When Flight was Fun

I’m old enough to remember the days when Mom made me wear my “Sunday best” to fly on an airplane. Smoking was permitted in the back of the plane. Flights were seldom full. A generous meal tray was served for free even on domestic flights.

Today, flying is often a highly unpleasant experience—especially when things go wrong. Everyone has their horrors stories: the four hour taxi in a snow storm, only to finally return to the gate because the crew hit its time limits; the changes in “equipment” from a Boeing to an Airbus that completely scramble the carefully balanced seating arrangements; the wholesale shut down of travel in a region due to an air traffic control glitch.

The lack of control is bad enough, but the lack of communication is often where patience frays, and customers lose their cool.

So what can airlines do when a disruption hits, say, a flight is canceled?

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Customizing Responses

Currently, their bag of tricks includes rebooking on other flights, same carrier, seeking seats on other airlines, offering compensation (often including hotel accommodations), and offering refunds. But which offer would be most appealing for which flyers? Without understanding how passengers weigh different variables—how urgently they need to get to the destination, for example—it’s hard to match the right remedy to the specific passenger.

Unless, of course, you apply Code Halos thinking. That’s, as you’ll recall, the use of data generated by all flyers to determine what the likely form of compensation would be most appealing to specific flyers.

For example, gender, age, ethnicity and nationality, type of travel, frequent flyer status, social networking activity, and even device usage all figure into various likely behavioral profiles. In the white paper, How Airlines Can Deliver A Personalized Customer Experience During Operational Disruptions, Cognizant researched the different variables to create a series of four persona types: Refund Seekers, Explanation Seekers, Compensation Hunters, and Apology Acceptors.

This gives airlines a tool to determine not only what kind of compensation offer might go over best, but also the most appropriate way to deliver the news, and enable front line staffers to set expectations more accurately.

One company that’s well known for its over-the-top customer service is Etihad Airways. You might recall that they’ve recently embarked on a wholesale revamp of the entire travel experience—from booking to the cab ride back home. Robert Webb, Chief Information and Technology Officer of Etihad Airways, spoke at the Gartner ITxpo 2016 in Dubai about how he’s reimagining the entire customer experience with the help of Code Halos thinking. 

Connect with us at Future Travel Experience Global Forum

If you are planning to attend the September Future Travel Experience Global Forum, join Cognizant for a timely industry discussion on how airlines can deliver a personalized customer experience during operational disruptions. Banner_FY16-2703 - FTE banner1

Irene Sandler

Irene Sandler

Irene Sandler leads marketing for Cognizant's Emerging Business Accelerator and Cognizant Digital Works. She's based out of leafy Portland, Oregon.