July 14, 2024

Emotionally intelligent thinking

Tapping into passenger values and emotions can boost satisfaction and loyalty, says Dr Stathis Kefallonitis, founder and CEO of branding.aero

Authenticity, emotional engagement and artificial intelligence are becoming buzzwords in many industries and the onboard services sector is exploring opportunities to tap into these developments too, assessing how they are applicable to what goes onboard.

Amenity providers, airlines and passengers are all starting to gauge the future with a different perspective, looking at how to offer more engaging and authentic experiences that match their passengers’ values and lifestyles.

Artificial intelligence and data-driven solutions may seem to offer answers but we need to look carefully at what happens when we start to allow experiences and designs to be created by data scientists and computers. 

Emotional intelligence 

The growing importance of emotional intelligence is set to start playing a more and more crucial role in the design of onboard travel experiences. 

A ‘designed’ passenger experience that resonates with users is much more likely to leave a lasting impression, and in today’s competitive landscape, understanding and leveraging the power of emotional intelligence can make the difference between creating memorable experiences and ones that fail to engage.

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognise, understand and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. When applied to experience design, it involves creating interactions that are emotionally engaging, empathetic, and meaningful for the user. Here are just some of the ways in which emotional intelligence can be used in passenger experience design.

Empathy mapping

This process involves stepping into the shoes of the passengers and understanding their emotions, motivations and pain points. By empathising with users, designers can create solutions that address their emotional needs and expectations, leading to more satisfying onboard experiences.

Emotional design principles 

Incorporating emotional design principles into the development process ensures that the final onboard product evokes the desired emotions in passengers. For example, using certain colours, typography and imagery can evoke feelings of trust, comfort or excitement and that can help create an emotional connection with the user onboard.


Tapping into the power of storytelling can also create an emotional bond between the passenger and the airline experience. By developing relatable, engaging and emotionally-charged narratives, designers can immerse users in the experience and make it genuinely more memorable.


Personalised airline experiences which cater to individual passenger preferences and needs can evoke positive emotions in users. 

Leveraging data and user insights to tailor content, features and interactions can create a sense of belonging and enhance passenger satisfaction. It makes the experience feel bespoke and truly personal to the passenger.

Accessibility and inclusivity 

Designing experiences which are accessible and inclusive for all users, regardless of their abilities or background, also demonstrates empathy and understanding. 

By considering the emotional needs of diverse user groups, designers can create experiences that resonate with a wider audience.

Emotional analytics 

Measuring and analysing passenger emotions throughout the experience can provide valuable insights into areas for improvement. By monitoring emotional responses, designers can identify pain points, uncover unmet needs and improve the solutions. 

Memorable experiences

Understanding emotions can lead to better decision-making when it comes to designing experiences. By being aware of passenger emotions, airlines can positively impact customer service and develop a strategy that will satisfy and delight those getting onboard. 

Incorporating passenger emotional intelligence into the design process can lead to more engaging, empathetic and memorable airline experiences. 

By understanding and addressing the emotional needs of passengers, airlines can create solutions that not only meet functional requirements but also foster deep emotional connections, and it is these which will ultimately drive loyalty and satisfaction.