The 6th Battleground: Financial Concerns

By David Griffiths & Raim Islam

VP Content, Head of Insight & Insight Consultant
3 minute read

Financial concerns have continued to grow in importance as the pandemic has raged across the globe. As lockdowns extended beyond most people’s initial expectations, furloughs and pay cuts became more commonplace, and various levels of restructuring have occurred, we’ve seen focus move from simply getting refunds or rebooking travel, to reassessing future plans that have become less affordable.

This week our Battleground series continues with an exploration of 6.3 million passenger conversations related to Financial Concerns. We’ll explore this topic through the 4 most talked about themes across passenger platforms, starting where most passengers have in this crisis, with Refunds, Fees and Waivers, before looking to the Future in Economic Concerns & Financial Protection.

Now: Refunds

A few weeks into the pandemic we would expect to see this area of the conversation shift in a more positive way than it has. Passengers still feel in the dark and for the most part have been unsatisfied with airline responses to their financial concerns. In the past 3 months, we’ve seen a 144% growth in this topic. There has also been a rising concern from customers talking about receiving only partial refunds on cancelled flights which they feel sit within the scope of refund policy. This passenger confusion & negative sentiment are also playing out in Loyalty membership forums. We’ve seen many seasoned travellers worried that flights booked with points are treated in the same way, and those points won’t be coming back in full either. This uncertainty is driving a negative 67% sentiment. The need to communicate with your members, particularly those in financial trouble, has never been more important.

Now: Fees & Waivers

Grounded passengers are also increasingly talking about the cancellation and rebooking fees that some airlines have in place. This has drawn the ire of a good number of people, increasing the importance to passengers by 52% over the past 3 months. This group believe they are entitled to receiving their full money back and see many other airlines waiving these fees.

Many believe that as an industry we’ve not made it as straightforward as it should be to rebook or receive a refund. Perhaps even more negatively charged is the issuing of customer waivers or vouchers to be used at a later time rather than refunding. This has grown by 96% in importance and is trending negatively from a sentiment perspective.

The Future: Financial Concerns

At a time when many have lost their jobs or have been furloughed, getting money back that had been spent on cancelled trips had been the priority, but as we move into reopening, these concerns are evolving to look at future plans that were either booked and they might now cancel, or were planned but might no longer be booked. The biggest driver of this appears to be conversations around job losses that have grown by 421% in recent months, followed by a 103% increase in passengers talking about having less to spend as a result of being on a reduced income.

The Future: Financial Protection

Perhaps unsurprisingly given all the uncertainty around refund policies, we’ve seen a 46% growth in people talking about seeking financial protection, or intent to take out insurance when next booking. The desire for the lowest priced tickets that offer no security might have seen their day. Travelers are placing increased importance on purchasing insurance for their trips, so their bases are covered in the case of emergency – which millions have found themselves experiencing with the current pandemic.


Now more than ever we have to stay connected to our customers. We need to get better at communicating policies and making processes easier to interact with. The millions of unanswered calls and concerns we talked about in the Customer Service Battleground are only exacerbated when financial pressures are attached. Supporting customers through this difficult period will only help the industry in the long run, returning demand quicker and helping to rebuild passenger loyalty necessary to future growth.

David Griffiths,
Head of Insight Fethr
VP Content Black Swan


Raim Islam,
Insight Consultant

Thank you for reading, and for more information or to explore any of the above in any further detail please get in touch with Patrick Prefontaine at patrick.prefontaine@blackswan.com or by using the contact form below.

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