Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastion made headlines last month when he said his company was working hard to offer free Wi-Fi to its passengers. His comments didn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the aviation industry. After all, in-flight connectivity and entertainment have a positive impact on an airlines’ Net Promoter Score (NPS), a key loyalty metric. Commercial airline passengers today aren’t very loyal — by most accounts, only around 15 percent can be classified as committed to a particular brand. So, there’s a huge incentive for Delta and the other airlines to get Wi-Fi right – not only do loyal airline customers tend to spend more money, but they’re also more likely to recommend an airline to friends and family. Most airlines have spent the last several years collaborating with connectivity partners and providers to address the technology and capacity challenges currently hindering a seamless and reliable in-flight connectivity experience for their passengers. And, thanks to the launch of high-throughput satellites from companies like Intelsat, as well as next-generation modems from our partners, there is now more flexible and reconfigurable capacity than ever before across the vast majority of commercial flight routes. Free, fast, reliable in-flight Wi-Fi for commercial airline passengers is close to becoming a reality, and when it does, increased NPS scores for the airlines are sure to follow. According to a recent white paper by Valour Consultancy (in association with Intelsat), commercial airlines don’t have to wait for that perfect passenger Wi-Fi experience before realizing positive NPS gains for their connected-aircraft investments. There are five things they can do right now – using the connected assets and bandwidth currently available to them – to “surprise and delight” customers and increase overall customer loyalty and satisfaction in the process:
- Enabling worry-free travel with connected crew devices: Taking the stress out of travel is an area where airlines can make a huge difference to the passenger experience. When a flight is delayed, for example, cabin crew could seek out and proactively rebook any passengers who will miss their connecting flights using an airline-issued connected device. As the white paper points out, many airlines are already starting to equip their flight attendants with smart devices like this to help enhance the customer experience.
- Providing in-the-moment care: A United Airlines connected-crew app is already enabling flight attendants to quickly correct problematic experiences mid-air and provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures like air miles and travel credits. The white paper notes the airline has actually found that solving problems this way has increased customer satisfaction more than someone who had a perfect flight.
- Serving passenger needs end-to-end: It can be nerve-wracking for a passenger to sit on a plane worrying about how to navigate an unfamiliar airport, find a subway station or predict the cost of a taxi fare. The white paper highlights Flight-Path3D – best known for its highly interactive, 3D moving maps that feature on a growing number of seatback and wireless in-flight entertainment systems – as a potential partner primed to help airlines ease these types of passenger anxieties.
- Managing expectations, the right way: With take rates for in-flight Wi-Fi in the single digits when a paid model is in place, it’s crucial that those passengers who do want to connect are able to do so easily and seamlessly. Unfortunately, as the white paper points out a lot of things can impede the connectivity capabilities of “a metal tube flying at 500 mph, 35,000 feet above the surface of the earth.” The paper spotlights airlines like Air Canada that are looking to better manage expectations and inform passengers in advance when there will be a drop in internet service.
- Passenger Comfort: Just think about how real-time weather and advance turbulence-warning reports delivered straight to seatback screens could help to sooth passenger anxiety levels during bumpy flights. The white paper highlights Delta Airlines’ iPad-based app, Delta Flight Weather Viewer, which forecasts and then indexes the severity of patches of turbulence. Thanks to the app, Delta is the only airline to have recorded decreased encounters with higher-level turbulence during the last three years, and less turbulence is something every airline passenger can get behind.