How to create an experience for the modern traveller

In five to ten years millennials will be entering their peak earning, spending and travelling years. What do airlines need to do in order to create an experience for the modern traveller?

This will be true for both business and leisure travels. By 2020 they will represent 50% of the business travel spending, and will continue to do so for 15 years after that. Most likely Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) currently make up your biggest customers group, but their spending will drop to around 16% of the total reported spending on business flights by 2020, and to 11% by 2025.

This means that while millennials might not be getting your full attention yet, they are already engaging with brands, forming habits and preferences. Younger millennials are reported to have strong brand loyalty compared to non-millennials and are also inclined to share brand preferences in their social groups. When it comes to making reservations they already have a clear opinion: it’s burdensome and should be more efficient.

Airlines and travel agents have a lot to gain by developing strategies for, and learn to understand, the modern traveller in order to win their business.

Millennial business travellers

According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, millennial business travellers are 60% more likely to upgrade for extra legroom, compared to other generational groups, and far more open to paying more for roomier seats and in-flight entertainment. They also book their tickets later and tend to make more itinerary changes than non- millennials.

Millennials travelling for business use more airport amenities – in particular internet connections, charging stations, and stores – than does non- millennials. During the actual flight they are four times more likely to pay for wi-fi, and twice as likely to watch downloads on their mobile devices. An impressive 60% of them are more likely to watch in-flight entertainment.

Millennial leisure travellers

Currently many millennials have yet to obtain the income that will allow them to travel extensively. But many of them are already enjoying the opportunity to travel for leisure. Hardly surprising, this category often comes from the same group that is travelling for business. As leisure travellers, millennials tend to spend on technology services such as wi-fi and charging stations. Younger millennials also spend on in-flight entertainment. As more and more of them begin to travel in earnest, and become more affluent, the demand for ancillary services will broaden and increase, provided they can be had in a convenient way.

A mobile-first generation

To a millennial, the mobile phone is arguably the most important piece of technology in their life. According to the BCG report, millennials are much more likely to use a mobile device for making travel arrangements than other customer groups. An impressive 75% of millennials have downloaded and use travel apps on their smartphones. The mobile phone plays a vital part in everything travel-related they do. They are twice as likely to use their mobile phones to show travel pictures to friends, share travel photos on social media, blog or recount travel experiences online, and post-travel reviews.

This behaviour reflects what we know in general of millennials – they are avid users of several social networks, which they rely on for news, entertainment and social interaction. In this broader context as well the smartphone is central to everything they do. With around 85% of millennials owning a smartphone they are the largest group of smartphone users in the US, and figures from other parts of the world are on par with this.