What is passenger experience personalization?

By Hélène Dubos | Personalization

Apr 16

For much of the history of air travel, the passenger experience was fairly uniform: travelers would visit an agency or website to book their tickets, they would be funneled through an airport and onto an airplane which was largely identical to any other. But, this picture of air travel is increasingly outdated, and airlines are beginning to offer an even more personalized passenger experience.

Let’s look at what we mean by personalization in the airline industry, before exploring how it can be put into practice at different stages of the customer journey.

improve passenger experience for customer on plane

A personalized passenger experience will become a key differentiator

According to a report by market research firm Foster & Sullivan, a personalized customer experience will be the key differentiator between brands by 2020 – overtaking both price and product as the principal consideration when people make purchasing decisions. Offering a personalized experience is now easier than ever as companies can tap into a wealth of data about their customers, and therefore provide them with services which most suit their needs and desires.

Gone are the days when all customers received the same marketing messages, when they received the same level of customer care, when everyone who bought a product got the same experience. Digital technology means almost any customer-facing company can now offer its clients a truly personalized service – meaning that those which fail to do so will be left behind.

When we look at the aviation industry, personalization is a key driver behind – and goal of – airline digital transformation. Airlines that can use technology to offer a more personal passenger experience can expect to increase loyalty and grow their profit margins.

What is personalization?

For better or worse, ‘personalization’ has become something of a buzzword across industries in the last couple of years. Fundamentally, it is about using digital technology that can crunch through all your data to help you offer customers perks, information and services which make their journey more enjoyable and which makes them feel like you care about them.

Personalization is difficult to define, however, because it means so many things, and applies in different ways at different stages of the customer’s journey. It might be easier to illustrate the value of personalization by comparing a ‘standard’ passenger experience with something more personalized.

‘Standard’ passenger experience

‘Personalized’ passenger experience

  • A return customer visits your website, selects the dates they need and books their flight
  • The website notices the customer is a return customer and is able to pre-fill the order form, making the process far smoother
  • The customer’s flight is delayed - they only find out via an announcement on the airport display boards
  • The customer receives an SMS personally addressed to them which apologies for the delay and provides an explanation
  • A regular customer orders the same glass of whisky on every flight, but needs to tell cabin crew about his preference
  • On boarding the aircraft, cabin crew greet the passenger by name and tell him his drink will be coming up in just a minute


There are of course limitations of personalization, and airlines need to find a balance between seeming ‘creepy’, versus offering targeted material which clients will really value. At the same time, combining all the data you own on customers from your multiple different sources can prove hugely challenging – although read our recent blog on Data, Customization and the Airline UX to see how you can overcome some of these obstacles.

The personalized passenger experience at three stages

There is enormous scope for personalizing the passenger experience right throughout the customer journey. Let’s look at how airlines can personalize all three stages of a traveller’s journey: pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight.

Pre-flight passenger experience personalization

a personalised passenger experience on airline website

Before the customer has even boarded the plane, there are countless potential ways of offering them a personalized experience. Some of the most obvious potential ‘moments’ for pre-flight personalization include:

Customer segmentation on your website

By detecting patterns in your passengers’ behavior when they visit your website, you can begin to segment them and suggest more appropriate offers. For example, you might notice that a certain profile of customer never pays for additional luggage, a second group sometimes does, and a third group will always pay for additional bags. This would allow you to offer more targeted messages to the second group, such as a ‘one off’ discount on luggage.

The right offer at the right moment

No one wants to feel spammed with car hire or hotel deals they are not interested in - yet at the right time, these offers are appreciated. A personalized system could recognize whether a passenger is just on the market for a cheap flight ticket and has no interest in additional sales, or if they may well be open to the additional option of booking a hotel at the same time.

In-flight passenger personalization

Once a passenger is seated, there are plenty of ways of making their experience more comfortable through a personalized service:

Offering upgrades

When airlines have spare seats in business class, cabin crew often offer upgrades either randomly or on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. But, if the cabin crew could use a tablet to see that it is a certain passenger’s birthday or identify which passenger had a poor experience or which one has the best value for the company, and offer the upgrade as a treat, the passenger experience becomes much more personalized

Ancillary sales

Does Mr Schmidt seem to buy the same perfume for his wife on his bi-annual trip to Singapore? Why not offer him a personalized experience? Perhaps a suggestion for a different perfume, or a small discount to thank him for his regular custom

Communications during connections

Say one of your customers has a five hour connection before their next flight. A personalized passenger experience would recognize the individual’s long waiting time, and offer a discount in your airline’s passenger lounge via an SMS or email

Post-flight personalization

improve the passenger experience if luggage is lost

Finally, there are numerous opportunities for improving the passenger experience post-flight too:

Lost luggage

Losing luggage can be highly distressing for customers. But, an airline that offers a personalized experience can give that customer much more peace of mind. Push notifications which the customer receives via email or SMS could inform them of the physical location of their bags at any one time so they understand where it is and how long it will take to receive it

Personalized marketing emails and comms

There’s huge potential for providing improved personalization with post-flight marketing emails which improve engagement with your brand. Think a “welcome home from your trip” SMS, or an email proposing by anticipation a compensation in case of disruption instead of being reactive to a complaint..

Personalization as part of airline digital transformation

The scope for improving the passenger experience by offering a personalized service is enormous. And with improved digital tools like ConztanzOne, it is easier than ever to draw together data from multiple in-house and external sources that help you create this kind of personalized passenger experience.

To learn how personalization fits into your wider airline digital transformation, read our comprehensive guide today.

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