A new generation of travelers is taking to the air in increasing numbers. According to 1 an IATA study , a majority of future flyers will be between the ages of 22 and 35. In fact, 58 percent of China's and 38 percent of Brazil's online leisure passengers belong to Gen-Y. These millennials are digital natives and have completely different sets of expectations from their travel experience than the baby boomers.
In a 2014 study, a majority of millennials said they were willing to pay for premium conveniences such as RFID tags for real-time baggage tracking, inflight wifi, in-seat power, curbside rental car pick up, and so on.
For airlines, this is both a big opportunity and a challenge. They will have to calibrate their customer experience strategies to cater to this new class of traveler that is digitally savvy, willing to experiment, vocal about their experiences, and expects nothing but the best in terms of customer experience.
The airlines that will succeed to win the loyalty of these travelers will be those that offer the 3Cs valued by these customers: Convenience, Communication and Choice.
From booking their tickets to pre-flight formalities to the in-flight experience to post-flight services, these travelers expect a world of convenience enabled by technology. For airlines this means providing travelers with seamless transactions across multiple devices and channels; simple and easy to use touch points and interfaces; contextual recommendations based on analytics; intelligent baggage handling and end-to-end integrated services.
Millennials live in a connected world. On the one hand airlines have to make sure that they communicate with these travelers across multiple channels. From sending important alerts and information on-to-go, to analyzing their digital chatter for trends and insight, to engaging with them on social media, airlines have to boost their communication strategies. On the other hand, they also need to enable these customers to access real-time information / communication wherever they may be. For example, high speed connectivity in lounges and in-flight Wifi.
If there's one thing the millennials value more than all others it is choice. The power to choose transactional touch points (across devices and channels), from a menu of granular services (something that the NDC will enable airlines to provide) to the choice of inflight entertainment and so on.
As the baby boomers retire and travel less, the future of air travel belongs to this new breed of passengers. The technology to meet their travel needs already exists. Airlines that invest in leveraging these technologies to deliver a superior and consistent travel experience will win the hearts and wallet share of the savvy Gen-Y travelers.