Survey Lets Travelers Recognize Top Airlines

The Airline Passenger Experience Association’s Passenger Choice Awards honor airlines for top-notch flight experiences and also serve as an industry benchmarking tool.

Instead of writing that scathing (or praising) account of your last flight experience on a review website like Yelp, airline passengers can complete the Passenger Choice Awards survey, which is run by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

Open year round, travelers can rate their flight experience on more than 130 airlines and across seven different categories (e.g., pre-flight experience, in-flight entertainment, in-flight connectivity, airline informational videos, food and beverage, cabin ambiance, and in-flight publication).

“With the help of The Nielsen Group, we put together this survey based across the entire passenger experience,” said Maria Ungaro, APEX’s awards director and a vice president with Kellen Company. “It tracks for your check-in, your flight, your in-flight experience, departure–basically everything–and is available in 14 different languages.”

Surveys from July 1 through June 30 are tallied, and the top-rated airlines are recognized at APEX’s Expo each fall. The 2013 Passenger Choice Awards will be the fourth installment; Virgin America took home the 2012 award for Best Overall Passenger Experience.

“There was a preexisting awards program when Kellen Company came in to assist APEX four years ago, but there wasn’t this consumer-facing element, and we felt that would really help the program,” said Russell Lemieux, APEX’s executive director and group vice president of Kellen Company. “The passenger experience is changing rapidly, and we wanted to come up with a way to recognize these innovations, create competition and potentially drive innovation, and get consumers involved.”

Aside from the recognition that Passenger Choice winners receive, the survey provides APEX member airlines with valuable data that they can use to improve their services, Ungaro said.

“When the passengers write in particular things about their experience, the airlines are actually tweaking their own services to try to address some of the items,” she said. “For industries where consumer experience is so important, this is a great way for them to get direct feedback to find out what they could be doing differently to help with that experience.”

APEX also collects the feedback and provides benchmarking data to help its members see how consumers are rating their flight services compared to other airlines.

“Maybe they’re really killing it as far as the in-flight entertainment is concerned, and yet their in-flight magazine isn’t quite measuring up,” Lemieux said. “They can see that in some of the data we get back … and can compare.”

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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