Interview: PAL’s Chief Customer Experience Officer on customers as the focus for all digital plans

Phu Nguyen Event, Event News Leave a Comment

“We’ll need to move from getting insights, to having foresight, to accurately predicting what customers want or would like to have without them having to express it.”

– Jessica Abaya, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Philippine Airlines –

Following the successful Aviation Festival Asia 2018, we’re launching an eBook featuring some of the industry’s most forward-thinking digital innovators to talk about their digital innovation journey and where they think we are headed. Download our ebook here for full interviews. Below is an excerpt of our chat with Jessica. 

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Tell us more about yourself.

Jessica: I joined the airline about 2.5 years ago as the Strategic Marketing Advisor. After about 1.5 years of doing consulting work, I was asked to come on-board as an organic executive since March 2017. I then created the Customer Experience group in May 2017, primarily in-charge of making sure the end-to-end customer journey, from pre-flight, on-flight to post-flight, is pleasant and will result in customer loyalty and customer advocacy. We want passengers not just to patronise us all the time, we want them to love us enough to want to rave about us.

Beyond this, I am also working with Marketing to enhance organisational capabilities such that our brand equity is consistently implemented across various passenger touch-points. Our brand equity is The Heart of the Filipino. This is what differentiates us from all other airlines.

I understand there was a period some years back when the leadership team of PAL was deciding between the full-service, hybrid or LCC model. Why the decision to go full service?

Jessica: Back then, we saw how other LCCs were able to grow their market share significantly as they made flying affordable to more people. Today, only 30% of Filipinos had ever flown, and only 11% had flown over the past 12 months. 10 years ago, only 10% of Filipinos had ever flown, until the introduction of LCCs. It’s not that we’ve lost business year-on-year, but it’s because LCCs have grown the market significantly by enabling more people to fly. Our market share in comparison has shrunk, but our business is still growing year-on-year. It’s just that some LCCs are growing at a much faster rate.

So back at that point in time, we had thoughts of wanting to beat these LCCs. We went hybrid at one point and that resulted in brand confusion both externally and internally. We used to also have PAL and PAL-Express, with the latter being our LCC business. Then one day, our CEO asked, “What are we really here for? We can’t be everything to everyone. Who do we want to become? We have to be committed to them!”

Then after having done research and talking to various stakeholders, we made the decision to go full-service. There is a market for full-service carriers. Even as a full-service airline, we are surprisingly affordable compared to some LCCs, especially in the two months before flight departure, and we at PAL are providing the full service, and better service. That’s why we launched campaigns like “Fly the Way You Deserve at Surprisingly Affordable Rates” and “Check It To Believe It”.

What led you to start the Customer Experience team?

Jessica:When we had the 5-star full-service national carrier vision, we were looking into…


Join us at Aviation Festival Asia 2019
Now entering its 15th year, Aviation Festival Asia 2019 (27 – 28 February, Singapore) is Asia’s largest airline leadership conference, gathering leaders from FSCs, LCCs and airports with a size of 150+ speakers, 1000+ delegates and total 2,000+ attendees. Want to join us? For sponsorship & exhibition enquiries, contact adam.ball@terrapinn.com or to explore speaking opportunities at the event, contact paul.clark@terrapinn.com.

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