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Examining the Passenger Experience

While the aviation industry struggles with the impacts of COVID-19, some airlines are looking at this as an opportunity to address systemic customer service problems in addition to the safety and hygiene efforts.  While some airline executives have been saying for some time that the travel industry sells "dreams," what is ultimately delivered is often something more akin to a nightmare.

Lufthansa Innovation Hub (LIH) is taking a data-driven approach to identify major issues in the passenger experience to help carriers address them, while also helping them build on areas passengers feel positively about.

The study examined 15,000 reviews of 12 major airlines on the website Tripadvisor.  The reviews are from 2019, so the data are not biased by the global pandemic. 

The research also divides the reviews into relevance and sentiment, with relevance representing how often a specific topic comes up and sentiment indicating if a review is positive, neutral or negative.

Not surprisingly, flight disruption – with 20 percent of the reviews – was the #1 issue.  Refreshments (15 percent); on-board services (13 percent); carry-on luggage (11 percent), and punctuality (9 percent) rounded out the top five areas of concern. 

LIH also put together a framework, the Relevance-Satisfaction Matrix, to start improving the passenger experience.  The idea of the matrix is to help airlines identify what to tackle first, based on customer priority and current satisfaction levels.  Issues surfacing in airline reviews are then plotted on the matrix.

The study also looks deeper into each review to see what specifically customers are unhappy about.

With flight disruption, for example, the majority of complaints are around communication as well as the ticket rebooking process. Passengers also expressed a desire to handle the process themselves.

Additional findings in the study reveal that while customers want onboard entertainment, they are also happy to consume it via their own devices.

The research points to Iberia, which introduced an in-flight entertainment platform accessible via consumers’ devices and reports a 35% increase in customer satisfaction after implementing it.