Faster flight updates would boost airline loyalty
Airlines are missing a big opportunity to strengthen both customer loyalty and customer service while reducing operational costs, according to a gate-side survey conducted by real-time flight information service FlightView.
While most travellers understand that flight delays are simply part of flying, and are often completely unavoidable, the survey found that frustration skyrockets when they are left in the dark around flight delays, with 78% saying they are "often frustrated by the lack of timely, accurate information" about delays.
The survey, which was conducted at four major US airports, revealed that 70% of travellers expect to be given updates on flight changes in real-time, despite the fact that relatively few airlines actually do so.
When flights are delayed, 45% of travellers said their biggest frustration was not knowing where their plane was, or when it would arrive. Another 34% said their biggest frustration was not receiving fast enough or accurate enough updates on new departure times. In both cases, the lack of information was felt to create a more stressful travel experience.
The problem is further magnified when travellers are sitting at the gate waiting to take off. More than 60% of travellers report being either "frustrated" or "very frustrated" when they are already at the gate and they learn that their flight has been delayed. Consequently, the company argues, in addition to declining customer satisfaction, failing to provide at-the-gate flight updates and information could also cost airlines financially.
When travellers learn that their flights have been delayed while at the gate and they can't get enough information on a new take-off time:
- 62% are frustrated or very frustrated;
- 40% said they consider avoiding that airline the next time they fly;
- 22% say it's partly why they don't like flying and may avoid flying, if possible, the next time they travel.
Another major at-the-gate frustration for travellers is conflicting flight information. A full 80% of travellers have received conflicting information from different sources such as gate displays, mobile apps, websites and gate agents. Nearly 20% said it happens on a regular basis. According to Mike Benjamin, CEO for FlightView, "When airlines fail to communicate with travellers about the status of their flights, frustration levels rise. And when an airline's website shows different information than the gate, travellers tend to panic."
Sources of flight information that are most trusted include:
- Airline gate agents (50%);
- Gate displays (30%);
- Mobile flight-tracking apps (20%);
- Airline websites (20%).
For budget-conscious airlines, the fact that so many travellers trust gate agents more than displays presents a critical resource problem. The issue, according to FlightView, lies within the gate displays which are often not equipped with enough information to keep travellers informed properly or quickly enough.
For airlines interested in improving customer satisfaction, the message is clear: 70% of travellers said that the number one improvement they would like to see from airlines is updates that are more comprehensive on the status of delayed flights.
"In the next year, we expect to see a major shift in the kind of information airlines provide to travellers on gate displays. Estimated departure times are no longer enough: passengers want to know where their plane is, when it's expected to arrive, when they should plan to board, when it's scheduled to take off, and when it's expected to land," concluded Benjamin. "The good news for airlines and airports is that once this information is incorporated into gate displays, the customer service demand placed on gate agents will decrease, allowing them to focus on other priorities."