According to the 2019 Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study, getting a cheap ticket is not the single most important issue travellers consider when booking plane tickets. The study, released this week, found that when purchasing international tickets, good customer service, good food, convenient schedules and an airline’s reputation were all more important than a low fare.
Much to the surprise of many, it turns out that US passengers are not as focused on snagging a cheap ticket as airlines seem to think they are. This week, renowned customer satisfaction research firm J.D. Power, released its 2019 survey showing that price is not as much of a deciding factor as you might think when it comes to booking a trip.
The survey was conducted in September and October 2019. 6,287 passengers leaving the US were asked to provide feedback in nine categories; inflight services; cost and fees; aircraft; flight crew; check-in; boarding; immigration; baggage; and reservation.
So why is price not so important? For almost 40 years, commercial aviation has been driven by the idea that the cheaper a ticket is, the more people will fly. Price does remain at the top of the priority list for anyone looking for a domestic flight. However, the new survey shows that an airline with a good reputation, good customer service and a convenient schedule of flights is actually the best of the bunch for any international service.
It turns out we are willing to pay more for our flight if we can watch the latest films and eat tastier food. Food options are limited when flying; you can’t bring our own hot meal and you can’t cook for yourself, so you’re reliant on what an airline provides. It’s proven than food tastes blander when eaten in a pressurised cabin at 35,000 ft so its no surprise that an airline with good food, gets the customers.
However, as food is also limited due to the lack of cooking facilities on an aircraft, inflight entertainment is also key to providing a good experience. Unsurprisingly, passengers value an entertainment system as key to a good experience. If you have to spend nine hours in the same place, the survey shows that we’re willing to pay more to keep boredom at bay.
Customer service and reputation
It’s not just food and films that turn passengers’ heads and open their wallets. If an airline has good customer service from bag check-in to airplane crew, we’re happy to dish out more money. 40% of survey participants said previous good experience with an airline would persuade them to rebook and pay more.
Airlines have the ability to generate long-term loyalty from customers, or lose them entirely, through delivering a smooth, professional service. An attentive flight crew, decent storage space and swift baggage reclaim will earn an airline more repeat customers than offering a lower price compared to a competitor. Michael Taylor, head of J.D. Power’s Travel Intelligence research unit commented that,
“A low fare may be the best way to attract a first-time international passenger but retaining passengers on routes to Europe and Asia is all about delighting customers with great in-flight experiences.”
Even if a passenger hasn’t traveled with an airline before, we are happy to pay more to go with an airline that has a good reputation. Whether its official advertising or word of mouth, a good reputation is key. A bad reputation can mean that customers will pay more to not fly with an airline. So much to the dismay of PR people everywhere, it turns out that there is such a thing as bad publicity.
I don’t know of anyone who particularly loves arriving at an airport at 4 am for a flight. It seems that no one really enjoys it. It is, in fact, something we are willing to pay to avoid. The survey found that we are willing to pay that little bit extra to have a more convenient flight time.
For some, this means making sure our arrival time avoids jetlag or gives you an extra few hours of holiday. Both business and leisure passengers are willing to fork out the money to travel at a time that suits them.
So, who is the best airline?
Well, if you’re flying to Europe, Turkish airlines are the best with an impressive 833 out of 100. Closely followed by Virgin Atlantic on 829 while British Airways and Delta both scored 815.
If you’re heading to Asia then you’ll be happiest on Japan Airlines who scored 869. Delta came a close second with a score of 861 followed by Korean Air with 854.
Do you agree with the survey results? Would you pay more for a good experience or is the price the most important thing? Let us know how you compare in the comments below.