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Could WiFi Kill Airline Loyalty Programs?

It turns out that most people are not brand loyal when it comes to which airline they travel on. What they do care about is which airline has good, fast and consistent WiFi connection. This lack of brand loyalty means that airline loyalty programs have taken a dip, especially among younger passengers. The loyalty programs are not dead, but they definitely need new life.

In the near future, the airline that nails down in-flight WiFi connectivity will be the one to scoop up a $33 billion market share. This is all according to a collaborative study performed by the London School of Economics and Inmarsat Aviation. The study found that 87% of passengers are not loyal to a particular airline brand. That’s a lot of missed opportunity for loyalty program growth.

So, then, what is the starting point for regaining passenger loyalty? The answer: fast and reliable WiFi.

Better in-flight WiFi isn’t only beneficial for passengers. Better connectivity in-flight can result in better experiences and connections between airlines and passengers. Here are some possibilities:

More personalize experience on board

One possibility is that flight attendants could access information about passengers’ pervious flight preferences. Knowing this data could help make the current flight experience even better based on their wants and needs. The drawback here is whether passengers would be comfortable with the flight crew knowing this information.

Personalized online shopping experiences

Say a passenger is heading to a tropical vacation and realized mid-flight that they forgot their sunscreen, or worse, their swimsuit. With a reliable WiFi connection, the passenger could purchase these items while in the air and make sure they are delivered to their hotel when they arrive.

Real-time flight information

Ever had a late take-off time that made you anxious that you would miss your connecting flight on the other end? With a reliable WiFi connection, you could check flight information in real-time to make sure that you have a game plan before you land – whether that’s rescheduling your connecting flight or mentally preparing yourself and mapping out the airport to run to your next gate.

Offering premium content

Offering premium content for an additional fee could include things like streaming live events in real-time. For example, passengers flying for a business trip overseas could still catch the big game going on back home.

Streamlining customs paperwork and other e-forms

Lastly, being able to reliably connect to in-flight WiFi would reduce the hassle of filling out landing cards and other documents after landing. This way, passengers could fill out immigration e-forms prior to the flight descent and prior to getting to customs. However, implementing this requires governments to adopt certain systems to make this work, but it is possible.

All of these offerings are possible. There is also the possibility that passengers are weary of where their data is going. Being innovative with connectivity is the way to re-gain passenger loyalty and provide a better in-flight experience.

It all comes down to better WiFi on airplanes. Those airlines that don’t jump on board will wish they had.


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