What Airlines Can Learn from the Theme Park Industry

Driving Engagement and Retention in Line for Rides

A theme park ride can teach airlines a thing or twoPeople don’t enjoy waiting in line. Whether it is the uncertainty of when the line will finish or the way we exaggerate how much time has passed, waiting in a long queue is never fun. The customer experience for airlines is made even worse by the shrinking window for customers to reach their gate, frustration at people cutting in line, or a sense that there are not enough attendants at the front desk, gate, or any other location. For an airline, long or unwieldy lines also represent a business problem. They mean more time on the ground as boarding processes take longer. Alternatively, they may represent a staffing deficiency, or the inefficiency may mean that their best-laid plans will no longer work.


One other place that is absolutely dominated by lines, queues, and waiting are theme parks. Yet children clamor and adults agree to go year after year.  There are even lists of the best queues. How do theme parks accomplish this? There are two core ways that theme parks have gotten smarter about queue management that the travel industry can learn from.

“Skip the Lines” Passes, for Greater Revenue

Skipping the lines can be an engaging customer experienceThis tip is one that some travel brands have already implemented. This is the classic “fast boarding” or “shorter security line” option that many airlines have in place. If you do not use some sort of option for customers to pay to have a priority place in line, you are missing out on a significant opportunity to generate marginal revenue at no significant extra cost to your own business. There is a risk here of customers seeing this two (or more) tiered system and being even further disgruntled that some are able to pay for extra quick boarding, check-in, and security. Luckily, you can solve this challenge easily.  Include one or two skip-the-queue passes when new customers sign up for your loyalty program and download your app. This allows customers to try the service, to know that it is exclusive but not unobtainable. It has the added benefit of having them download your app for future experiences.

If you want to deliver great customer experiences, connecting more people to your owned media and loyalty program is key. Providing the option to skip the lines as a reward or a way of apologizing for a bad experience also feels like a significant gesture for the customer, but won’t break your bank. This is why certain theme parks give out their “skip the lines” passes when customers have issues with their rooms or as a reward for learning more about their loyalty programs. While airlines use tiered boarding and queues as an incentive today, there is even more benefit to be had by expanding the use of this technique.

The Airline Customer Experience Can Be Better with Queue Management

Boarding an airplane can feel chaotic, except perhaps for the lucky first few passengers to board. Even beyond the boarding process, customers often worry about when their luggage will be in baggage claim when they need to arrive at the airport, and more. How would in-app queue management solve these challenges? Digital queues. 

How Mobile Queues Drive Engagement and Retention

Waiting in line can create a negative customer experience for airlines and their travelers. Break the bad experience cycle!The benefits of using a branded app for personalized queue management could be tremendous. Consider how certain theme parks allow visitors to schedule rides or experiences. This lets them keep crowds spread out through the park, maximizing utilization while minimizing wait times.  This also allows each passenger to feel like they’re getting the VIP treatment from time to time. In the context of the airline customer experience, the app could communicate a check-in time, a time to arrive at the airport, and could work with a customer’s preferences to help them get their luggage checked without wading through a massive queue.  Instead, they could be assigned a number and know when it was their turn to approach. For boarding, customers could have a countdown on their phone informing them when their boarding group is needed at the gate, ensuring they do not have to rush while exploring the terminal. 

Not only that, but the app could include games for children, local touring tips for the destination, and more, to engage customers in the airport. If a customer showed particular interest in certain destinations that might require a rental car, this could be an opportunity to not only engage the customer but also to up-sell for even more revenue.  Ideally, the app you’ve built is connected to your marketing, sales, and customer service systems as well, so that the in-app experience builds on and supports experiences in other channels. Altogether, this creates a better customer experience where there is both less uncertainty and more opportunities for fun.

Journeys Drive Engagement To Help Your Brand Take Flight

Kitewheel's maturity model helps you build incredible customer experiences for airlines and all other businessesIf you’re interested in learning more about how you can build up a journey that supports great customer experiences, even as your customers wait in line or queue up for the gate, check out Kitewheel’s guide to Customer Journey Maturity. It’s chock full of insight that will take you through connecting your data, to analyzing areas for improvement, all the way through strategy, automation, and journey optimization.