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What should the aviation industry do to appeal to Gen Z?

Generation Z are quickly becoming a major focus in the consumer market. What should aviation companies do to keep up with the demands of an eco-conscious demographic?

Thinking of travelling abroad this winter for a much-needed ski season? Planning a holiday in the sun for 2023? Perhaps you’ve already taken to the skies and jetted the globe this year.

Whichever camp you fall in, aviation is on the rise. After two years of uncertainty, lockdowns, and cancelled flights year round, the next twelve months or so are considered crucial for the travel industry’s recovery.

If that wasn’t a difficult enough period to navigate, the consumer market is changing. Generation Z are steadily becoming a larger portion of the aviation customer base, estimated to make up over 1 billion passengers by 2029.

To keep up with evolving demographics, companies must be sensitive to younger people’s needs, and reconsider their long-term marketing strategies if they want to retain business from a new generation of flyers. Wondering how? Let’s jump in.

Environmental costs will be the biggest priority

This likely doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Generation Z are huge on environmental costs for travel, like most things.

Young people have grown up understanding that every action they take will have a carbon cost, producing emissions that speed up the process of global warming. Planes and aviation are seen as tokens for poor climate activity.

We’ve seen celebrities like Drake and Taylor Swift face scrutiny online in recent months for their private jets and frequent air travel. The consensus with Gen Z is that planes are inherently bad. Overcoming this attitude will take considerable effort, especially as corporate response to climate change becomes more urgent.

Some big brands are already taking action to improve their carbon footprint. One of Europe’s largest regional airlines, Air Nostrum Group, has reserved 10 hybrid-electric aircraft from Hybrid Air Vehicles in the UK. Its Airlander 10 model produces 10% of the emissions of a traditional aircraft and is expected to enter production in 2025.

It’ll be a while before this type of low-emission vehicle is in our skies, but interest in sustainable travel is growing. Companies should get on board now to ensure they retain Gen Z interest.

Look at how and why Generation Z are travelling

In order to appeal to young travellers, brands should research and understand why their customers are demanding aviation and travel services. This extends to Generation Z and will continue to do so as the decade rolls on.

Research suggests that roughly three quarters of Gen Zers planned to take a big getaway trip this year, which is higher than any other generation. In addition, half were planning international trips and 65% said that travelling the world was the most important way to spend money. Clearly, aviation is on the mind.

To this end, budgeting and price are huge focuses when deciding how to travel and selecting a specific company. Budget flight brands like EasyJet have grown exponentially over the last decade as more consumers demand cheaper travel alongside rising living costs. This trend is likely to continue and will dictate Gen Z spending habits.

Statistic: Annual revenue of easyJet plc from 2009 to 2021 (in million GBP) | Statista

Coming out of a pandemic at a young age has meant enthusiasm for travel has had a resurgence. 71% of Gen Z wanted to travel more in 2022, with two-thirds opting for ‘revenge travel’ whereby they make up for lost time and jet off more frequently.

Keep in mind, though, that over half said they’d pay more for environmentally conscious services, so it’s not enough to just meet demand. Always keep eco-focused!

Online connectivity and minimal life disruption are musts

Another big focus for aviation brands is the experience of flying.

Generation Z are chronically online, digitally native, and favour uninterrupted internet access. Providing a high quality service that caters for these kind of needs can help stand out amongst the competition.

A new report titled ‘Sky High Economics’ from the London School of Economics found that airliners need to work to support the needs of future customers if they want to stick around for the long-term. It says that an ‘understanding of both [future and present customers] is crucial for those hoping to thrive or even survive in the coming decade.’

It’s not enough to provide an internet connection, mind. The report mentions that airlines need to think about their services in the same vein as retailers. This means personalised products, services, tailored interactions, and instant connection. These types of features will help to improve the overall flying experience and make your airline stand out.

It’s not enough to provide a basic, base-rate service. Gen Z are used to marketing strategies that consider their enjoyment from beginning to end. Aviation will need to follow suit.

Brand loyalty is steadily becoming an obsolete strategy

Remaining loyal to one brand or service is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Millennials are used to quick switching services and having access to all sorts of options, and this trend has only gotten stronger with Gen Z.

As a result, aviation lines will need to show they’re adaptable and willing to go the extra mile for young people. 87% of travellers are indifferent to the brand they use and are instead more motivated by price, quality, company values, and other customer reviews.

It is the exceptional level of the service and not the reputation of a brand that will push a young person to switch. 90% of Gen Z consumers said they were influenced by social media when choosing a flight – so make sure your marketing strategies are in full swing.

Broadcasting deals and services on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter is the way forward.

One brand in particular, Ryanair, has demonstrated that using meme humour, authenticity, and online language can go very far. Its account on TikTok generates millions of likes and comments using self-deprecating humour and tapping into the pulse of online content. The brand’s YouTube channel also follows a similar approach.

These kind of strategies will always trump brand loyalty, which is slowly but surely becoming a practice of the past.