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Airline Industry Trends: What Marketers Need To Know

The airline industry continues to soar, but security issues, the latest tech, and airport construction mean many airlines are still grounded on the runway.

As a marketer, you need to be aware of these airline industry trends when creating first-class campaigns that engage with passengers. Do it right, and the sky's the limit.

Consider both direct and indirect bookings.
Use social media for brand equity.
Use digital to connect with fliers early on in the funnel.
Promote ancillary revenue streams.
Target key segments like millennials.

1. Consider Both Direct and Indirect Bookings 

As an airline marketer, your have two goals:

  • Increase awareness.
  • Improve engagement.

The end goal? Boost bookings.

There are two ways you can boost bookings, of course.

You can increase direct bookings by moving customers through your sales and marketing funnels. How do you do it? Identify high-value customers with the latest analytics and turn them into paying passengers.

You can increase indirect bookings by working with travel management companies (TMCs), online travel agencies (OTAs), and other third-party companies. How do you do it? Access third-party data about prospects and turn them into frequent flyers.

"Most major airlines have three big advantages when they seek to grow their direct bookings: A pool of loyal customers, often members of frequent flyer programs; infrastructure such as call centers to provide post-sales care (which OTAs often lack); and a brand that inspires trust, especially in carriers’ home markets," says PWC.

2. Use Social Media to Build Brand Equity

More than 8 million people take a flight every single day. Often, they share flight experiences on social. They post pics during take-off and landing. They tag airlines.

This is why it's crucial to use social for building brand equity. KLM is just one example of an airline that smashed this. Their "Meet & Seat" campaign allowed fliers to select seats alongside passengers with mutual interests based on their social media likes. The campaign helped the company's social media managers amass $25 million in revenue generation.

Some of the world's top airlines have around 1 million Facebook fans. These social media users are highly engaged with the airlines they follow, and love to see their content reposted and engaged with.

Want to have a similar impact? Feature your passengers on social, host contests, repost Insta Stories, and engage with your passengers.

3. Using Digital Channels to Influence Customers Earlier in Their Journey

As many as 70 percent of customers research and finalize flight purchases online, so you need to influence these consumers early on in the marketing funnel.

When buying tickets, customers check out several online channels across multiple devices. They also use social media to facilitate the decision-making process. You can influence these prospects with a combination of owned and earned visuals and optimize the best ones for your paid media.

Southwest Airlines is an example of a flight operator that uses visuals to create real-life experiences that create an emotional impact. In this digital spot, which Southwest uses to target customers at the top of the funnel, a young boy meets a pilot and takes a tour of an airport.

4. Promote Awareness of New Offers/Sources of Revenue

You can also promote ancillary services—stuff like onboard food, queue jumps, priority passes, etc.—with visual marketing.

Here's an example: To promote its Valentine's Day flight deals, Air Canada asked its flyers to enter a photo contest. Participants had to hold up a sign with the number of kilometers that separated them from their partner, upload the photo to social media, and tag the flight operator in it.

This is not about traditional commercials. Millennials, in particular, don't trust ads: 84 percent of them just don't respond to conventional TV and radio spots like previous generations did. This is about showcasing pre and post-flight and onboard experiences in a digital space.

User-generated content (UGC) is a great way to promote awareness about your services, and how your passenger experience is different or unique. The truth is, 85 percent of consumers find UGC more influential than brand videos and photos.

5. Target Key Segments (Like Millennials) With Visual Content

Millennials travel more (and spend more on their travels) than any other age group. Focusing on key segments like these, therefore, will provide you with a return on your marketing spend.

Airlines are already creating new routes that appeal to young travelers. As a marketer, though, focus on experiences rather than services. Millennials favor authentic experiences over owning "things." 

Consider also that more than 60 percent of millennials say they understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, versus just 7 percent who don’t.

Incorporating visual content and user-generated galleries into your website will help you gain a competitive advantage over other airlines who are less progressive.

There are several challenges that face the global airline industry, but you can use methods like social media, visuals, and user-generated galleries to make your digital marketing take flight.

The Complete Guide to User-Generated Content for Airlines

About the author

Julia Manoukian is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at CrowdRiff. A former journalist, she has helped several Toronto startups raise their thought leadership profiles and scale their content efforts to influence revenue. She's passionate about storytelling, traveling, and tech.

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