Why do Airlines get Digital Experience so Wrong? (and how to get it Right)

September 30, 20199min

You’d think it would be easy for airlines to provide a good Customer Experience for those seeking to purchase tickets online or via a mobile device. 

After all, every customer follows the same path: insert dates and destination, choose the shortest or least expensive flight, and complete the purchase. Nevertheless, bad CX is a common complaint from airline customers and often leads to defections.

In the 21st century, the air traveler’s journey begins on the airline’s website or mobile app. It is absolutely crucial that the company’s digital channels be highly responsive, user-friendly and fully optimised for any device the traveler might be using. Nevertheless, airlines struggle time and time again to keep potential customers from growing aggravated and heading to a competitor’s site.

The digital Customer Experience issues most often faced by aviation consumers include:

Failure to complete or revise a booking

As unbelievable as it may seem, some airlines still haven’t worked out the bugs in their online ordering system, leaving hopeful travellers frustrated and angry when, after spending 20 minutes filling in personal details, they are unable to complete their booking. Airlines lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue to this problem, as well as driving countless potential customers to their competitors’ sites.

No way to get questions answered

Booking travel can be complicated, and many people – especially those using an airline’s site for the first time – have questions as they work their way through the booking process. Unfortunately, airline customer service departments are notoriously difficult to reach in the digital age, and the web sites don’t always make it easy to find the answers.

Inability to compare different flights 

When planning leisure travel, customers are generally not tied down to a specific arrival and departure date, so they like to compare prices for different options. Some also have two or more local airport choices to choose from. However, for some reason, airline sites often make it incredibly complicated or even impossible to make these comparisons.

The solution: CX analytics

Identifying the key challenges is one thing, but how can airlines solve them? How are they to know when a customer is experiencing difficulties on their site or app? Luckily, there are now many CX monitoring and analytics tools to provide guidance.

For example, session-replay technologies enable airlines to view the customer’s entire journey through the company’s website or mobile app (with private data hidden, of course). They can therefore see for themselves exactly why a customer has failed to complete a ticket order. 

Was it due to a site error? Did they click through to seat selection and discover that the only seats left were next to the bathroom? Or did they feel blindsided by all the extra fees and taxes piled on top of the ticket price?

By discovering the exact point on the site at which the booking was abandoned, airlines can determine whether changes can be made to prevent future customers from giving up at the same point. In addition, if a site error is to blame, this first-hand data eliminates the need to try and ‘recreate’ the error; airlines see exactly what is at fault so that they can fix the issue immediately.

The problem of customers being unable to get their questions answered can also be addressed through analytics, thanks to the chat boxes now present on most airline sites. Chat box data analytics provide a wealth of information on CX issues that airlines don’t even know they have. For example, if customers are using the chat box to ask simple questions that are already addressed elsewhere on the site, clearly the information is too hard to find. Airlines can also use chat box data to discover frequently asked questions whose answers need to be added to the site – preferably on a clearly-marked ‘FAQ’ page.

Finally, customer journey analysis enables airlines to see for themselves the frustrations of customers who must keep clicking back and forth between different flights and airports because there is no easy way to compare them. Armed with this knowledge, the airline can address the difficulties and create a more user-friendly experience.   

Counting the cost

The reason that many of these sites are still so confusing and difficult may be that airlines don’t realise how much money they are losing due to CX issues. Thankfully, today’s most advanced analytics tools enable them to calculate the revenue lost due to a site error or other CX problem. 

This means that the problem is no longer abstract; airlines can visualise exactly how much money they’ve already lost and how much more they are likely to lose if they do not identify and fix the issue immediately.

This type of data is crucial for IT resource allocations. For example, if an airline sees how much revenue it is losing due to booking errors, it can make a better decision about whether to take the site off-line and correct the issue, or provide a quick work-around and develop a permanent fix in the background.

The bottom line is that airlines are throwing money away and many don’t even realise it. By using big data analytics, they can collect invaluable information on the actual workings of their digital channels, and take a giant step towards maximising customer satisfaction and revenue.


Audelia Boker

Audelia Boker

Audelia Boker is Global VP Marketing at Glassbox Digital.




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