Africa Travel Week
Flying during COVID

How can aviation influencers help the industry to rebuild confidence?

With travel restrictions and quarantine rules changing on an almost daily basis, leisure travellers’ confidence in the aviation industry is low. Albertine Brandon discovers why  rebuilding confidence in the health and safety standards of airlines will be crucial.

There’s no way airlines can guarantee that customers who book with them will be able to travel to and from their holiday destinations, especially without having to quarantine on their arrival or return. However, as travel restrictions (and quarantine requirements) begin to ease, rebuilding confidence in the health and safety standards of airlines will be crucial.

Travellers will be looking for information that reassures them when booking holidays, and with 48 percent of people saying social content from a celebrity or influencer has sparked their interest in traveling to a specific location, it is likely that influencers will play a key role in helping airlines to get back on their feet.

Aviation influencers

When you think of travel influencers, what do you think of? Most of you probably imagine a group of charismatic, beautiful people in some of the world’s most exciting and luxurious locations. You’re possibly picturing spotless white beaches and Instagrammable cafes that quickly become victim to over-tourism as millions of social media users flock to visit before everyone else does.

What you’re probably not imagining are meticulous reviewers who often spend their own money to give their audience a real insight into the pros and cons of various airlines, aircrafts and lounges…

Aviation influencers take pride in educating their audiences on the flight experience. The airlines that are able to leverage their influence will likely have an advantage once the industry picks back up. Aviation vloggers will be the first to take to the skies when restrictions are lifted (some already have), and their videos will be watched by thousands of eager travellers as they try to decide which airlines to book their next trip with.

Transparency is key

Influencers often get a bad rep for being less than transparent with their audience. But when it comes to having a real impact on people’s spending habits, transparency and trustworthiness are key. In fact, some influencers prefer to spend their own money on products and services (and earn an income elsewhere) so they can share brutally honest reviews with their audience.

“Often, passengers seek unbiased opinions before booking travel. They may not always trust airlines to give them a true reflection of what to expect and instead seek third-party input,” says Jeb Brooks, a travel vlogger with 166,000+ subscribers on YouTube.

“My choice not to accept free travel from airlines guarantees millions of potential passengers my unbiased, unvarnished perspective. Viewers of videos like mine want an overview of the entire passenger experience and honest opinions. These videos help passengers spend their money the way they want to.

“Airlines that embrace this kind of organic marketing will set themselves up for success as we come out of this pandemic.”

Sam Chui, an aviation and travel blogger with 2.2 million+ subscribers, also feels transparency is key when it comes to encouraging people to take to the skies again.

“I think it is very important to be transparent, to show the reality of the product to viewers and potential travellers. Communication is very important to set the right expectation of customers.

“During COVID, a lot of airlines have removed meals, pillow and blankets on board. This was seen as cost cutting move but in fact it is also the requirement to satisfy many regulatory authorities in order to continue to fly to a particular country. It happened on my Lufthansa flight to Dubai. It is important for airline to be transparent and communicative to the passengers about these changes to build the right expectation.”

Rebuilding confidence in aviation

The flight experience has changed dramatically over the past six months, and aviation influencers are there to keep their audience’s informed on what to expect if they do travel. As they speak so directly to travellers, they can also play a key role in advising airlines on what travellers want and need in order to travel again.

Josh Cahill, an award winning airline vlogger with 311,000+ YouTube subscribers, believes it is important that airlines don’t use COVID-19 as an excuse to scrimp on the passenger experience.

“As a flight reviewer my role has changed significantly. Not only do I have to show my audience that flying is possible, and very safe at the moment, but I also have to remind the airlines that they can’t sacrifice too intensively on service

“There is a thin line between using the current pandemic as an excuse to cut costs and providing your customers with a safe flying experience. The industry will recover eventually, but the post-COVID demand won’t be as high as it was.

“Giving your passengers the feeling that they still get something in return for the money they spend is very essential in these difficult times. The real struggle will start when we return to normal and governments won’t bail anyone out.”

Jeb believes bringing passengers behind-the-scenes, and explaining why changes have been made to the passenger experience, will help airlines to encourage people to book with them.

“Over the next few months I’m looking for airports and airlines to partner with in order to bring attention to the steps they’re taking to ensure passengers can fly confidently and safely. I’ve already got several videos in the works to accomplish this goal and am looking forward to more.

“It’s unfortunate that aviation got such an unfair reputation during these times and I’m confident that creators like me can help passengers get more comfortable returning to the skies,” says Jeb.

“Travellers’ desires to get out and explore the world haven’t disappeared. They’re just hibernating. It makes even more sense now than ever to embrace influencer marketing to prepare for the return of air travel. Every day I receive comments, Direct Messages, and E-mails from travellers planning their first flights. And, when they do return, they’re going to look to video from unbiased creators to decide how to spend money and satiate all of that pent-up demand.

“By allowing independent, third-parties to share behind-the-scenes explanations and actual inflight experiences, airlines can prepare themselves for the return of air travel.”

The return to air travel is beginning, and as more people begin to book trips for a late summer getaway or winter break aviation influencers will only become more important. The airlines that are savvy about influencer marketing will reap the rewards, and a relationship with a trustworthy aviation influencer could provide benefits for years to come.

Albertine Brandon

Albertine Brandon is a style and beauty influencer with expertise in social media, influencer marketing and content strategy. She has created content for her own channels for close to a decade and has interviewed some of the UK's top social media talent, including Suzie Bonaldi (Hello October), Dodie, Stephanie Yeboah and Emma Blackery.