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It’s all about experience

WorldPay’s Perfect Passenger Payment survey of airlines and their customers makes for essential reading. Why do passengers abandon their bookings, and how can airlines improve the process?

Booking flights online isn’t new. As early as 1995, carriers have been offering passengers the opportunity to search, book and pay for flights over the internet. In the same year that Amazon and eBay took their first tentative steps towards changing the retail world forever, airlines were beating their own path towards innovation, making it easier – in principle – than ever to fly.


While airlines may have been there at the start of the dot-com revolution, the online landscape that we see today is unrecognisable from the digital frontier of 1995, and the way that we’re able to pay for goods and services changes on an almost daily basis.


There’s no doubt that eCommerce continues to be massively important for airlines. In the past 12 months, 71% of passengers booking flights did so via an airline operator website and the industry as a whole estimates that, on average, 42% of its company revenues come from direct online ticket bookings. The expectation is that this will increase by 5% over the next year.


But in a sector where profits are being squeezed from every angle and competition is fierce, online customer engagement and ticket sales are critical functions that enable the industry to realise corporate goals. The real question is: have airlines kept up online?


To get a better understanding of the issues that affect the way that we book and pay for flights today, WorldPay commissioned independent research into the views of thousands of airline customers from across the globe. Data from this consumer research was supported by the views of more than 50 major airlines.


The distinct viewpoints of these two groups are brought together in this report. Perfect Passenger Payments outlines the big issues that airlines need to address now in order to improve the eCustomer experience and boost online sales.


With clear disconnects in the online customer experience posing threats to brand, reputation and competitive edge, in this report we take an in-depth look at these areas of misalignment and give clear direction on what airlines can do to make the most of the online opportunity.


The surcharge shock

Surcharges are losing airlines custom – 36% of those who leave before buying do so because they’ve been hit with a ‘hidden charge’. But airlines don’t see this. Only 6% think that customers leave because of surcharges. Some 53% of consumers say that surcharges aren’t made clear enough when buying online, while 28% of all online flight shoppers say that they’ve experienced hidden surcharges at some point.


Customer confusion

Customers care most about finding the right flights (89%) and that they are clearly priced (88%) when booking online. But more than a quarter (27%) say that price clarity falls short of expectations. Airlines are missing the mark when it comes to customer priorities, with only 18% believing that after-sales service is important – while around three quarters of customers say it is. And 59% of airlines admit to receiving complaints about declined payments, while 32% of customers who have a payment declined will switch to another carrier.


Fair fares

Generally, airlines are doing well on flexibility of payment types. Most customers say they can pay by their preferred method. But 80% of customers feel that being charged more for using a preferred method of payment is unfair, and 38% would switch to another airline if their chosen payment method was removed by their current carrier. Meanwhile, 45% of airlines bill in their native currency, not the customer’s – and airlines aren’t keeping up with the pace of innovation – only 10% offer mobile payments, while 39% of customers want them.


Abandon shop

Despite concerns on customer expectations, airlines are out of the loop when it comes to getting customer feedback. Some 43% don’t look for any kind of customer input on the purchasing process – despite the fact that 30% of improvements made come from customer feedback. And airlines don’t just fail to find out how to get better – they also fail to find out why customers leave. As many as 29% fail to track shopping cart abandonment at the payment stage, while airlines believe that 80% of customers complete their purchase – in reality, more than a quarter leave without paying.

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