Prioritizing the passenger experience

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Airports could be doing more to ensure that passengers are comfortable, relaxed and entertained as they wait for their flights, says Errol McGlothan, director, Airport Lounge Development.

Thanks to many factors, including social media and affordability, traveling abroad has a rapidly increasing allure. Indeed, we are traveling more than ever before. At London Gatwick Airport alone, thousands of flights take off and land daily, adding up to more than 46 million passengers in 2018 – a 27% uplift since 2010. Growth in travel is generating a huge amount of foot traffic in airport terminals around the world.

However, despite air travel becoming increasingly common, the stress of flying abroad, for many, remains the same. In fact, according to our new research, almost a fifth (19%) of Britons find being at airports stressful. But with the population taking, on average, 2.8 flights a year, the airport is of course unavoidable. So, what can airports do to alleviate this feeling?

Entertainment and leisure hubs
There are many great ways airports can – and already do – create a more enjoyable environment for those traveling. For example, Portland International Airport has a cinema called the Hollywood Theatre that shows short features to entertain people while they wait for their flights, especially handy for those traveling with children and as a family. Gaming rooms are also starting to pop up more in terminals, with Orlando International Airport dedicating an entire arcade to helping keep passengers entertained. We’re also seeing a range of other new activities coming to the fore, including casinos and even museums, highlighting how airports are increasingly looking for creative ways to optimize the preflight experience

Nailing the basics of seating and streamlined journeys
These are just some of the many amazing innovations dotted around the world that airports can take inspiration from. However, it’s also essential to remember the basics. In our research, we found that 45% of people said that having more places to sit and relax would improve their time at the airport. Although an obvious ask, it’s an important one. Regardless of the end destination, it is inevitable that there will be idle time spent at the airport, especially since almost half (47%) of respondents said they’d had a flight delayed in the last year, with the average delay adding an extra hour and a half to their wait. Ensuring basic levels of comfort will enable those traveling to feel more at ease. Airports also need to be thinking about flyers’ overall journeys, looking at options to help make them as seamless as possible, among them fast-track boarding, augmented reality (AR) terminal maps, facial recognition at passport control, and robot concierges.

Relaxation and sleep spaces
For those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle, airports should investigate relaxation spaces such as spa facilities, yoga zones and sleep pods that will enable travelers to get some much-needed headspace before embarking on their journey. At Singapore’s Changi Airport, often regarded as one of the most luxurious in the world, there are even zen gardens with waterfalls, offering a true indoor oasis for flyers. Furthermore, we have seen an increase in airports offering lounges to passengers with time on their hands, where they can unwind, take advantage of complimentary food, drinks and newspapers, or even fire off last-minute emails thanks to free, fast wi-fi. With our research finding that 37% of Britons would like access to quality lounge space where they can enjoy a quiet, relaxed atmosphere before boarding, airports should investigate this option. It doesn’t have to be a tall task either, as they can be built out and run by third-party companies.

Travelers’ need for more spaces to sit and relax represents a real opportunity for airports looking to tap into a new source of revenue and ensure their offering is keeping pace with consumer desire. These are just some of the ways airports around the world are upping the game. Countless square meters of empty space in terminals across the globe constitute the perfect opportunity for airports to offer experiences that meet travelers’ rising expectations.

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