How can empathy be used in order to create a more emotional engagement with customers in the airline industry?

As the years slowly pass the tourism industry always keeps changing and transforming itself in order to meet the needs and wants of the customers. For the upcoming years memorable experiences is going to be the trend and keep rising in the tourism industry. This is what the tourists want and this is what they are giving their money for (Fuggle, 2015). That being said it is up to tourism companies to create that memorable experience in order to acquire and retain its customers. One way to increase the possibility of this happening is by using empathy. Now the question remains, how can the airline industry use empathy in order to have a more emotional engagement with its customers?

Well before we can start answering that question that was stated in the last paragraph. We first have to ask the question, what is empathy? Empathy according to Merriam-Webster, “is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experience and emotion or the ability to share someone else’s feelings” (“Definition of EMPATHY”, 2016). If you look at it empathy actually goes pretty well together with the customer journey by Boswijk et al.’s (2011). “To walk in another’s shoes is to understand and live what they are doing, thinking, and feeling; these details are all part of the journey mapping process. When we know this, we can deliver a great customer experience for them, for the individual” (Franz, 2014).

We now understand overall what the definition of empathy is and that it can be related together with the customer journey. Now for the airline industry it means that they would need to train their employees to able to use empathy in order to create great customer experience. Additionally, they would need to know when it’s appropriate to use empathy. This can be done by using the Readjustment Rating Scale by Holmes and Rahe (1967).

Right now an example will be given of a flight attendant working for United Airlines. This took place a few years back according to an article on Skift (“Why Smiling Flight Attendants Need to Be Part of Airlines’ Fee Strategies”, 2015), when a flight attendant working for United Airlines announced prior to a nine-hour flight to the customers that the food supply that can be ordered in-flight is low. Therefore, the flight attendant suggested that the passengers should buy food in the terminal prior to boarding. With this the passengers welcomed the empathetic connection the flight attendant established with them and said the airline gained more of their trust.

This is an example that shows us that airline still have windows of opportunities in creating an emotional engagement with the customers. It doesn’t have to be something over the top. Yet, just like the example of the flight attendant the smallest thing on an emotional level has the possibility of gaining the trust of the customers and giving them an experience.


Boswijk, A., Peelen, E., & Olthof, S. (2012). Economy of experiences. [Bilthoven]: European Centre for the Experience and Transformation Economy.

Definition of EMPATHY. (2016). Retrieved 25 September 2016, from

Franz, A. (2014). CEM Toolbox: Empathy, Journey Mapping, and the Platinum Retrieved 25 September 2016, from

Fuggle, L. (2015). 6 travel trends for 2016 that will drive the global tourism industry. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from

Why Smiling Flight Attendants Need to Be Part of Airlines’ Fee Strategies. (2015). Skift. Retrieved 25 September 2016, from

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