The passenger experience is finally becoming reliable, seamless and connected because of the growing consumer demand for joined-up journeys, and we’ll see the aviation industry working towards this goal for the foreseeable future. Merchandising and distribution should be a focus, with airlines offering new and better ways to inform passengers about what they can purchase onboard, and the technology available with which to buy food, products or services. Informed passengers have better expectations about what they’ll find onboard the aircraft, which improves the passenger experience, so it’s important for airlines to understand this so they can compete in an increasingly competitive market.
There is still the issue of disjointed passenger experiences at airports and onboard, even between entering an airline lounge and then boarding a plane. There are barriers because of different ownerships and competing demands, so airlines need to be clear about what they want for passengers, and how they plan to work with airports, and vice versa. Changes need to come from a cooperative effort, rather than a direct demand from one party to another.
In fact, collaboration between airlines and airports is more important than ever. A recent difficulty arose between Air Asia and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), over improvement payments to 39 airports, because neither party wanted to pay for improvements. However, this limits the progress of passenger experience, ultimately damaging both reputation and revenue.
In terms of technology, free wi-fi for all passengers at all stages of their journey would be the biggest gamechanger, but that’s not always possible given differences in connectivity around the world. Air traffic delays also prevent the passenger experience from being positive, despite the additional services offered to improve their comfort and wellbeing and offset any inconveniences caused.
Having attended Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) for the last four years, it’s clear that show organisers understand the key trends and challenges in the aviation industry and provide a jam-packed week of opportunities to learn from the most sought-after experts. There is a mix of blue sky thinking and long-term future gazing seminars, but for me the real highlights are the sessions which focus on practical and actionable solutions to current issues.