How do airline customers define comfort?

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February 3, 2014

By Jonathan Kletzel, Partner, US transportation and logistics leader

Our 2013 edition of Experience Radar: Lessons Learned from the Airline Industry examines five areas of key importance to flyers. In recent blogs related to the study, we looked at three of these areas: balancing technology with touch, the power of social media, and connectivity and fee bundling. Today, we’ll discuss the findings on customer comfort.

For all flyers, comfort is first and foremost defined by seating. Business flyers will pay a premium for extra hip, leg, and recline space. Most leisure travelers want more space as well, though how much they will pay for it varies by country. In the US, leisure travelers value extra hip space significantly more than extra leg and recline space. In addition to space, travelers want comfortable seats; unfortunately, seat cushions are getting thinner, compromising seat comfort. Understandably, flyers value plush seats even more on long-haul flights.

Travel preferences are affected by cultural differences. Chinese and Brazilian flyers value the opportunity to sit together. Chinese businessmen often travel with colleagues and use flying time to interact with them. Nearly half of flyers from Brazil and China want familiar food and entertainment content, for which they’re willing to pay a premium.

Travelers also value complimentary upgrades, which are a leading driver of great experiences and can increase customer goodwill and loyalty. Business travelers who receive free or discounted upgrades often make other purchases (e.g., for priority boarding or seating upgrades). Some US business travelers will even pay for upgrades out-of-pocket, especially if they are offered at a discount.

Questions to consider: Do you know which comfort-related options your customers want and are likely to pay for? Do you have an upgrade policy that builds customer loyalty? Do you offer culturally-specific products and services?

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