Published on : Thursday, December 27, 2018
Different global carriers like United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are giving gate agents and flight attendants access to more customer data in hopes of giving passengers more personalized service.
Still, there’s only so much a birthday greeting can do to make up for a lost bag or late arrival, particularly when airlines want to steer clear of conversations that feel too personal. While in-cabin recognition might be the most visible way airlines are working to do more with the troves of data they collect, behind-the-scenes efforts to mine stats on everything from collisions between airport vehicles to turbulence touch almost every piece of a passenger’s trip.
Most of the data they are working with is the sort of information airlines have long collected. And there’s no shortage: a Boeing 787 generates half a terabyte of information per flight, said JJ DeGiovanni, a managing director with United’s corporate safety team. The challenge is figuring out how to use it in ways that are meaningful for the airline and its passengers.
When it comes to personalized service, just how meaningful today’s programs are depends on whom the passenger ask.
Jay Sorensen, president of airline consulting firm IdeaWorks, said he is skeptical that employees would have the right kind of information — or the time — to add real value for flyers, outside of a handful of cases, like helping passengers at risk of missing a connecting flight get off the plane first. Even if an airline could anticipate your drink order, placing it isn’t a strenuous task, he said, and flight attendants have other tasks to juggle.
But passengers do seem to appreciate the personal touch, said Allison Ausband, Delta’s senior vice president of in-flight service.
Delta Airlines aims to have those personal interactions with about 20 travellers per flight, either in conversations or through postcards flight attendants can hand-deliver.
The priority goes to those who had some type of disruption on a recent flight, such as a lengthy delay.
For now, most of the passenger information flight attendants can access to personalize in-flight service is the sort of thing airlines already track, like frequent flyer status, or details included in every booking, like a passenger’s date of birth and connecting flight.