When you think of air travel, what comes to mind?
Do you travel for business? How about family or vacation travel?
Would you describe dealing with the airline either picked by you (e.g., preferred for loyalty points) or are assigned to (e.g., only option to go direct) easy and pleasant under normal circumstances?
How about when circumstances are challenging? For example: connection delays, mechanical issues, other than weather-related cancellations.
Your mileage may vary
Most airlines have mileage programs. Accumulate points by various means, trade them for upgrades, free tickets or free companion travel, etc. The biggest obstacle to redeeming points, ground zero, is accumulating points in the first place.
Not to worry, there are credit cards you can apply for in exchange for points. The most pleasant-sounding announcement on flights seem to be those to entice passenget to sign up for credit card enrollments -- the commercial break on a recent flight from Florida was superb.
One week ago, I ran a quick poll on Twitter to learn if any airline had earned points toward delivering a good digital customer experience. While I did not get enough @ replies to make the poll even remotely valid as research, I was surprised to see different airline names in the dozen or so responses.
At the top of my list are @SouthwestAir for the U.S. and @Lufthansa_USA for travel to most European destinations.
In 2012, I have flown Lufthansa for 7 travel segments already and I have observed ground and flight personnel display grace under pressure on multiple occasions, especially in Germany.
The only blemishes on the German airline's otherwise spotless record were contributed by the Philadelphia Airport ground crew. This is one of the reasons why I often use other airports when I fly internationally.
Other airlines mentioned in the informal Twitter poll, along with comments, were @British_Airways, @VirginAtlantic (upper class, blissful beds) and @VirginAmerica, @AlaskaAir (hands down), @EasyJet, @AmericanAir (good app), @Delta (clunkier).
By the way, I created a US- and European-friendly list of airline accounts on Twitter. And if you search for "airlines" on Twitter, you will find accounts for all major airports, travel services, and other forms of transportation, including those catering to vampire clientele (just checking if I haven't put you to sleep yet).
Mobility as service opportunity
The whole idea of context for the traveler being determined by where they are at the time of experience made me curious. In my case, I launched the poll as I was trying to print a boarding pass that wouldn't display after having successfully checked in.
Of course, I should have looked to see if they had an app and downloaded it just for the last minute trip with that airline. After all, I have been using the apps for Southwest Air and Lufthansa for check ins and flight schedules, respectively.
Downloading and using the apps keeps both airlines top of mind for me. I feel more connected knowing they're literally in my pocket. Which is what should make them feel more connected to me as well.
Don't just automate an email to my account that says I can check in, help me streamline the process.
And build delight points right into the before, during and after travel experience.
Forget mileage programs, there are all kinds of value add communications services that can be wrapped around apps and mobile sites.
Make my life easier beyond check-ins. Use your imagination and permission steps and the sky is the limit, literally.
Then, you've earned a recommendation and a share. Getting people from point A to point B, even though it's still the marvel of human ingenuity and engineering, has become dial tone, taken for granted.
At least one airline, British Airways, is testing automatic check-in to give passengers one less thing to think about. I'd like to suggest that making life easier with inventory efficiency sits at one end of the customer conversation spectrum.
New opportunities stem from making the experience remarkable.
[image of the Alps between Italy and Switzerland]
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.