Thoughts on Utilizing Crowds to Disrupt the Airline Industry

Flying on an airplane is a highly individualized experience that seems to disregard the value of the opinion of the customer. This post brainstorms some ideas for leveraging the power of the crowd for airlines.

As I am literally sitting on my flight back to Boston figuring out what the heck to write by blog post about, I noticed how little input individuals, and thus collective crowds, have on the airline industry and how it functions.  By utilizing crowds and crowdsourcing, airlines may well be able to enhance their pricing strategies as well as continue to bolster customer loyalty for future flights.  As the airline industry is highly competitive, any incremental efforts to boost

Individuals’ lack of input or control while flying is well documented and has even been labeled as a phobia – aviophobia or aerophobia – is the fear of flying induced mainly out of a lack of control while flying.  I discovered this early on because I myself would get panic attacks during takeoff as a teenager, and have worked to overcome this fear ever since.  I believe that this issue further highlights the lack of input customers have in the airline industry.  Utilizing crowds’ input in the airline travel industry could greatly enhance the customer experience of flying in addition to potential incremental earnings for airlines.

Currently, it feels as if individuals have very little control over their airplane riding experience.  Whether it is the route options, in-cabin design, food and beverage offerings, entertainment offerings, airline customers (i.e. all of us) seemingly must accept the choices we are provided, especially when we arrive at the airport for our flight, if something goes awry, there is very little we as customers can do to change our fate.  Engaging the customer pre-flight with crowd-sourced ideas may improve the overall flying experience.

Here are some ideas that I have for how utilizing crowds could improve the airline experience for both the airlines and customers:

  1. Crowdsource inputs for future routes and in-flight amenities such as food, beverages, and entertainment options: Airlines could have their customers vote on-line through any number of platforms to select future destinations to fly to, as well as the types of experiences customers receive while on their flight.  This is beneficial to customers as it gives a sense of impact on the plane she or he is flying on, it more accurately reflects their demands as a customer, and improves the flying experience overall.  Crowdsourcing customer votes for items such as these helps the airlines as it is a capital-intensive business, and by focusing more directly on customer feedback, airlines can seek to achieve greater returns on investment in future routes and amenities by listening to what customers want.  For example, if an airline polled customers to see what their #1 vacation travel destination is in the next 2 years, that information can help determine which routes would be most in-demand for future expansion, and customers would feel appreciated by having a say in where airlines fly to based on demand.
  2. Create opportunities for crowds to exist on planes.  Flying on an airplane can be a highly solitary experience, even when traveling with a group on a plane.  Though this is likely limited by regulation that may be able to be amended, airlines could seek to leverage groups traveling together to sell several tickets on a plane as a package, and design cabin layouts to be more conducive to groups.   For example, if a family of 4 could book 4 seats that all face one another such as they might on a train – airlines could potentially charge a premium for that enhanced group experience on a plane.  Even if a premium couldn’t be charged, utilizing groups to sell multiple tickets at a time may prompt several tickets to be sold at once and more quickly than airlines have previously experienced.  Though 4 people doesn’t necessarily make a ‘crowd’ – this example I believe could be extrapolated to larger groups of 10, 20, or perhaps selling even half the seats on a plane if the cabin design were made more accommodating to a group travelling together and it was easier to buy group seating for an airplane ride.

By utilizing crowd’s opinions for future airline investments and marketing opportunities for groups to travel together on planes in more effective ways, airlines may be able to greatly improve the customer experience on airlines, allowing for opportunities to greatly improve customer loyalty and potentially provide the ability to charge premium pricing in a highly competitive industry where it feels as if the opinion of the individual is nearly completely neglected.



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Student comments on Thoughts on Utilizing Crowds to Disrupt the Airline Industry

  1. Interesting thoughts Brandon. Surely regulations will play a dominating role when it comes to making changes in airplanes but I agree with your point about selling tickets in 4 person or larger groups – in fact Qatar airways recently launched their Qsuite business class ( which is doing just that. Also with competition from low cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian air (transatlantic options too) there seems to be a greater need to provide differentiated options

  2. I think there are some interesting ideas in here. For me, crowdsourcing routes seems like a really good idea for airlines who are exploring entering new routes. I think this would especially make sense for an airlines to ask this of its frequent flyer customers, who would be the most likely to take the new routes in the future. Scandinavian Airlines launched a portal similar to your first idea, which they seem to have found success in:

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