As with any industry, advances are often driven by consumer behavior. As the aviation industry seeks to chart a path forward, looking at the travel needs and passenger experience expectations of Millennial parents and their GenAlpha children will be critical.

At the recent FlightPlan virtual event, hosted by Inmarsat and APEX, Alexis Hickox, Head of Aviation Marketing for Collins Aerospace’s Information Management Services, addressed the travel preferences of these passengers. Hickox pointed out that Millennials are the largest generation, making up a quarter of the world’s population, and are at the stage of settling down, getting married, and starting families. As this generation continues to mature, they will have significant spending power, and in turn, they will make up a large percentage of the travelling population.

“As the industry rebounds from the current pandemic, Millennials are more likely to travel ‘regularly’. This might be anywhere from once every two to three months to at least once annually,” Hickox said. “From an aviation perspective, the biggest pain point to this generation is related to time. They don’t want to wait at airports, in lines at Customs or Immigration, or waiting for baggage.”

Aviation stakeholders have taken steps to address these pain points for Millennials in developing self-check in, RFID-enabled bag drop, in-flight connectivity (IFC) and much more. Now is the time to consider the entire Millennial family, which includes GenAlpha children. As Millennials start to travel with their families, they are exposing an even younger generation to the passenger experience. 

“Airlines would be wise to take steps to identify products and services that make these passengers’ lives easier, more streamlined, and will deliver continued enjoyment of the ‘normal’,” Hickox said. “Now it must include GenAlpha and creating an enhanced passenger experience in the sky for a streaming generation with short attention spans.”

GenAlphas will have even higher passenger experience expectations than their Millennial parents. At a very young age, this generation is exposed to personal handheld devices, can interact online across multiple platforms, and are coding and creating content while in elementary school.

“This younger generation is likely to grow up to question anything and everything – for example, not just why is it like this, but why can’t things be done differently? And they can quickly search for the answers on Google independently,” Hickcox commented. “The immediacy that they are used too will leave them prone to impatience, more so than their parents, which will have wide-spread implications for the passenger experience.”

With the multigenerational family of travelers in mind, Hickcox presented a travel picture. This includes a traveling family group with Millennial parents, wanting to ensure they and their children get the most out of the entire trip. The parents expect the journey to be stress-free and want to keep their children quiet, entertained, and informed during their travels. All passengers, from parents to children, can stream or connect to content through their devices. Yet this content needs to last the entirety of the travel journey. 

“The parents who are looking to enhance or improve their chances of getting some quiet time will look to the IFC to see the easiest and most cost-effective way to connect in the cabin,” Hickcox predicted. “This is where single payment, multi-device, full access or tiered access within the group will come into its own. Having access to a one sign up, one payment, multi-device package that can keep the children happy and that parents can access too will be of significant interest during vacation periods.”

Unlike previous generations, this group is more than likely to reject traditional loyalty programs, so Hickcox recommended that airlines consider different ways of engaging with this group, including free IFC packages for upcoming family trips, or enabling points from work trips to be spent on family trips to pay for kids meals, entertainment packs, or movie rentals for a greater passenger experience in the cabin.

Some airlines have already started to address the passenger experience for GenAlpha as part of an overall effort to address a multigenerational family but often focused on pre-flight, seat assignments, and food packs. But to address the needs for the future generation of passenger experience, a closer look needs to be placed on the rest of the cabin service including IFC. “The way of life on the ground is so much a part of the day-to-day lives of Alpha children.” Hickcox explained. “A prime way to differentiate the airline’s service for this passenger group is to provide the type of internet connectivity and access they experience on the ground, onboard. This will help to foster the changing levels of airline loyalty for millennial travelers and their families.”

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.