Airline reputation update: Consumers feel neither loyal nor valued

by | May 23, 2017 | Public Relations

On the heels of huge reputation gaffes by major airlines recently, brand strategy and market growth firm Brandigo conducted its Airlines Brand Perception Study to see where things stand in the increasingly unfriendly skies.

“After all the amateur videos that have recently surfaced, beginning with the United passenger being pulled unwillingly from his seat on an overbooked flight, airlines need to be on notice that loyalty toward their brands are at risk and consumers don’t have a positive viewpoint of the industry in general,” said Matt Bowen, president of Brandigo\North America, in a news release. “However, this also represents a huge opportunity to win passenger’s brand loyalty moving forward.”

Airlines reputations

Study shows airlines need to move beyond a transactional relationship with customers to build loyalty through exceptional experiences

This survey revealed that:

  • 59.3% do not feel loyal to any airline
  • 56.7% of all respondents’ perception of United Airlines changed since the incident
    • Before the incident: 81.7% were at least neutral or had some level of positivity towards the brand
    • 67.3% of respondents’ current perception of United Airlines is at least somewhat negative
  • For those that fly most frequently (over 7 times per year):
    • Before the incident: 75% were at least neutral or had some level of positivity towards the brand
    • Current perception for 67.9% of the most frequent travelers feel United Airlines is at least somewhat negative
  • 53.7% are less willing to purchase a ticket from United Airlines
  • “Disgust” is the feeling that best describes how 41% of respondents were feeling when they first learned of the United incident
  • 36.2%, if given a choice of airlines, would be willing to pay more to purchase a ticket on a competing airline to avoid flying United Airlines.
  • An overwhelming 73.5% feel that airlines view them as a ticket sale or piece of revenue as opposed to 12% who feel like airlines view them as a valuable customer or 4.6% who feel like airlines view them as a human.
  • 42.5% feel more on edge or on guard when flying following a media incident like the recent United Airlines incident.

A small sampling of some open-ended comments from respondents included:

  • “They only care about the money.”
  • “Airlines have lost all respect for their customer’s dignity and importance.”
  • “It reinforced my perception that in general the airlines are indifferent to customer service.”
  • “ALL airlines treat passengers like crap! It’s all about how much money they can gouge us for!”
  • “They overbook their flights so they seem to be more interested in money than passengers.”
  • “The CEO has completely failed to provide leadership or address these incidents.”
  • “Totally inconsiderate and no sense whatsoever of customer service.”
  • “Poor leadership and customer service people with lack of training to problem solve and take care of customers.”

“Airlines are failing when it comes to building loyalty with their consumers as even the frequent flyer programs are flawed and harder to be a part of now,” said Chris Langathianos, vice president of brand strategy for Brandigo, in the release. “As a result, business travelers, who typically are members of these programs are less valued, and that leaves leisure travelers who are frankly not valued at all. Exceptional customer service and creative unique travel experiences for customers should be priority number one throughout the airline industry right now.”

Read Brandigo’s blog post about the study here.

The nationwide survey was conducted between May 10-12 to a cross section of 410 adults aged 18 and over representing those that do travel by air for business or pleasure. Survey results reflect a margin of error of ± 5.2 percent.

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