Research: Smooth online booking experience the biggest driver for repeat flyers

London, 7th April 2022 – Airlines that provide a poor digital journey for their passengers risk losing out on lucrative return customers, according to new research from IBS Software.

A new study, based on the travel experiences of 2,010 consumers in the UK and US over the last 18 months, reveals that a better online experience would convince a huge 72% of flyers to travel with the same airline again – with 71% of flyers claiming they would go as far as to buy additional services from the airline, too. 

Of these online experiences, respondents highlighted that easy access to flexible bookings via an app was the most important, followed by seamless access to travel documentation (insurance, boarding pass and passenger locator forms etc) and the ability to easily unlock additional discounts on transfers, upgrades, food and beverages. Lower down on the priority list were easy access to package holidays and travel via an app, digital and up to date guidance on COVID travel requirements, on-demand customer services with live chats, and access to maps to suggest nearby testing locations/home tests.

Interestingly, the research found that younger customers want flexible bookings via an app (46% of 16-24s compared to just 38% of over 55s), while older customers are more incentivised by the ability to unlock additional discounts on transfers, upgrades, food and beverages (51% of over 55s compared to 39% of GenZs).

It’s not all bad news for airlines. A striking 72% of respondents think airlines provide a seamless online journey compared to other industries, but almost a third (32%) think more could be done, with 35% of Gen Zs in particular feeling that airlines have not done enough to keep up with passenger demands for online experiences since the pandemic. 

Unsurprisingly, the cost of flights and flexible bookings are now the two top priorities for flyers when choosing their airline since the Covid-19 crisis. As for the online experience, 33% of those passengers surveyed feel airlines do not target them with positive experiences e.g personalized offers, but of those, a massive 71% would travel with an airline if they did.

When asked about the three biggest bugbears when dealing with an airline, over half (52%) said getting hold of customer services, 41% said that it was getting inundated with a large volume of online offers and services like car hire, transfers, excursions etc, and just under a third (31%) said it was concerns with cyber security and online payments.

Speaking on the research Philip Hinton, SVP at IBS Software, said: “A big takeaway from this data is the value that can come from knowing your customer. If 41% say getting inundated with irrelevant online offers and services is one of their biggest issues with online airline bookings, that is a mammoth signal to the industry to do better. Airlines must pay close attention to online customer journeys and use relevant data captured to ensure the initial booking process is as seamless and positive as the travel experience that awaits them.”

“As we continue to work on recovery in the sector, paying special attention to this passenger journey with relevant personalization is what will set airlines apart from the competition, and unlock those all-important 72% of flyers to boost the bottom line with repeat bookings.”

Methodology

The research of 2,010 people in the UK and US who have travelled by air in the last 18 months was conducted by an independent research company Censuswide between 14.02.2022 and 21.02.2022.