The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the travel industry, forcing airlines to navigate through a period of uncertainty and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Thus, digital transformation emerged as a vital lifeline, providing innovative solutions to tackle these new challenges. Accordingly, 69 per-cent of travellers who contacted the same airline before and after the pandemic believe their interactions are now different.

As the travel industry rebounds, the world is now witnessing a remarkable shift in the way millennials and Gen Z’s engage with air travel. They have grown up in a digital era characterised by constant connectivity and technological advancements. As a result, they have emerged as a driving force behind the digital transformation efforts within the aviation sector, pushing airlines and airports to adopt innovative technologies to enhance the travel experience.

The allure of automation 

In the fight to remain competitive and win over customers, it is the unique digital experiences that will jet airlines to the top. AI is being used to streamline operations and provide simpler, faster, and safer solutions. It’s clear that the implementation of digital experience strategies is helping airlines garner customers and boost engagement. For example, 23 per-cent of travellers reported they had more interactions with airline companies than before. Customers are also more open to self-help options and trying new contact channels. 

Customers want to be able to book or cancel flights and get answers to their questions without having to spend copious amounts of time on the phone, or in a long queue at the help desk. They expect to be able to do this within a few quick clicks. With such high demand for easier and quicker service, online travel booking is estimated to reach $833 billion by 2025. Therefore, the process must be seamless. Customers will favour airlines that fly into the automated world, making them more competitive within the airline space. The simpler it is for customers to schedule a getaway of their choice, they will be 115 per-cent more likely to recommend it to others.

When it comes to digital experiences, conversational bots are leading the pack. They are an excellent tool in the airline sector as they enable businesses to communicate with clients 24/7, and to offer localised experiences. In fact, a study reported that 62 per-cent of consumers would prefer to use a conversational bot rather than wait for human agents to answer their requests. 

Such generative AI also allows airlines to scale up during busy periods such as summer, by sifting through passenger queries and concerns quicker, allowing for more complex tasks to be dealt with by humans. This unique blend of a ‘High-Tech, High-Touch’ strategy provides the human empathy needed to make each connection easier, faster, and more cost-effective despite the environment becoming increasingly submerged in digital. The future as we know it will be the ability of generative AI to authenticate information utilising cutting-edge mid-office solutions whilst simultaneously augmenting human agents, and the airlines devoted to achieving this will be the ones that will win over long-term engagement. 

Digital channels take to the skies

With customers now seeking relationships with their airlines, many have created their own mobile apps to assist with check-in, booking, and supplementary services. These apps can be used to track each customer’s behaviour and provide a more personalised experience. The data analytics can then be used to prompt them to buy tickets to certain destinations, inform them of special offers, or give recommendations at a certain time of year. 

As a result, the diversification of contact options is increasingly growing. Travelers, especially millennials, are forming relationships with airlines by using a range of communication channels, from phones to social media. Customers are now even seeking recommendations from the real-life experiences of others online. In fact, 60 per-cent of Gen Zs and 40 per-cent of millennials use social media to seek travel insights and get inspiration, according to a report. 

Therefore, it is integral that airlines prioritise these methods of communication and work collaboratively to ensure a seamless customer experience at every touch point. A passenger might book their seat online, check-in through the provider’s app, drop off their bags at the desk and store their boarding card in their travel wallet. This fosters connectivity and gives customers the option to decide how much or how little human interaction they desire. Accordingly, using a mobile app is now the third most popular channel, with 20 per-cent of over 4,800 travellers surveyed having stated they use app-based services. 

Frictionless travel is key

Travellers of today desire self-service tools, integrated assistance alternatives, and exceptional experiences at every touchpoint. They want a frictionless experience where they can have all their travel needs met through a singular touchpoint – whether that be booking tickets, choosing a seat, food delivery, or purchasing on-board Wi-Fi. According to a new Hilton report, 56 per-cent of travellers are seeking options that will make travel easier in 2023 and embracing a combination of technology and human-led innovation that promises to do just this. By digitally integrating the front, middle, and back-office processes, ineffective silos will be eradicated.  

Airlines must streamline end-to-end company operations and integrate the complete customer journey. Combining crucial front-and-back-office tasks will provide reliable, excellent customer involvement at all points of contact and during the trip planning process. 

Way forward

Ultimately, in this dynamic landscape, the digital transformation of the aviation industry driven by millennials is set to redefine the way we travel, revolutionising the entire passenger journey from start to finish. As technology continues to evolve, it presents endless possibilities for creating a connected, personalised, and sustainable travel experience that caters to the demands of millennials and future generations.

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