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Published January 30th 2020

Budget or Bougie? Examining Airline Industry Trends For 2020

Air travel can elicit strong emotions from all types of people. What are some airline industry trends for 2020? We cut through the noise for you.

Air travel can conjure up a melting pot of emotions: boredom, excitement, frustration, anticipation, and many more.

But when you cut through the noise and get down to the core, what are customers really looking for from the airline industry? And what does the conversation look like?

In our report on Consumer Trends for 2020, we analyzed 8,000 global survey responses and thousands of social posts to find those answers for you.

Right off the bat, we saw that trends and preferences vary based on airline cost. Budget flyers have different expectations than luxury passengers.

Turn that frown upside down

Unfortunately the overarching trend for both budget and luxury fliers is negative conversation. Delays and cancelations make up an enormous part of the online chatter for the airline industry. What’s more, compared to other sectors we’ve researched, negative conversation is far more prominent for airlines.

While this sounds less than ideal, it’s somewhat expected. When you have a three hour delay and nothing but your phone to keep you company, Twitter often becomes your venting mechanism. It does mean that customer service responses are more important than ever.

What are budget flyers looking for?

Despite the negativity, budget flyers have plenty to say about staff that goes the extra mile when crisis strikes. For example, we found a trend of positive comments for staff who worked past the end of their shifts to help customers.

When asked what attribute is most important when booking a budget airline, almost every country preferred “affordability” over “quality”. The exceptions? Respondents in Germany, Spain and Mexico.

Compared to other countries Germany had a particularly high preference for:

  • Quality
  • Friendly customer service
  • Innovative products or services

Notably, respondents from the UK and Mexico rated ‘convenience’ much higher than other parts of the world.

So, not only do consumer expectations vary around differently priced offerings, they also vary when it comes to geographic location.

What do luxury passengers look for?

Birthdays are made for celebrating and luxury passengers are willing to spend some extra cash for the occasion. Our data shows that a lot of positive trends in airline conversation center around birthdays.

Sustainability is of minimal concern to this group, ranking last on a list of important attributes when choosing an airline. Interestingly, the 18-24 age bracket were twice as likely than other respondents to care about sustainable flying options.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, consumers ranked “quality” over “affordability” when booking a non-budget airline. UK and Singapore fliers sought out “friendly customer service” while the people in the 65+ age bracket were far more likely than other age groups to look for “convenience.”

Which airlines are most visible?

In our Social Index for Q4 2019, we looked at the digital performance of airline brands, and with this we were able to see how the big names stacked up against each other using metrics like:

  • Social and web visibility
  • Sentiment
  • Follower growth
  • Search visibility

It’s a mixed battleground out there.

When it comes to search visibility, budget airlines, such as Southwest Airlines and Ryanair, compete well with the luxury airlines. This could suggest they’re putting more reliance on ranking well for relevant search terms than people specifically seeking out their brand.

But when we switch to the social and web visibilities, the budget airlines (except Southwest) disappear. This suggests their brands are better at breaking through and driving conversation online.

Budget vs. bougie bottom line

Regardless of the price tag, if airlines are looking to change the current conversation they should work to improve the experience around delays and cancellations.

While there is little to be done about flying weather, there can be improvements made to how changes are handled by customer service staff. The research shows us that a little extra help from frontline staff can go a long way on the path to positivity.

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