The aviation industry is one of the industries most affected by the corona crisis. The number of passengers dropped dramatically, to figures from over a decade ago. Airlines and Airports are forced to switch to survival mode. Although it is still important, to make sure passengers feel no less welcome than before the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As the Corona crisis first hit the aviation industry, airlines immediately cut into their flying schedule. Instead of multiple flights, a day between 2 cities, this was reduced to just one or two a day. At the same time, multiple routes were temporarily or permanently closed. At airports, terminals or parts of terminals were closed to answer the fallen demand in air travel. All measures which do not hurt the relationship between the airport, the airlines, and their passengers.
Most passengers that are flying during the pandemic, are passengers that were flying on a regularly basis, also before the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, frequent flyers, who are often loyal to one or more airlines. These passengers demand high standards and expect to get the pre COVID-19 standards where possible. These passengers constitute a substantial group that will always have the need to fly.
Lowering standards unnecessarily is creating a lot of distrust between the passengers and the airline or airport. That distrust can lead to a decreased passenger loyalty and could cause a drop in passenger numbers for that particular airline or airport, even when the crisis is long over. Saving money on your customers service makes passengers more likely to consider other options. This is true for the occasional traveler, but also especially for frequent flyers who are likely to keep flying. You don’t want these to be taken away by competitors, who keep their standards high. As the saying says: “In times of crisis we find out who our true friends are”.
A crisis not only brings difficulties, but it is also a time full of opportunities. If you manage to exceed passenger expectations, you can bind passengers who were loyal to another airline or airport. A positive review, a comment on social media, can also influence other travelers.
In conclusion, even though in crisis, cuts and savings are inevitable, it is still highly important to stay passenger-centric, as the benefits outweigh the costs on when viewed in the long term. In the aviation sector competition is fierce, even in times of crisis. If an airport or an airline takes the wrong decisions, it will cost them even more in the long run.
A passenger is not a direct customer of an airport, but that does not mean he cannot become one. That is why an airport needs to take a passenger-centric approach and gather insights through the eyes of the passengers. To achieve this, an outside perspective is essential.
Airports that do not focus on their passengers are not only loosing opportunities, but also risk to waste a lot of cost due to pointless investments. In times were non aeronautical revenue is becoming an ever bigger share of an airports’ total revenue, taking a passenger-centric approach is essential to an airports’ success. The first step in this process is to view themselves through the eyes of their passengers in order to get an insight in their passengers and their experiences.
In order to get insights into the experience of passengers, an airport needs help from outside. In fact, it is impossible to evaluate yourself from the inside. It is a natural thing that organisations get a tunnel vision, which makes it impossible to see things clearly. To counteract this natural process, an outside perspective is needed, while it is objective and will counteract bias from the inside, from group thinking, or internal politics. It is easy to see that the view is often clearer from the outside than the inside.
It is verry important that airports select the right partner, which does not carry any internal baggage. These independent firms do not need to be experts in the airports’ day to day operations, but can bring more experience and a broader palette of specializations. Those specialists can serve as a bridge between the airport and its passengers, and will bring airports out of their comfort zone. Because let’s be honnest, nothing realy good has ever been created within our comfort zone.
Finally although an outside perspective is essential, it does not end there. Enhancing passenger experience shall be a joint effort between the airport, its passengers, and external partners.