airline travel
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“Focus on what customers care about most. Next, make sure to set realistic expectations and then exceed them, preferably in helpful and unexpected ways”.

That was the advice Richard Branson offered a new entrepreneur about airline travel and forms the basis of the research behind Amadeus’ new study, Embracing airline digital transformation: a spotlight on what travellers value.

The study reveals that customers value three main things when travelling: product, service and convenience. Which of these three elements carries the most weight, will depend on the traveller and the reason for the trip.

  • Product: “It’s a long flight – I want as much legroom as possible.”
  • Service: “I want to feel like my holiday has started as soon as I step on the plane.”
  • Convenience: “I need a direct flight; I don’t have time for a stopover.”

On any given journey, a customer may place a different value on each component, depending on the context of their flight.

The budget traveller will think: “I need the cheapest flight possible, I can’t afford to splash out, and I’m not in a rush.”

For the business traveller, convenience will likely have the most importance. He’ll want to travel to his destination from the closest airport and won’t have time for a stopover.

Product is key for the frequent flyer, who wants to fly on a comfortable aircraft with ample space, whereas the family traveller will place a higher value on service. “I’m travelling with a baby for the first time. I’ll need some support before and during the flight, so I want friendly, helpful staff.”

While travellers bring their own values to the flight booking process, they are open to being sold something they didn’t know they wanted – as long as the purchase makes sense.

This provides an opportunity for airlines to present their offers in ways that move beyond price, leveraging data to provide a more personalised offer that improves conversion, satisfaction, and brand loyalty.

However, currently travellers still find the choices to be overwhelming when they search for flights. Our research found that only 14% of travellers find it easy to compare airline offers based on attributes other than price. Yet these components are key when it comes to making the decision.

In an online ecosystem of overwhelming choice, airlines that exert influence over a traveller’s decision-making process, and help to remove some of the complexity, are the ones that will appear to have the most attractive offering.