10 Customer Complaints Destroying Airline Customer Experience and 13 Outsourced Solutions That Can Mitigate CX Impact

Published: February 23, 2024

The challenge many airlines face today is finding out how to provide a top-notch customer experience (CX) even as travel volumes continue skyrocketing. Thankfully, working with an outsourcing provider can help the aviation industry keep up with rising demand without neglecting customer service quality.

This article will tackle the most common customer complaints that airlines face daily. Then, we’ll discuss how outsourced back-office solutions can help address these issues, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience for passengers.

Top 10 Common Complaints That Disrupt the Airline Customer Experience

Today’s airlines compete based on customer experience. According to Qualtrics XM’s research, 86% of passengers are likelier to recommend airlines that provide positive, emotional, and memorable experiences. 

The first step to crafting an effective CX strategy is understanding and acknowledging airline passengers’ most frequently reported complaints. 

A mini infographic shows the most common customer complaints from airline passengers.

Lost Baggage

Losing baggage at the airport can be an incredibly frustrating and even angering customer experience for many passengers, especially when their bags contain valuable items like gadgets, jewelry, cash, or even urgently needed medications. 

It is also, sadly, one of the most common customer complaints about airlines. A recent report found that nearly 8 out of every 1,000 bags were lost, delayed, or damaged at an airport, adding up to over 26 million pieces of baggage.

Because of this issue’s sensitive nature, your customer service representative must show great empathy toward passengers dealing with it, assuring them that your team will be tracking and tracing the location of their baggage and will work hard to ensure its safe return.

Delayed or Canceled Flights

Another bad customer experience at the airport involves delayed or canceled flights. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the most common reasons for flight delays are air carrier problems (4.8%), the plane arriving late (4.65%), delays in the national aviation system (3.67%), and weather conditions (0.28%).

No matter the reason for the delay, this problem can be exceptionally aggravating for customers. Any shifts in flight schedules can cause significant disruption to their plans, particularly when they’re meant to be attending a once-in-a-lifetime event or have a non-refundable reservation somewhere. 

People traveling for business, who may have time-sensitive meetings or projects, may also feel particularly aggrieved by this issue. Airline customer service representatives must work quickly to guide passengers as they book new flights and rearrange their itineraries.

Uncomfortable Plane Seats

Discomfort during a flight is another typical complaint customer service representatives must bear in mind – and the aircraft’s seating arrangements are usually to blame.

A Gallup survey found that 52% of American air travelers reported feeling uncomfortable during a flight, and 53% are even willing to pay more to have an empty seat next to them.

Many factors can contribute to the comfort level of aircraft seating, including lack of legroom, closeness to fellow passengers, and thinness of the seat. 

For this reason, airlines must have a dedicated passenger accommodations team to help people find their optimal seating arrangement and minimize discomfort, especially during long flights.

Hidden Charges

Finding sudden extra costs after booking a flight can leave many people feeling misled and overcharged. To avoid giving passengers a wrong impression of your airline, your flight booking and customer service teams must provide a clear and detailed overview of charges upfront, clearly stating which fees are optional and which are not.

Unavailable or Inefficient Customer Service

Sometimes, passengers may need to make quick changes to their flight and itinerary details, inquire about airline regulations, share feedback and concerns about their airport experience, or cancel their booking. In these scenarios, they’ll need a dedicated customer service and customer experience team to assist them.

If your airline representatives don’t reply to customers quickly, put them on hold for too long, or fail to resolve their issues, don’t be surprised if they opt to stop doing business with you in the future.

Cabin Cleanliness

As the travel and tourism sector rebounds post-pandemic, airline passengers have become more aware of the best hygiene practices due to COVID-19. They are also more likely to notice their surroundings’ cleanliness (or lack thereof). 

To improve customer experience, airlines must thoroughly clean their aircraft, seats, and cabin washrooms before and after each flight. Your customer service team can also provide detailed health and safety guidelines and protocols to passengers, reassuring them that you care about their well-being and peace of mind.

Trouble With Refunds

Another problem affecting the overall customer experience for airline passengers is the refund process. Some clients deal with prolonged processing times, difficulty getting refunded for services they paid for but did not receive, or lack of proper compensation. These issues can affect how a customer views your airline, and they may remember these negative experiences the next time they want to book a flight.

Inflexible Fare Terms and Conditions

The complex fare structures and booking terms airlines use can confuse the average passenger. For instance, a customer may book a cheaper flight without knowing they can no longer cancel or change their booking details after a family emergency. This lack of flexibility and other misunderstandings related to terms and conditions can cause a lot of frustration among airline passengers.

Poor Quality Meals

Another negative customer feedback many airlines receive is the quality and availability of in-flight meals. Meals are an additional expense for passengers flying in economy class, so many people have high expectations for food quality, leading to disappointment if the food isn’t as good as they hoped.

Some passengers with special diets, such as those needing vegan, halal, or gluten-free meals, also often find themselves disappointed by the lack of options available to them. 

Airlines must make it a point to consider customer feedback when planning in-flight meals, ensuring that special orders are available and that the food is appropriately priced.

Aircraft Changes

Airlines may rotate their fleets for maintenance, capacity variation, or other operational reasons. However, this can cause problems for passengers who have pre-booked their preferred seats. After the airline switches planes, customers will be advised upon check-in that they’ll have to be reseated, causing dissatisfaction and annoyance.

13 Outsourcing Solutions That Can Help Improve Airline Customer Experience Management

A mini infographic shows the 13 customer service roles for airlines.

Now that you’re familiar with passengers’ most common issues with airlines, let’s talk about how outsourcing can help the aviation industry handle customer complaints and make their journey as seamless and hassle-free as possible. Here are a few back-office solutions to improve your customer experience:

Airline Reservation Agents

No airline customer experience strategy is complete without dedicated reservation agents. These customer support professionals handle passenger flight bookings, including answering inquiries, resolving reservation complaints, and updating them on flight schedules and regulations.

Aviation Management Services

Aviation management personnel oversee all aspects of an airline’s operations, including handling flight logistics, maintaining aircraft, and coordinating with multiple parties to ensure a smooth flight. These outsourced workers must be well-versed in flight safety protocols and proactive in monitoring schedules, flight plans, and other operational functions.

Baggage Tracing

As mentioned above, missing baggage is one of the most common airline customer complaints. Invest in outsourced baggage tracing specialists to turn this problem into a positive customer experience. These BPO professionals help passengers file a report for their lost luggage, use top-of-the-line software to track it, and update customers immediately once it’s found.

Baggage Claims

Once the baggage tracing specialists have found a passenger’s missing baggage, the next step is to make it easy for them to claim it. This is where the baggage claims department steps in. Beyond assisting customers with claiming their lost luggage, they also handle left-behind baggage claims and address possible damages.

Customer Support for Airline Check-In

Before getting on a plane, all passengers must go through check-in, which is a process that can feel tricky or confusing for many first-time fliers. Customer support specialists must be available to guide these people during check-in, helping them verify their flight details, load their luggage, and assist them with boarding.

Disruption Management

Due to the volatile nature of the aviation industry, proper disruption management is crucial to an airline’s long-term survival and success. After all, being able to foresee, adapt, or respond to emergencies can help avoid flight cancellations and delays, prevent flight problems, and improve CX for passengers.

Disruption management specialists monitor all possible operational disruptions, such as weather disturbances, scheduling conflicts, competing logistics, mechanical issues, etc. They use real-time data analysis to create proactive solutions for various disruptions and plan for contingencies.

Flight Planning

Another back-office function you can delegate to a BPO provider is flight planning, which involves mapping out flight logistics for multiple aircraft. These outsourced professionals can help you create good customer experiences by ensuring an aircraft can reach its intended destination on time and complying with air traffic control regulations to prevent mid-air accidents and fortify passenger safety.

In addition, flight planners must monitor weather conditions in real time and rely on accurate forecasts to determine whether the air temperature, head and tailwinds, climate, and other factors are ideal for a smooth plane ride.

Flight Data Analysis

To further enforce flight safety and improve performance, flight data analysts collect, analyze, and interpret information from flight data recorders (FDRs). They then identify patterns from the raw data and turn them into actionable insights. 

These data analysts are usually concerned with whether pilots and airlines follow flight safety procedures and recommend ways to enhance efficiency while ensuring stability and reliability.

Ground Transportation Support and Dispatching

Moving to, from, and around an airport can be stressful for most people but particularly challenging for passengers with disabilities or mobility issues. Many airports offer ground transportation services to provide a great customer experience, which may involve using a shuttle to transport passengers to nearby hotels or moving them from one part of the airport to another.

Through BPO dispatch services, you can support your ground transportation crew and allow them to move from point to point more efficiently. They can assist your shuttle drivers with route planning and logistics, helping them transport passengers to the correct destination before or after their flight.  

Load Control

Load control officers are responsible for ensuring that an aircraft does not exceed its load limits, helping to ensure a smooth takeoff and landing. They also review aircraft types, define load limits, monitor conditions affecting flight performance, and prepare documentation for load planning.

Multilingual Customer Support Solutions

Since international airlines accommodate passengers worldwide, having a multilingual customer support team is necessary for your daily operations. Traveling can already be a stressful experience for many people, and adding language barriers on top of it can discourage customers from taking a well-earned overseas vacation.

By investing in multilingual solutions, you can ease the transition for your global passengers, allowing them to communicate with your booking agents easily and comfortably. It can also help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts when discussing flight arrangements, leading to overall higher customer satisfaction.

Roster Management

Optimizing your roster is another way to secure quality flight performance. Hiring outsourced roster managers can allow you to look objectively at your workforce and resources, select which crew members to handle which flights, and map out your roster for each new day.

Workforce Planning

The aviation industry has a challenging mission: providing safe and convenient air transportation for people all over the globe. Airlines must practice careful workforce planning and scheduling to achieve this objective, ensuring enough pilots, crew members, and other personnel are around to handle the large volume of flights.

Through outsourcing, airlines can more efficiently handle the complex task of managing their workforce. Delegating this function to BPO professionals can lighten the workload of their core team while creating a smooth customer journey for passengers.

Address Customer Complaints by Including Outsourced Travel Support Solutions in Your Customer Experience Strategy 

Can your airline handle rising passenger demand while providing an exceptional customer experience?

Partner with SuperStaff to fortify and support your airline operations in these uncertain times. We offer a variety of outsourcing solutions, including customer service, back-office, and logistics roles.

Whether you need help addressing your most pressing customer complaints or simply want to scale your operations to accommodate fluctuating demand, our BPO team can be of service. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you!

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