arrivals gate, there will be much more flexibility to offer a wide range of services.
In some cases, airlines might be able to earn a significant portion of a passenger’s ticket price in retail sales commission.
Opportunity 3 – are you feeling hungry?
Many passengers will spend time at airports enjoying a meal or a drink at a restaurant or café. So as well as recommending venues in a destination there are implications of learning about passenger activities in the airport for airline catering too. When flights are characterised by people dining in the terminal, the airlines might be able to save money by loading less catering. Sometimes people will not eat in the terminal and then airlines will need full catering.
Matching catering load to demand in this way will help airlines spend their food and beverage budget where it makes the most difference. It will help cut food waste and be good for emissions too – taking off meals that will go uneaten saves weight so planes burn less fuel.
It is even possible in the medium to longer term that flight catering could become dynamic. Airlines who know that most passengers on a flight to New York have already eaten and most passengers on a flight to Nairobi have not could offload catering from New York and send it to Nairobi instead. Less waste and more happy passengers.
Innovation in securing quality data is key
Collecting data about how passengers experience airports is not just helpful for airlines developing new services, the airports benefit too. In the same way that airlines will earn commission from selling duty free on-board, when the products are available at the arrivals gate airports can earn a share too.
The better the data is, the more closely offers will be aligned with what passengers want, and happy passengers will be glad to buy more leading to revenue growth.
That’s why we have developed the Surveyapp Survey Kiosk, which uses iPads to collect rich, detailed survey responses. We’re not just about physical terminals either – our surveys can be delivered straight to a passenger’s smart phone when they scan a QR code on a poster.
By collecting robust and rigorous insights into how passengers experience the airport we are ready to play our part in the airport data revolution. Are you ready to join us? Get in touch.
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We always love to talk about how airports can use data. You can get in touch with us:
oliver AT Surveyapp DOT io
savio AT Surveyapp DOT io