Boarding Pass Design Warrants More Thought in the Airline Industry
That air travel has become commoditized is no secret. Study after study in recent years has shown that for the vast majority of travelers, there is no such thing as loyalty anymore. Instead, purchase decisions are based solely on ticket price, fees and schedules. Still, this hasn’t stopped airlines from spending–and spending healthily–to differentiate their brand name. The global airline sponsorship market has eclipsed $500 million annually, while United States airwaves continue to be flooded with messages like Southwest Airlines’ “Bags Fly Free” claim.
Given the volume of these expenditures by some carriers to market a brand name in a highly commoditized industry, and the complete lack of investment of others, I’m simply stunned that airlines don’t do more to promote their brand image among the customers they already have. While I will soon get into topics such as surveying and other tactics to learn from one’s most valuable customers why they are indeed customers of a particular hospitality brand or airline, today’s focus revolves around a simple topic: boarding passes.
Take Advantage of Branding Opportunities That Exist at no Extra Cost
For the past two years, we have been harping on the industry that customer engagement is a continuous cycle, with inspiration and sharing becoming just as valuable as the actual hours spent in contact with the customer. Air travel represents excitement for so many travelers, so why not put just a bit of thought into the little details that can help build resounding goodwill?
I admit, I am a rarity among veteran travelers in that I save boarding cards. After millions upon millions of miles flown, I still hang onto those little momentos. When I come across a snazzy one, I’m excited. Rarity though I may be, I’m certainly not the only one who saves them–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen boarding passes in scrapbooks or shared throughout the Instagram world.
Despite this, we are rarely given anything more than a flimsy piece of paper with some black and white ink, often times not even listing the origin or destination on the part that we actually keep! It is just inexcusable for an airline to allow a customer to walk away with a piece of paper that says simply “DL3839” boarding at D23 at 15:10. Does it really cost that much more in ink to print the city names at least?
I’ve heard the argument: airlines want to save on printing costs. Color ink is expensive. Yada, yada, yada. I get that. But somehow, the little receipt for gate checked bags is printed in color, and NObody saves those. We aren’t talking having color printers at the gate–simply a little splash of color somewhere on stock boarding card paper, printed by the thousands of reams, would do enough to recall the brand association (as mentioned in a thoughtful article on boarding pass design by Adam Glynn-Finnegan here).
Would most people discard their used boarding passes anyway? Absolutely.
But my point is that, as with so many other things airlines can improve upon, a little bit of thought would go a long way with some people. And if you aren’t spending hardly anything to do it, then some is surely better than none, right?
Glynn-Finnegan goes on to design the ideal boarding card, which features the carrier’s logo, and all necessary information laid out chronologically, giving credence to all users who need to quickly spot information on the boarding card–first security, then traveler, then gate agent. Glynn-Finnegan’s model suggests that we first need to know things like date, flight number, boarding time and location, and only later do we need to be concerned with boarding priority or seat assignment.
I think Glynn-Finnegan’s model is phenomenal, and one that forward thinking airlines would do well for themselves to consider. There are several other innovative design concepts available in Tyler Thompson’s “Pass/Fail” blog here.
A little bit of thought goes a long way!
Compare these examples to some typical boarding passes now, and you will see a massive improvement (see comments below).