Knowing what the customer wants and what makes for a positive customer experience at the airport is very important. It is a very rigorous process which brings out insights that an airport can use to make for better passenger journeys.
Beyond knowing what the customer wants will be the actions taken as a result of such knowledge. In carrying out market research, there have been instances of customers expressing doubts as to the relevance of their voice. They would have possibly filled several questionnaires and attended various stakeholder meetings for which there was no implementation over matters that were the pain points of these customers.
The results of the recently released 2023 Global Passenger Survey, by the International Air Transport Association, ( IATA), which is the global trade association for airlines, will require airports in Africa to invest in technology, cybersecurity and keep an eye on payment methods to ensure that customer experience is improved upon. Investing in technology will require having an IT strategic plan so that technology acquisition follows a consistent pattern which adds value. Acquiring different hardware and sometimes incompatible software can result from the absence of an IT strategic plan.
The report revealed that passengers continue to give top priority to speed and convenience and are at the same time increasingly embracing biometrics and off-airport processes to deliver it. So they want to spend less time booking their flights and also move faster through the airport. This should inform the IT strategy to be adopted by airports as they work towards using IT to make for a positive customer experience. It is this positive customer experience that adds value to the bottom line and as such IT will not be seen as a cost but as a vehicle for value addition.
The fact that the report shows that travellers are increasingly willing to use biometric data to complete more pre-departure tasks off-airports has implications for planning and strategy. The willingness to use a system will be complemented by the ability to use the same. So airports will have to invest in educating their customers on the systems being adopted well ahead of full implementation.
The report further reveals that passengers want convenience when they plan their travel and when choosing from where to depart. They prefer to fly from an airport close to home, have all booking options and services available in one single place and pay with their preferred payment method. So as some airports approach their peak month activity, along with insecurity that makes air travel a preferred means of travel, airlines and airports will need to look closely at starting and sustaining more routes. These will be routes to airports closer to the homes of these travellers.
Proximity to the airport was the main priority of the passengers when choosing their departure point (71%), which carried greater weight than ticket price (31%). Those who prefer to book directly with an airline are a small majority (52%). Another insight gained from the report is that irrespective of the booking channel used, passengers would like to have complete visibility into the fare offer, which will include easy access to optional products and services. This will be food for thought in designing airport applications that meet the needs of travellers. With the rising energy costs travellers are also checking fares with various travel agents as they look for good bargains from different airlines.
The Modern Airline Retailing about to be implemented also comes into focus. This programme was put in place by IATA to advance customer centricity and value creation in the airline industry. This is an effort to move ahead and away from decades old standards, processes and technology and adopt modern retailing practices that will create additional value for travellers as well as reduce the hassles of increasingly complex passenger checking requirements.
Another interesting insight is from the payment method. The main reason for choosing a particular payment method was convenience ( 62%). From a choice of seven different payment methods, credit / debit card (73%) was the most popular. Digital wallet (18%) and bank transfer (18%) followed closely. Credit/Debit cards were least preferred in Africa ( 57%). The preferred payment method in Africa among the regions is direct bank transfer (36%).
The focus of efforts being carried out on passenger insights gained can best be summed up in the words of Muhammad Albakri, senior vice president of IATA on financial settlement and distribution services: “Our aim is to create value for travellers by meeting their needs. We know that passengers want a seamless digital experience; and they expect consistent service irrespective of how they purchased their travel….. the next few years are set to see an accelerated and comprehensive transformation of the customer experience.” Transforming the customer experience such that all stakeholders in the aviation industry gain from it will be good news for all.
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