3 Digital CX Changes Airlines Should Make in the Post-Pandemic Era

Panasonic Avionics< Panasonic Avionics
03/09/22 5 MIN READ

Whether you were working remotely, distance-learning, or simply looking to stay connected to far-flung family and friends, chances are your use of digital technology skyrocketed over the past two years.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans said the internet was essential or important to them during the biggest peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 40% said they used digital technology in new or different ways than they had in the past. As a result, our familiarity with apps, high-speed connectivity, and personalization has also grown.

And while it’s true that some people have developed internet fatigue from doing so much more of their former face-to-face interactions online, there are some online consumer habits that are here to stay. In commercial aviation, we are seeing greater interest in touchless and less-touch solutions for core elements of the passenger journey, including ID verification, baggage tracking, boarding, and in-flight entertainment.

“The world has changed over the past two years, and that has had a profound impact on our industry and passenger expectations,” says Andrew Mohr, Vice-President of Digital Solutions at Panasonic Avionics. “Many passengers will now book flights expecting things like high-speed Wi-Fi, customizable digital environments, a better suite of IFEC offerings, and a more hybridized, integrated passenger experience.”

Certainly, now with airport traffic gradually increasing, airlines and their partners are taking even closer looks at the relationship between passengers and technology. That includes improving and scaling up stop-gap measures put in place during the pandemic, fostering greater cabin and airport innovation, and providing flexible tools that can meet the needs of the wide variety of people who travel by plane. We can see it already taking shape in airlines of various size across the world, including United Airlines’ major narrow-body overhaul, Aeroflot’s upgraded IFEC solutions for its entire fleet, or Air Belgium adding connectivity to its new Airbus A330neo wide-body planes.

What’s evident, though, is that a return to pre-pandemic travel volume is not a return to pre-pandemic protocols. The big question now is, how can airlines meet evolving customer experience (CX) expectations, while simultaneously promoting inclusive digital transformation and staying on budget?

The three critical areas below are ones that will not only help your airline recover from the pandemic, but also help you set yourself up to meet future demands with agility and relative ease.

Bringing Mobile & Wi-Fi Services Up to Speed

As carriers worldwide strive to upgrade their passenger experience, they must first keep the needs of passengers top of mind, and a consistently major need is some form of connectivity.

Through our own research with airline partners, we’ve learned that passengers want both mobile use and Wi-Fi services, and that uptake for either service grows by as much as 3x when both are available. That said, actual passengers’ bandwidth demand does not grow in direct correlation to availability or speed; rather, they mostly like having both because it gives them the option of being able to pick and choose which to use and when—like they do at home. That’s important intel when you consider that there are now more people in the world who own a smartphone and use it to connect to the internet, than those who don’t. As such, mobile devices have become a permanent part of the passenger experience, and airlines need to accommodate that reality by providing their customers with a suite of connectivity choices.

“Aside from enhancing the overall passenger experience, maximizing passenger take rates by offering both solutions inflight also offers carriers a great, forward-thinking way to boost ancillary revenues opportunities as well,” says Mohr.

Embracing New Ways to Drive Personalization

One of the main reasons passengers like to bring their own phones, tablets, and other smart devices is because those things are already personalized to them.

How can an airline match that?

One way is to use the seatback IFE system, airline app, and connectivity services to identify and greet each passenger, and allow them to configure their cabin experience using the supplied technology. Another is to enable passengers to use their own devices as IFE system remotes or second screens. Or, you can offer something totally unique and special to the IFE seatback format, giving passengers experiences they can’t have on their phones.

All of these possible routes give you options to personalize the experience for passengers (e.g. in-flight retail, destination services and weather forecasts, end-to-end transportation services), as well as empower them to customize certain aspects of their journey, such as luggage tracking, ambient lighting, food options, and so on.

Whichever configurations you choose, the post-pandemic passenger experience is guaranteed to greatly rely on personalization. Enabling it whenever and however you can will lead to greater engagement, new monetization opportunities, and potentially even greater passenger loyalty, notes Mohr. “When passengers find an airline that provides the combination of services they like, they will often look there first when booking their next trip.”

Data insights driven by your personalization efforts will let you know what you’re doing right—and sometimes wrong—and allow you to react to that data with more agility than in the past. Panasonic Avionics’ NEXT Insights offers you both high-level and granular data into your airline’s strengths and weaknesses.

Exploring New IFEC Innovations

Another innovative way to welcome pandemic-weary passengers back into the cabin is by expanding their existing IFEC options beyond movies, television, and games to offer them entertainment tailor-made for travelers.

We recently introduced the kid-approved Arc for Young Explorers, which reimagines the moving map concept with a host of interactive features, colorful 3D graphics, Jurassic-era trivia, and more.

We’re also rolling out new Bluetooth capabilities, 4K screens, secure in-seat payment options, health and wellness IFE content, live and on-demand viewing, and a wide range of other innovations that together make flying a more delightful experience.

Refreshing Your Offering with Strategic Tech Investments

Now that passengers around the world are resuming travel, your airline has an opportunity—and maybe even a responsibility—to bring to passengers the kinds of innovations that will deliver comfort, ease, and entertainment in still-uncertain times.

As Mohr notes, that means bringing the digital innovations that transformed our world during the past two years into the airplane cabin. That, he says, is the best way to attract and engage passengers in 2022 and beyond.

“Like the industry itself, passenger needs and expectations changed dramatically during the pandemic,” says Mohr. “Carriers who embrace change and this ‘new normal’ of air travel directly will find themselves at the front of the digital transformation movement”.

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