No news is not good news for productivity flyers who make their living by staying in-the-know.
While we often associate the front of the plane with movers, shakers and decision makers, the growing number of people joining the gig economy tend to fly in Economy. These freelancers and independent workers make up a hidden class of productivity flyers — a group of people who in the U.S. numbered 54 million in 2015, or about 33 percent of the entire U.S. workforce, according to a study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union. This gig-economy trend doesn’t only exist for Americans, either; it is spreading throughout the modern world. In the airline context, these professionals are as eager to stay on top of the latest news as those sitting where the pricey seats are.
This change in the workforce — and in the types of people who regularly fly — has coincided with changes in the perks offered by airlines. For instance, pressure to reduce costs and weight onboard has led some to turn to digital news offerings instead. That’s a great opportunity to democratize onboard news access across all passenger classes, but there is just one small problem: The information in these apps is static, and news is not. The media habits of this mobile workforce demand connectivity and access to live TV.
Below, we explain who the new class of productivity flyers is and what matters to them, as well as why airlines should be aware of them and their needs when re-evaluating their inflight perks.
The term “Gen Trippers” is one coined by Chris Nurko, the Global Chairman of FutureBrand, a branding agency that helps align businesses with the expectations of the modern digitally-savvy consumer. The term loosely refers to post-Generation-X young people, although the group isn’t primarily defined by age, but rather by (digital) lifestyle.
“It’s a mindset, more than a socio-demographic age grouping,” Nurko explains. “They are open and interested in accessing more content, variety and stimulus — both visual and written — than ever before. They are the most literate and tech savvy of travelers, whether on business, leisure or a hybrid of both.”
In fact, this multi-spectrum demographic has a huge influence on the habits of older generations. Please young Gen Trippers and you can please Gen-Xers and Boomers too.
So how can airlines appeal to the highly productive Gen Tripper and earn their loyalty?
Nurko says pleasing these “Gen Trippers” isn’t as mystifying as it may seem.
First, Gen Trippers want to stay connected and updated. Millennials (69 percent) follow the news at least once a day, and 40 percent check in several times a day, according to a study on Millennial news habits by the Media Insight Project, an American joint-research organization led by Associated Press, the University of Chicago and the American Press Institute. As the Media Insight Project reported, 74 percent of those surveyed check in on the news so frequently because they are civically engaged, while 63 percent of respondents said they look to the news to help them solve problems and finally, 67 percent said they do it because they want to appear smart and knowledgeable in social settings.
“What a lot of people want to know is what’s happened. There are 1,001 venues that can tell you what it means and provide the analysis, etc. But fundamentally the starting point has to be what has happened,” CNN journalist and anchor Richard Quest explains.
To get a variety of news perspectives, this cohort typically skips across multiple news channels, whether on TV, social media or via news sites and apps — and they expect to be able to do so in the air, as well.
“They have to have it!” says Nurko. “And they expect it to either be ‘free range and open’ — with all channels available for them to choose, just like at home — or they want it to be curated with unique, interesting or relevant content which reinforces why they have chosen this travel brand.”
Airlines like Lufthansa and SAS have eliminated their complimentary publication kiosks at boarding gates and replaced these with digital versions of popular newspapers and magazines that can be downloaded to passenger devices via the airline app prior to boarding. KLM has even introduced a dedicated KLM Media App for this purpose. But a news app isn’t enough to satiate the search for information in a today’s rapid news cycle. This is where connectivity and live television channels come in.
“Gen Trippers are open and interested in accessing more content, variety and stimulus — both visual and written — than ever before. They are the most literate and tech savvy of travelers, whether on business, leisure or a hybrid of both.” — Chris Nurko, Global Chairman of FutureBrand.
Having a variety of live TV channels and onboard connectivity options is crucial to improving the inflight experience for modern productivity flyers, particularly because Gen Trippers are inherently skeptical of single-source news outlets, according to Media Insight Project.
This skepticism leads them to seek out what people and news organizations are saying across multiple channels. As the Media Insight Project wrote in its report, “The notion that every source is biased surfaced repeatedly. This is a generation steeped in having to navigate information on their own.”
People want trustworthy sources of information. “The starting point is: is that organization telling me what I need to know in a fair and honest way? Can I trust what this organization is saying?” says CNN’s Quest.
With this in mind, airlines — like any other brand — need to be judicious, ensuring that they do not imply an unintended bias through limited information channel selection. More choice, in this case, is definitely better.
Gen Trippers will fly often, but they won’t want to fly disconnected — and earning their loyalty depends entirely on what services are available on board. For airlines, it’s not one or the other when it comes to offering inflight connectivity and live TV. Both are equally important as the news cycle speeds up and more people develop digital lifestyles.
“This again places an emphasis on giving the Gen Tripper the power, literally and figuratively, and the access to be able to work, search, engage, upload, download and watch-relax regardless of cabin, length of flight or journey-point in their travel experience,” Nurko says.
With thousands of Gen Trippers young and old hidden among the passengers at the back of the plane, airlines cannot afford to ignore their needs. As this group grows and prospers, the likelihood that they will pay premium tickets and buy ancillary services and products increases. Earning these customers’ business and loyalty through first-class service — even when they’re in the 29th row — is essential in today’s travel economy.