Building a First-Class Fan Base: How to Grow Airline Brand Loyalty

Building airline brand loyalty in today’s travel landscape isn’t always a breeze. To start, the labor shortage in the travel and hospitality industries makes it difficult to keep today’s flyers happy. And faced with ticket price hikes and cuts to customer service functions, travelers’ satisfaction with airlines is now lower than ever before.

But all is not lost. Today’s flyers are looking for brands that deliver excellent value and top-tier service, and we’re here to break down how your airline can reclaim pre-pandemic customer loyalty without wreaking havoc on your balance sheet.

From overhauling your loyalty rewards program to partnering with other travel brands, know that building (or reclaiming) airline brand loyalty is within reach.

In this guide: 

  • Looking beyond the loyalty program

  • Leveraging SMS

  • Elevating travelers’ digital experiences

  • Prioritizing customer service and engagement

  • Anticipating traveler needs

  • Collaborating with other travel partners 

Look beyond the loyalty program

In your pursuit of customer loyalty, the first item up for review (logically) might be your airline rewards program. But customers aren’t just looking for miles anymore: to get customers engaged with your loyalty program, you’ll need to offer something unique and undeniably valuable.

For instance, consider Delta’s recent partnership with Starbucks, a program that provides value to travelers in two critical ways: 

  1. Members of SkyMiles and Starbucks Rewards can now earn a mile for every dollar spent at Starbucks.

  2. Members that make a Starbucks purchase on travel day will earn two miles for every dollar spent. 

Airlines can’t expect to build loyalty just by offering a loyalty program in today’s travel landscape. Think outside the box and offer convenience and peak value to recruit rewards members.

Leverage SMS

If your airline is struggling with customer service as a result of labor shortages, it’s time to leverage technologies that help you ease clients’ major pain points. Consider how Chat Commerce (via SMS or other platforms like WhatsApp) can help your brand accomplish various tasks with automation and customer self-service functions. Use mobile messaging to:

  • Help customers purchase:

  • Tickets

  • Seat upgrades

  • Extra bags

  • In-flight entertainment

  • In-flight Wi-Fi

  • Answer frequently asked questions (e.g., “What’s the weight limit for checked bags?”)

  • Book other reservations related to their trip:

  • Car rentals

  • Hotel accommodations

  • Dining reservations

  • Tickets for destination attractions or experiences

  • Marketing new products, routes, or service bundles

Elevate travelers’ digital experiences

Leveraging Chat Commerce is just one way to elevate customers’ digital experiences. You can increase the value of your services (and satisfy customers) by incorporating other digital functions like:

  • Contactless check-in

  • Mobile boarding passes

  • Ticket upgrades

  • Ordering in-flight meals

Now more than ever, customers expect to be able to tackle all of their travel needs right from their smartphones. Most travelers even prefer it, with 87% of consumers reporting that they primarily want to use mobile messaging to get in touch with travel brands. You can meet this demand by enhancing and expanding your digital service offerings. 

Prioritize customer service and engagement

Travel guides recommend that 2023’s passengers be prepared for inevitable frustrations like lost luggage, long security lines, flight cancellations, and overbooking. To recruit new customers (or win back past flyers), your airline needs to defy current trends and eclipse expectations for customer service.

Although you might still be short-staffed, you can get creative with your approach to customer support by:

  • Using data to analyze peak customer support call times and increase staffing during those hours

  • Offering more self-service options, like text message booking and payments

  • Leveraging automated, two-way messaging to answer common customer questions

You might already use live customer service agents and some form of self-service tech. But using those tools efficiently and in ways that satisfy customers will make or break your brand loyalty in 2023. 

Anticipate traveler needs

The gold standard of customer service has always been to meet customers’ needs before they even know what those needs are. Using today’s technologies, you can do just that by analyzing ever-valuable customer data: 

  • Use customer preferences in booking – As a customer books a ticket, use information from their previous itineraries (like their preferences for no layovers or a window seat) to help them choose services they actually want.

  • Bundle services – If your customer is staying at their destination for a week, they’ll need lodging (or perhaps a car rental). Offer airfare in combination with these services: an all-in-one, convenient bundle that meets every travel need.

  • Pre-book in-flight services – When a customer books their ticket, offer them a chance to pre-order in-flight Wi-Fi, entertainment, or food and drinks. Whipping out their card yet again on travel day can be a nuisance for customers, but you can anticipate their needs by rolling these costs into their ticket transaction (and boosting your revenue at the same time).

Collaborate with other travel partners

We’ve discussed Delta’s innovative partnership with Starbucks and the possibility of bundling travel services. Value-add elements like this simply aren’t possible without collaboration.

Build a new partnership (or rekindle an existing one) with:

  • Hotel, car rental, and restaurant chains

  • Disruptor travel and leisure brands like Turo or Airbnb

  • Mobile payment apps for tap-and-go transactions on travel day

  • Social media or entertainment brands to bring in-flight services to passengers

Choose Clickatell for Chat Commerce

The formula for building airline brand loyalty is simple: leverage tried-and-true loyalty concepts (like rewards programs) in combination with innovative technologies (like mobile messaging) to satisfy customers.

Your travel brand is ready to embrace the future with Chat Commerce, and so are your frequent flyers.

Clickatell makes it easier than ever to start, manage, and optimize Chat Commerce systems for travel brands and industries market-wide. Our all-in-one platform turns mobile messaging into a sales channel that converts and a customer service tool that satisfies. 

Learn more about how Clickatell can transform your approach to customer loyalty.


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