Often neglected as businesses aimed at generating profits, airports have entered the competitive environment. Nowadays, airports need to be the first choice for passengers in order to attract more traffic. For instance just in London, passengers have the choice to fly from and spend their time and money at Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Luton and Stansted airports. All these airports are around one hour away from the city centre. Airport competition is becoming a reality and as it is in the airline industry, focusing on customer experience can offer the ultimate differentiator.
One thing that all passengers have to face immediately after entering the airport terminal is the check-in queues. Nowadays, even business class passengers would often have to queue to check-in their bags, especially during Monday morning rush hour. If you are unlucky, you might have to wait in separate lanes for each check-in desk, and as it is universally known, the queue that you are not in always moves faster, leaving you anxious and nervous that you won’t make your flight. What is the solution? Introduce the serpentine queuing system. All passengers line up in one queue and proceed to the next available counter. Studies have shown, that this type of queues management significantly lowers passengers stress levels. All passengers feel that they are in the same situation and no one is in disadvantageous position.
It is important to lower passengers’ anxiety and stress levels during check-in, because a passenger, who is worried about their flight departing without them, won’t spend money in the duty-free area. Airports increasingly are relying on so-called non-aeronautical revenues, which are all revenues that are generated from non-aviation related activities, such as concessions, rental space and car parks. Currently, on average almost 50% of airport revenues are generated by non-aeronautical revenues – airports are slowly evolving into shopping malls. Thus, airports really need to focus on customer experience to convince passengers that time spent at the airport can be a pleasurable and fun experience.
At one airport in the UK, it has been calculated that one minute spent by the passenger in the duty free area equates to 7 pence worth of revenue. If an airport would be able to persuade all passengers to stay in the airport for 15 minutes longer before their flight, returns could be enormous. Airport executives need to realise that investment in Customer Experience is the key to drive airport profitability.
So what can airports do to convince passengers to spend more time at their airports? There are multiple strategies. One of the best airports in the world according to passengers, Singapore Changi Airport, leads the way in passenger experience. While transferring through the airport, passengers can use in-terminal cinema for free, swim in the only in-terminal swimming pool, relax in the butterfly garden or have a drink on the terminal roof in the sunflower garden. With features and amenities like these, Singapore Changi Airport became not only one of the best airports in the world, but also one of the busiest transfer hubs in the world, which passengers consciously choose when transferring in South-East Asia.
To conclude, airports have to recognise that customer experience can not only improve their employee engagement but also more importantly improve their bottom-line by increasing their non-aeronautical revenues. In order for an airport to survive in this competitive market, they need to become the first choice for passengers, almost a destination in itself and not only a soulless transit point on their journey.
Written by Julian Lukaszewicz, (ACE) Airtravel Customer Experience Consultant, Lexden
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