Convenience, Connectivity & Choice: Flying High with Millennial Travelers
“Ultimately, it comes down to convenience, communication and choice…That’s what today’s travelers want and are willing to dig deeper in their pockets for.”
– Mike Benjamin, CEO of OAG Flightview
A recent article on Skift.com, “Survey: Millennial Flyers Are More Willing to Pay for Premium Conveniences,” analyzed the latest findings from OAG Flightview’s survey of travelers (about a 1/3 business and 2/3 leisure sampling) and suggested a rapidly-evolving traveler demographic. The research confirmed several trends we have all assumed – this new generation of Millennial travelers are motivated to spend more on technology and the promise of control to effortlessly navigate through the typically unpredictable airport maze. It’s no surprise the travel and hospitality industries are hyper-focused on delivering “convenience, communication and choice” as aptly noted by Mike Benjamin, CEO of OAG Flightview, a real-time travel solutions provider which offers consumers flight update apps for smartphones. From hotels to convention centers to airports, we cannot avoid the friendly reminders everywhere we turn with self-check apps for our smart phones or self-service kiosks readily available to expedite our journey.
This proliferation of “a la carte” technology-oriented solutions aims squarely at Millennial travelers who account for “nearly 80 million people in the U.S. alone.” The article goes on to explain that “Generation Y (better known as “Millennials”) is the fastest-growing demographic in both the workplace and the marketplace.” As this group represents nearly one-third of the traveling public in the US, it is integral for many of us in the travel industry to listen more carefully to assess how this technology-enabled generation can positively influence the design of new, powerful and forward-thinking travel environments.
MILLENIAL TRAVEL: by the numbers
The OAG Flightview surveyed primarily Millennial consumers and found the most popular improved customer experience solutions for which they would willingly pay for trended toward technology; including Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging for baggage tracking in real time, high-speed Wi-Fi, and in-seat power.
- 53% would pay for RFID enabled real-time baggage tracking.
- 50% would pay for in-seat power.
- 40% would pay for temporary luggage check-in, allowing them to shop and dine freely.
- 37% would pay for priority baggage claim.
- 35% would pay for curbside rental car pickup.
- 31% would pay for text messaging capabilities.
- 26% would pay for flight status alerts sent automatically to third parties (e.g. work, family, hotel and ground transportation).
- 18% would pay for pre-ordered food and drinks at airport restaurants and cafes via mobile.
THE “A LA CARTE” 21ST CENTURY AMERICAN TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
These on-demand, technology-oriented preferences are not exclusive to Millennial travelers – the aviation industry, for example, has long embraced the idea of convenience, communications and choice as not only a strategy to attract this growing socio-economic demographic, but as a core business approach. Specifically, this approach aims to 1) optimize facilities / re-assess unnecessary capital expenditures, 2) cater to a wide spectrum of customer needs and 3) streamline labor costs. The convergence of ease and accessibility of robust and flexible technology solutions – from self-check kiosks to mobile check-in apps – have long been the focus in discussions on aviation trends, but there are other mature and evolving developments that are improving the passenger experience. These seemingly simple solutions, when considered in the broader scope, suggest new directions we can further explore to enhance convenience, communications and choice for US travelers:
- Off-site baggage delivery – prior to the events of September 11, baggage couriers in Las Vegas would pick up bags at select hotels from passengers departing the same day and deliver them to the airport. Today, the checked baggage delivery service has returned to the hotels and has evolved into a reliable TSA-certified baggage delivery system replete with RFID tracking to ensure prompt and accurate delivery from the Strip to the terminal.
- iPad-enabled dining experiences – Since 2011 (shortly after the debut of the iPad), concessionaires like New York-based OTG, have been perfecting the server-less dining experience for a quick and convenient airport meal. Simply tap the language of your choice on your table’s iPad, browse the menu, select, swipe your credit card on it, and your meal is delivered right to your table.
- Premium a la carte services – From high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi and satellite TV offerings to premium security lanes and club room access, travelers today have the option to upgrade their travel experience at their fingertips.
- Pop-Up Retail – The idea of retail pop-up kiosks is not a novel one, but airports have become increasingly more nimble in delivering an authentic taste of the neighborhood to their passengers. Oakland International Airport had, for a number of years, welcomed a local high school to operate a concession stand run by their students at the Terminal 1 concourse. This innovative program both provided students life skills as well as offered a creative way to showcase an authentic slice of the East Bay. In a recent charrette with the Capital Programs staff at Massport, the operators of Boston-Logan International Airport, we took the idea of “a flavor of Boston” to a whole new level, suggesting they introduce a “Boston food truck” program at their spacious International Arrivals Hall to reimagine a new dining experience for both visitors and airport staff alike.
Airports, airlines and their affiliated industries should consider how to embrace these developments as a unique opportunity to refresh the travel experience for a rapidly diversifying marketplace. As the OAG Flightview survey indicates, this is an opportunity for airports of all shapes and sizes to think about how they can leverage these basic design criteria – CONVENIENCE, CONNECTIVITY & CHOICE – to better engage with this important demographic for years to come.