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Airport Experience

What airport experience do passengers expect today and in the future?

Processes are often optimized from a technical perspective and less from a customer’s perspective. And while airports are working on innovations such as eye scanners for security control or gate delivery of shopped items, customers demand error-free core processes and well-thought-out basic offers in the first place.

Uncertainty about the length of the queues at security and passport control, long distances to the gate, inexplicably long waiting times for luggage delivery or just not enough seats to relax while waiting for the flight, working areas for business travelers or playgrounds for families traveling with children are killers for a stress-free airport experience.

But apart from the core, what else do customers expect? And is your airport prepared for todays and future passenger demands?

Thinking 100% from a customer’s perspective, what kind of airport experience would he like to have?

Probably the experience, people traveling on private jets have: Driving in their own car right to the airplane, just minutes before take-off. Airport staff picks up their luggage from the trunk, loads it into the airplane while the passenger boards the plane. The doors get closed and the flight takes off. Of course, this is not a realistic approach for public airports serving dozens of million passengers per year. But which of these wishes can be implemented pragmatically and what other expectations might passengers have in the future?

The goals of airports should be to make the airport experience and the related processes as easy, stress-free and convenient for the passenger as possible.

A survey of Statista in 2017 showed, that passport control, baggage dropoff and pick up as well as connection to public transport and security control are services, passengers at German airports are generally satisfied with.

But especially younger target groups, aged 18 to 29, are discontent with the shopping and gastronomic offer, personal contact offers in case of irregularities and the WIFI at the airports. Considering that non-air revenue accounts for 60-70% of the total income of many airports and retail and F&B revenue together makeup to 50% of this revenue, airports are better off to improve the experience in these areas.

Passengers spend more money on the ground as air terminals are offering unique retail and local restaurant options.

For leisure passengers, their holidays already start at the airport that can be used for spontaneous shopping stimulation. Business travelers tend to treat themselves for good work or they are looking for small presents to bring home. Overall, on many airports, the passenger spend has risen during the last years, despite limited innovations of airport retailers to adopt consumer behaviors and trends and it is expected to rise to 23bn$ in 2023 according to Generation Research. Can you image the untapped revenue potential if shopping and dining experiences at the airport would be unique and offer emotional experiences?

Simply replicating the usual shopping and dining structures of other airports around the world is not enough.

The introduction of Zara and Mango at aena airports, Massimo Dutti in Brussels airport and Esprit and H&M in Schiphol airport show the current efforts of airports to meet the diverse passenger demands. Aéroports de Paris has developed a concept in high-end cigars, to optimize sales to high-end passengers. This proves that the differentiation of airport experience works in both directions.

But not only a broader range of brands is key to a unique airport experience, also a thoughtful presentation of traditional shops matters: The Liquor Library operates a shop at the baggage claim at McCarran International Airport Las Vegas, where passengers can taste and shop liquor while waiting for their checked bags. Gebrüder Heinemann has opened its first Duty Free Kids Shop at Vienna airport, to provide a surprising and pleasant airport experience even to the smallest travelers. On many airports, in areas without enough space for shops, automated retail units become more and more common and food trucks are used for a more customer-oriented dining experience.

Digitalization and new technologies will change the way people will be shopping in the future. But as technology moves forward, people’s desire for experiences in the real world with family and friends will get stronger.

Robo shopping, shopping via dash button or in an augmented reality will be more common within the next years. Since many things will be virtual in the future, experiences in the real world will become more valuable. Airports have the potential to serve both sides: Virtual shopping as well as real shopping and dining experiences. Airports need to become emotional worlds of experience and deliver surprising moments to establish a unique airport experience that suits today’s and tomorrow’s customer needs.

More than 60% of European citizens live within two hours of at least two airports but where a good rail connection exists, passengers tend to take the train on routes of less than four hours.

When price and connection quality are equal, the attractiveness of an airport is an important purchase decision factor. Within the overlapping European catchment areas as well as between the international hubs, the competition is growing and requires action by the airports. What steps should be taken to make your airport experience ready for the future?

Only tailor-made solutions will convince the passengers. A detailed analysis about who the passengers flying to the offered destinations are and what they expect considering their reason for travel and their final destination is the base for the development of a new and unique airport experience. Profound knowledge about consumer-, digitalization- and commerce- trends allows the conception of a future-oriented and innovative airport experience.

UNEX is a travel and retail expert

UNEX has profound experience in business model optimization. Our key focus is on customer experience and changes in market conditions.

  • We analyze the current state of your digitalization process, your loyalty program, and your shop structure to uncover optimization potential.

  • In an innovation process alternatives to the current setup are identified and evaluated.

  • Business and implementation plans are developed for the most promising options.

UNEX has the know-how to raise the full potential of your retail strategy in order to generate long-term value and enhance your competitiveness.


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