5 exceptional airline customer experience examples | DMA

Filter By

Show All

Connect to


5 exceptional airline customer experience examples

Last month we brought you 5 essential customer experience examples. Lexden would class these as those which ‘Maintain’ competitiveness. This latest batch are different. They create ‘Advantage’ and ‘Differentiation’ for the airline and are more progressed in terms of customer experience maturity according to Lexden’s assessment.

Customer experience is the perfect business model to demonstrate brand differentiation. Essentials tend to be easy to copy so will rarely define a brand, regardless of sector. Those focusing on these areas alone will always be caught unless they can constantly improve essentials. Where as those airlines who also strive to be on the forefront of customer experience innovations building advantage for passengers, the bottom line and the brand can become recognised for their experience.

They range from original and unique products, to new design features and service improvements. I hope that this list of those which stand out from the others will be helpful to you, no matter which industry you work in.

Signature dish

malaysia airlines satay dish

Signature dish is something that is a well-established differential factor for restaurants and gastro-pubs, but not so much in the aviation industry. However, a signature dish in in-flight menu can really boost not only the customer experience, but also the airline brand. The best-known example of that is the chicken satay with peanut sauce served in Business Class on board Malaysia Airlines. It has become a must-try dish for all passengers travelling with this airline. Many passengers ask for it, and it is even considered as the best satay that one can find in Malaysia. The secret is that passengers on every single long-haul flight on board Malaysia Airlines can taste this dish. Thus, it does not only highlights the Malaysian culture and enhances airlines image, but also makes passengers crave it.

Magazines and Newspapers in Economy Class

ba mags

Nowadays, passengers are increasingly expecting up-to-date reading materials in the cabin. As in Business Class that has become an essential product, many airlines still neglect Economy Class passengers. British Airways is amongst the best airlines in the world in providing free reading materials to all passengers, regardless of their cabin of travel.

The airline is providing newspapers and magazines near the boarding gate, so that passengers can select and choose their favorite title even before boarding the aircraft. This has two advantages:

1. The airline does not have to provide copies for all passengers, as many will not be interested in this service.

2. More importantly, making newspapers and magazine available to passengers before boarding, allows the airline to organize the boarding process quicker, and in case of any flight delay, passengers are more understanding.

Lounge – Gate Entry

ethiad gate boarding

This is one of the most innovative customer experience features, as it allows Business Class passengers to board the plane straight from the business Class lounge. Etihad Airlines, the flag carrier of UAE, has invested a large sum of money intro this unique feature, at selected airports in the United States. Thanks to this design, Business and First Class passengers using the lounge, can board the plane without the need of queuing at the boarding gate. Passengers can bypass that, and board the plane at their leisure directly from the lounge. Only few airlines can now offer this service, as this requires very expensive design adjustments to allow an additional air-bridge to be connected with the lounge. However, in my opinion, more and more airlines will offer this feature in the future, as Business and First Class passengers expect seamless and stress-free travel experience.

Immigration on board

garuda immigration on boad

Garuda, the flag carrier of Indonesia, has introduced a very innovative and unique service on board their long-haul flights to Jakarta. Thanks to this service, passengers on board a Garuda Indonesia flight can obtain a visa on arrival with the assistance from immigration officers available on board. This saves time for passengers, as they do not have to go through the time-consuming visa application at the airport. Moreover, it helps Indonesia to attract more tourists, hence generate more passengers for the airline. From my own experience, this service works very efficiently and has been well received by passengers.

I believe, that more airlines will introduce this service, especially in popular tourist destinations, such as Vietnam or Cambodia, where foreign tourists are still required a visa on arrival.

QR Kids set

Qatar airlines

Flying with kids on a long-haul flight can be bothersome not only for the parents, but also for all other passengers. Children, out of their comfort zone, tend to seek attention as a way of controlling the situation or if familiar with surrounds can get easily bored on a long flight. Qatar Airways with their extensive long-haul network, realised that creating a fun and engaging environment for their youngest passengers, will not only make the journey more pleasurable for other passengers, but also would encourage parents to travel with their children more often. Qatar Airways offers a wide range of amenities for kids. For instance, they have a dedicated IFE channel, with videos pre-selected for kids. Also, QR staff would distribute toy sets, which includes books, puzzles and colouring pages. Finally, during the meal service, children can receive a special lunch box, with meals designed especially for kids. Not revolutionary, but not universal either.

These passenger (or customer as every other sector refers to it’s clientele) experience examples not only improve the overall experience, but also strengthen the airline brand and image driving carrier preference beyond price.

As more sectors accept when it comes to attracting and retaining customers who have the appetite to be loyal, price has been a less effective lever to influence behaviour than experience, we can expect many more innovations will follow.

Posted by Julian Lukaszewicz, Airline Consultant and Associate of Lexden.

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the heart of the decision

Hear more from the DMA

Please login to comment.