What 2015’s record-breaking airline industry performance means for travelers?

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MCLEAN, VA – Against a backdrop of what is quickly becoming the busiest summer travel season in United States history, Booz Allen’s airline and travel experts have highlighted the key drivers of a q

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MCLEAN, VA – Against a backdrop of what is quickly becoming the busiest summer travel season in United States history, Booz Allen’s airline and travel experts have highlighted the key drivers of a quickly changing traveler experience.

“The airline industry has done a tremendous job of maintaining capacity discipline and identifying opportunities to unbundle and monetize ancillary products,” said Booz Allen Chief Scientist Alex Cosmas, head of the firm’s travel practice. “However, while these have contributed to the industry’s record profitability, both have unfortunately applied pressure on the customer experience.”

To that end, Booz Allen’s market analysis models have revealed consistent trends – validated by industry insiders and the firm’s clients – that provide a new look at the contemporary passenger experience:

• Airline booking curves have shifted by one week over the past year, resulting in earlier competition for seats.

• A two percent increase in load factors has resulted in window and aisle seats being grabbed, on average, three days earlier this summer than last summer.

• It is 34 percent less likely that a middle seat will remain empty, as compared to last year.

• Despite a rapidly-growing base of over two million members in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry fast-track program, customs wait times are ten percent more likely to exceed 30 minutes, as compared to last year.

Source: Booz Allen’s research employed data from Airlines for America (A4A), U.S. Department of Transportation (BTS and DOT), schedule data and individual airlines and technology providers.

Dr. Jinane Abounadi, an airline distribution expert, advises that, as airlines increasingly leverage complex systems to optimize their operations and revenue, customers will find fewer and fewer “steals” to celebrate. Today’s airlines are not only servicing higher volumes of passengers but are also held to the high service standards of the digital age. Contemporary travelers demand accurate information on-command as well as the ability to make changes and requests in real-time.

According to analysts at Juniper Research, one-third of all boarding passes will be issued on mobile devices by 2019, quickly making planning ahead, self-service and selective buying the new airline industry normal.

“Early planners will prevail in this new era of travel, and procrastinators will pay in both time and money,” said Dr. Christoph Wollersheim, a senior aviation economist for Booz Allen. “The focus must now shift to how the travel industry can service record demand while recapturing the hearts of the traveling public by redefining customer service.”

In light of the growing trend toward consumer self-reliance, the firm has observed tourism organizations increasingly using analytics to deliver more personalized customer service – mirroring trends seen in the retail sector.

“These innovators will soar above the competition in the next 12-18 months,” Cosmas said. “And we’re committed to helping them turn customers’ digital breadcrumbs into actionable insights that allow them to better predict – and explain – the choices those customers make.”

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