As 2017 draws to a close, here are five themes that have stood out in European aviation during the last 12 months.
1/ Evolving LCCs
While LCCs have been around for a while, there were several significant shifts in 2017. Irish LCC Ryanair is engaging with unions, easyJet and Ryanair have both started connecting flights and airlines like LEVEL and Joon have been created by the majors in response to long-haul competition. The Amazons of Travel are emerging.
2/ The importance of data and digital strategies
This was a recurring theme of 2017. Ignore digital at your peril. Personalize, personalize, personalize. Some even argued that we are entering a post-demographic era, where sweeping assumptions about preferences are no longer valid. Passengers expect a smooth and joined-up experience as a bare minimum. They have a voice, along with easy access to channels to make sure that voice is heard.
Air fares are cheaper than ever, but UK CAA research shows that levels of trust and satisfaction have fallen too. Airlines are seen as penny-pinching and unsupportive when things go wrong. Flying is seen as a hassle – characterized by delays, long queues and poor customer service – when other areas of life are getting simpler. Airlines are making headlines in the consumer press, but often for the wrong reasons.
Europe entered a second wave of consolidation in 2017. Monarch Airlines, airberlin and Alitalia all felt that pinch, with only Alitalia still flying at year-end. Airlines that fail to adapt to market realities will struggle to survive.
5/ External disruption
There was no shortage of disruption in 2017: terror attacks, laptop and travel bans, further fallout from Brexit and political tensions between Middle East countries. While these factors may be largely uncontrollable, they prove that airlines have to be flexible and ready for anything.
Despite these headwinds, European carriers are posting record performances and really ploughing their resources into improving the customer experience – particularly in terms of digital innovation.
Regardless of business model, Abraham Lincoln’s wise words remain true for 2018: “Whatever you are, be a good one.”[“Source-atwonline”]