March 2020 was a month unlike any other for the airline industry. Within a few days, domestic and international flights were grounded as governments around the world tried to limit the spread of COVID-19. While we don’t know exactly how long it will take for the airline industry to recover, we do know that it will recover eventually, as it has done through other major social and economic disruptions in the past.
Industry experts frame the planning stages in response to COVID-19 as “Crisis, Restart, Recovery, New Normal”. While we are still in the Crisis stage, airlines need to begin strategizing their “Restart” plan to return capacity to the market.
Use Real-Time Route Demand to Determine Network Planning
When the Restart commences, airlines will be flying blind (no pun intended), because historical data is useless for determining current market-by-market demand and travelers’ willingness to pay. Leveraging airline’s website user search data is one supplemental decision-making tool for network planning to decide which routes to reopen according to traveler interest. This enables airlines to identify their most strategic routes in real-time based on actual demand and understand the gap between search volume and load factor in order to identify opportunities for fare adjustments.
Communicate Route Updates and Policies Efficiently
During the Restart Phase, airlines have a responsibility to keep customers informed on policy changes, flight schedules, and safety practices using Custom Pages. If done properly, airlines can leverage this channel to rebuild trust and heal customer psychology. These communications are more than the usual formality that they were pre-crisis; they are a marketing tool to help restore passenger confidence and should be managed with the care that marketing messaging usually entails.
Acquiring (or re-acquiring) customers
Customer loyalty will be tested if fares are not competitive and easy to find. Airlines of all sizes that use this opportunity to optimize their Fare Marketing will expand their passenger base and increase transactions as routes reopen. Low-cost carriers (“LCCs”) may be able to capture business travel market share from full-service carriers (“FSCs”) as that segment becomes more cost-conscious. On the contrary, FSCs may be able to capture leisure travel market share from LCCs by offering comparably low fares.
Getting full planes back in the sky
In this Restart phase, every airline has a unique chance to set itself on an improved course: more precise customer acquisition and less dependency on external distribution leading to decreased acquisition costs.
A key focus in this Restart phase must be on evaluating how each dollar spent on digital marketing impacts direct revenue. Airlines need to have a plan in place to quickly execute tactics across all channels to address rapidly evolving market behavior. To do this, airlines require an arsenal of Fare Marketing tools to execute customer acquisition with precision and cost-effectiveness.
EveryMundo provides Fare Marketing technology to more than 50 airlines globally and is invested in helping our customers navigate the Restart Phase with strategies to optimize direct online customer acquisition. On our website we have published a series of Restart & Re-Acquire Playbooks for airlines that provide actionable tactics to understand real-time demand, optimal pricing, and Fare Marketing to effectively recover post-crisis. We have also published Restart Best Practices showcasing the strategies used by our airline customers to recover from the impact of COVID-19.