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Can COVID-19 Ultimately Help Airlines Fix Problems?

Can COVID-19 Ultimately Help Airlines Fix Problems?
Joe Cortez

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a catastrophic drop in demand for commercial aviation – but can it also bring about some good as well? Analyzing thousands of complaints from TripAdvisor, Lufthansa Innovation Hub says airlines need to focus on curbing flight irregularities, food and beverage offerings and onboard services.

As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world, many flyers have been either reluctant to travel, or lack the ability to travel around the world. International borders remain closed, and flyers are concerned that despite the airlines’ best efforts to disinfect aircraft between usage, the demand has not climbed back from all-time lows.

While less flyers are boarding aircraft, does this unprecedented time in history present an opportunity for airlines to address some of frequent flyers’ most common complaints? Lufthansa Innovation Hub (LIH) took a look at the most common airline complaints, and offered advice as to how to improve the customer experience.

Flight Irregularities and Top Consumer Complaints

To determine the top problems flyers face at the airport, LIH analyzed 15,000 reviews of 12 major airlines on TripAdvisor. Using natural language processing and artificial intelligence, the lab worked to determine which issues caused the most conversation among passengers.

According to the analysis, the biggest review topic was flight irregularities, with around one-in-five discussing it in their review. Food and beverages were the next key area of concerns, with 15.2 percent of reviewers mentioning it. Onboard services came in third, with a mention in 13 percent of reviews.

Source: Lufthansa Innovation Hub, TNMT.com.

With this information, the lab worked to analyze which were the major pain points, and which issues could be used to earn flyer’s favor once more. Their research discovered the biggest issues airlines need to fix are flight irregularities, carry-on baggage concerns and on-time arrival. But to get to the heart of travelers, airlines can improve their overall onboard services, food and beverage options, and seat comfort and legroom.

Source: Lufthansa Innovation Hub, TNMT.com.

To Earn Back Flyers, Airlines Need to Fix Irregular Operations and Meal Service

With the data in hand, the lab says if airlines want to get flyers back on aircraft, they need to fix irregular operations first and foremost. Although carriers can’t control the weather or mechanical issues, they can fix how they are communicated to passengers.

“We found that most complaints concern the lack of timely communication surrounding delays and cancellations, as well as the lengthy rebooking and re-planning process—some of the specific issues mentioned include long waiting times, unhelpful staff, lack of information, and transparency,” LIH wrote in their analysis. “Therefore, transparent communication and a user-friendly Flight Irregularities Management System may help to address this pain point and potentially even convert customers from competitors.”

Next, the group says airlines should look at their menu when trying to re-engage passengers. The dive into data showed that flyers don’t actually hate airline food, but would like to get some variety in what they are served.

“Since taste is particularly difficult to implement due to factors like low margins and limited storage, airlines should instead focus on diversifying their menu with more dietary options,” the analysts write. “Digital means could streamline the process, enabling customers to choose their meals online or in-app, helping airlines optimize supply.”

Finally, the review suggests airlines should review how they provide in-flight entertainment for passengers. While the overwhelming majority of passengers want to use their digital devices, they also want to be able to plug them in during their flights. LIH suggests airlines add more outlets and charging points for passengers to use their devices.

As far as cleanliness goes, the research found that it wasn’t as critical as other issues. While it’s a main sentiment point with airlines and gains consideration of flyers, the reviews shows it ranks below 20 percent in overall relevance to the passenger experience.

Source: Lufthansa Innovation Hub, TNMT.com.

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