Market Research in the Airline Industry

Airlines Flying First in Passenger Satisfaction Focus on Hospitality

Couple of business people at airport.

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Consumers increasingly seem to consider the airline industry more of a hospitality business than simply a means of getting from one place to the next. The history of the transportation industry marks the influence of innovation, technology, and mechanical know-how. Consumers pay a lot of attention to airline travel, and their satisfaction with the airline industry falls below that of banks and mortgage lenders. Needless to say, there is considerable room for improvement in the satisfaction ratings of airline passengers. 

The global market research company J.D. Power conducts an annual study of the satisfaction ratings of passengers on North American airlines. The 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study is designed to measure consumer satisfaction for all major carriers, examining the responses of both leisure travel and business travel passengers. In the early days of airline market research, data was collected from a small number of passengers who were willing to fill-in-the-bubble by hand on paper copy satisfaction surveys distributed during flights. The current J.D. Power satisfaction survey gathered responses from nearly 11,400 passengers who have flown during the one-year period of the survey. 

Power up for an Advanced and Satisfying Customer Experience

The strength of the North America Airline Satisfaction Study is that it assesses the passenger consumer experience across the spectrum of travel based on a recent flight. The satisfaction survey takes the survey respondent through their experiences with reservations, check-in, boarding, in-flight, deplaning, and baggage retrieval. The outcome of the satisfaction survey is a competitive benchmark for the two main airline market segments: Network carriers and low-cost carriers. Key indicators are taken in customer advocacy, customer loyalty, effectiveness of identity improvement initiatives, all of which are rolled up to provide an overall airline performance.

The people at Travelers United, an air travel advocacy organization have their own view of passenger satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Charlie Leocha, president of Travelers United, says: 

 “As the airlines have been complaining that customers are treating their seats like commodities, the airlines themselves are treating their passengers — except frequent flier elites and first class — like self-loading cargo.” 

The market research findings on customer satisfaction point to some inexpensive and easy ways to improve passengers' perspectives of their airlines. Air travel can be made more pleasant for passengers by applying a few tricks of the hospitality trade: Training gate agents and flight attendants to smile at passengers. Not enforcing the standby fee for passengers to take an earlier flight that is showing available seats. Ensuring family members sit together and not charging them extra to do so. These are all simple enough to embed in the airline customer service, leaving the bigger challenge making effective changes in the telephone and web channels that passengers often utilize.

J.D. Power Branches out to Measure and Certify Call Centers

In 2004, J.D. Power launched a new component of their business solutions that was aimed at direct contact with consumers via call centers. The Certified Contact Center Program is designed to assess the quality of live phone channels in the call centers of businesses, as well as any interactive voice response (IVR) automated telephony self-service systems that route calls, and web-based self-service channels the businesses may operate. By identifying and updating the preferences that consumers have for call handling service calls, J.D. Power is able to assist organizations in a variety of industries to improve customer satisfaction through effective and efficient handling of service channels.