I love flights. From the time I leave for the airport till the moment I exit the airport of my destination, I pretty much have a big silly grin plastered on my face. However, I’m well aware of the reasons why many regular air travellers loathe the thought of getting on another airplane, and a conversation with someone who had recently made a trip to Bangalore from the US made me think about the opportunities for improving the in-flight experience.
For many people, a large part of their flying experience depends on the people sitting next to them, and of course, the refreshments. This was also the case for the person telling me this anecdote. Since he is a major seafood fan, he makes it a point to head straight to the seafood section of any menu that comes his way. On a flight from Dubai to Bangalore, he saw both shrimp and fish on the menu, so that was that. Seated next to him was an elderly lady who took one look at the shrimp appetiser he had ordered and turned green. It was quite evident that she was a staunch vegetarian, and her reaction was strong enough for our storyteller to change his main course order to something, well, vegetarian.
To me, I think this seems like a perfect opportunity for airlines to use data they collect on customer interests and preferences, personalize traveller experiences and enhance customer satisfaction. For instance, in the case of my seafood-loving storyteller, such a situation could have possibly been avoided if the airlines attempted to act on meal preference (even generic factors such as vegetarian or non-vegetarian) data. Perhaps then a more convenient seating arrangement could have been implemented (I know it may not be possible to please everyone, though). Interestingly, airlines like KLM are already experimenting with initiatives like ‘Meet and Seat’, which allow participating passengers to share social media profiles with others on their flight and select seat next to someone with similar interests. Turkish Airlines also seems to be tapping into the interests of a specific segment of passengers — investors — by featuring in-flight video pitches of strong startups. There has also been some discussion about offering “customized fares to travelers based on how regularly they fly, where they live and the kind of trip they are taking”.
How else do you think airlines should use customer data to make air travel more personalized?