Observations on travel experience with Cathay Pacific @cathaypacific

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My usual approach with travel is to try and follow the path of least resistance and get from A->B without pondering the whys and wherefores but I was set off down this chain-of-thought by an airline questionnaire. I was asked to complete the questionnaire early on in the flight, having been picked as part of a random sampling throughout their schedule. The first thing that struck me about the questionnaire was the size of it and the complexity of its structure, which required me to read and re-read some of the questions; some of which I guessed at what they were trying to elicit from me.

At the end of the survey it said  that if you had any additional comments, you should ask staff for a comment form and enclose it with the questionnaire. I asked the staff for a comment form, and they were concerned that I had complaints about them (which I didn’t) and it turns out the plane didn’t even have comment forms on board. The reason why I wanted to comment was that the survey didn’t touch on some of the areas that I cared about. In lieu of the comment sheet this post will have to do, my relevant flight details were 29.12.2010 | seat 27A | CX254.

The questionnaire – a much simpler approach to the questionnaire would be to use the NetPromoter Index which meant you would get feed back around problem areas rather than having to worry about asking questions that looked in the all right places. Since it is two questions, it means that you could have a much higher response rate and process a lot more of them giving a better snapshot of the business state. It could even move beyond paper to the aircraft in-flight entertainment system (hopefully capturing information on seat number and being able to cross-reference demographic information from the booking).

A secondary aspect of the questionnaire experience made me think about how they were used given the level of concern | anxiety that my request for a comment form brought. For the record, they were great people doing a great job in a really tough environment. The notoriously picky Monocle magazine heaped praise on Cathay Pacific and their pilots, so the survey watchers can be reasonably certain that customer service levels are very good.

Online – So this survey journey got me thinking about all aspects of my journey which I would usually ignore. I bought my ticket online directly from Cathay Pacific’s own website. I spent a fair bit of time on the site mainly because of the adverse weather conditions that affected UK air travel in December. I found that the page load time was slower than it would be for comparable e-commerce sites, the user experience | design felt dated  with random offer boxes on the front page. Unlike other industries, the airline industry in general including Cathay Pacific haven’t made that much progress in terms of integrating social media into their websites. For instance, a blog could cover news, updates (like the LHR weather issues) and regular marketing dialogue stuff. A great example of the kind of content that would be ideal for a blog and would provide great search fodder is the staff profiles featured on cathaypacific.aero/people currently wasted on this Flash micro-site.

I might be wrong but Cathay Pacific doesn’t seem to have accounts on relevant Chinese social media sites?  It would also be worthwhile thinking about how they could use LinkedIn to engage with a business audience.

Cathay Pacific has an iPhone application which is useful for the traveller, however it would be nice if it retained my log-in details rather than requesting me to re-input the details every time I opened the application. Given that the mobile phone is one of the most personal devices it is unlikely to be out of my possession so the retained log-in would be safer than using PC from a social engineering point-of-view. It would also be nice if my app could act as an electronic boarding card, I think that Lufthansa do this already.

Onboard – Although I am not a smoker, I understand at least some of the nature of chemical addiction from having a bad caffiene habit so I find planes quite a fascinating place. This is something that I have noticed on a number of airlines, not just Cathay Pacific; on the one hand you have notices about no smoking, but on the front of the toilet door there is an ash tray and when you sit down on the toilet inside there is another ash tray at eye level providing you with the exact opposite message that the ‘no smoking signs’ deliver. Since planes get refitted on a regular basis how hard would it be to plate up the ashtrays?

Cathay Pacific’s CX Studio is one of the better inflight entertainment systems out there, but it’s kiosk software and SNES-like controller drives home how much capacitive touch screens and operating systems designed to take advantage of them (like Apple’s iOS and MeeGo) have changed personal media consumption. I had to stop myself from selecting items by touching the screen. There is a business opportunity waiting for anyone who can shake up interface designs on inflight entertainment systems.