Transport and communication services play an important role for integrated economic development. In fact, both are commonly called as the ‘lifeline’ of an economy.

The Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and restrictions severely impacted all overseas services, especially the aviation sector with operations being halted globally for over two years. Across the globe, its impact has resulted in underserviced flying inventory and ground equipment, mounting interests and deficits in respect of deferred payments. With mild to minimal domestic and cargo services being carried out, the aviation sector bled due to the ban on air travel.

What makes the COVID-19 pandemic one of a kind is that it also led to a change in consumer behavior. With many people losing their jobs and those still earning a paycheck worried about future layoffs, impulse purchasing became infrequent. Messages that resonated with consumers a few weeks prior suddenly fell flat and even seemed insensitive, leading marketers to pivot and reinvent their business strategies. The battle for the aviation sector has been entirely different. Airlines have had to capture as much of the remaining passenger market as possible and attempt to encourage passengers to return to the skies, after a lengthy period of low passenger travel demand. Global airlines thrive on providing connectivity across countries, across continents. And with the demand dipping to negligible, it was imperative for the aviation industry to navigate newer disruptions in the marketing landscape.

Sustainability efforts

Engagement, purpose, and agility have become key pillars of brand relevance today. Staying engaged, regardless of the situation being faced, ensures top of mind recall.

During the pandemic, airlines announced various measures to address the passengers’ safety concerns, encouraging them to travel responsibly with them once the borders reopen. Now, more than ever, being vocal about the brand purpose is crucial. Consumers want to understand why a business exists beyond making a profit, their contribution to the world and on the people.

Additionally, the past two years have also raised critical awareness of the sustainability efforts being undertaken by corporates and brands, across the globe. Catering to the same, multiple airlines have announced programs and sustainability blueprints to try to become more purposeful in the coming years. While many things remain outside direct control, maximising agility helps airlines to deal with uncertainty and anticipate future scenarios. It helps airline operators and marketers make better and informed decisions enabling airlines to respond quickly to changes.

Going digital

Other aspects that can no longer to be ignored are the technology and digital advancements. Digital marketing has emerged to be an essential online service for any industry. Because of the influx in interest and bookings, brands are taking extra efforts to promote their services, and influencers marketing has made its entry across board room discussions. Working with the right influencer has the power to not only open new avenues for brands, but also increase brand awareness and bring new customers to the table.

The aviation industry, too, has recognised the potential of this medium. Further, with the attention span getting shorter, it is vital for marketers to capture customer’s attention as soon as they landed on the website, social media pages, etc. Therefore, multiple brands and airlines have taken to give a facelift to their digital properties to boost effectiveness and provide better interface for a seamless customer experience.

Improving customer experience

Airlines are also actively adopting next generation technologies to improve the experience of its customers, including corporate and travel retailers. Today, there are quite a few software companies that offer programs that offer modern retailing capabilities and a more convenient and direct way to book flights. Other capabilities include dynamic pricing and personalisation, access to richer content, the ability to select seats which will all be implemented progressively.

To recover after the pandemic, it is imperative for the airline operator and marketers to go back to the drawing board and indulge in innovative tactics to market their seats and attract new customers. Focusing on hyper-personalisation, using the right communication tools and platforms, engaging with the customers at the right time and place will not only give a much-needed fillip to the industry but will also encourage passengers to fly frequently & confidently once again.

Yin May Lau is Group Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer, Malaysia Airlines.