How to Improve the Airport Experience
Airports are often places of stress, urgency, and inconvenience for travelers. Providing a good airport experience can make the difference between travelers regularly choosing to fly out of one hub over another in addition to increasing revenue for the airport. The airport experience can become a place where travelers can relax before starting a big vacation — or returning home and winding down from one.
Modern airports interested in improving the traveler experience need to understand the traveler's perspective on needs and wants of the people who will be passing through the terminals and gates. One study showed that most travelers consider airports to be more stressful than work or even filing taxes. The key is to establish a consumer-focused goal that prioritizes passenger comfort and convenience.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- Why Invest in Providing a Better Airport Experience?
- Getting the Basics Right
- How to Improve Customer Service in Airports
- How to Improve Airport Passenger Flow
- Features to Include in Airports
- How to Improve the Airport Parking Experience
- Improve the Airport Parking Experience with VPS
Why Invest in Providing a Better Airport Experience?
Airports should consider focusing on providing a positive traveler airport experience for several reasons. The top reason is the return on investment it provides. Automated check-ins, improved signage, and queue control are a few of the ways to reduce stress and confusion during a traveler's airport experience.
Some of the biggest complaints airline passengers have about airports are the confusion of navigating maze-like terminals and the seemingly endless waiting that comes with checking baggage and screening through security checkpoints. Ineffective communication from airport staff, such as how long the wait time for screening in a checkpoint will take, only adds to travelers' frustrations.
A negative airport experience and overall dissatisfaction could potentially result in passengers choosing to fly out of a different airport, which means another hub would ultimately earn their business.
How airport employees treat passengers can positively or negatively affect an airport's reputation. Negative online reviews and word-of-mouth comments can an airport in an unfriendly spotlight and sometimes can result in unfavorable media coverage. Ideally, the best airports will aim for the "no news is good news" adage as satisfied customers are less compelled to review experiences or share by word-of-mouth.
Many of the biggest passenger complaints are easy fixes. Grand renovations of airport terminal layout designs and expensive upgrades may not be necessary at all. Simple upgrades like improving lighting and providing comfortable furniture can go a long way. The key to happy passengers is to anticipate what they want or need and make those accommodations.
Getting the Basics Right
The very basics of improving the airport passenger experience come down to three things:
- Customer service
These key basics for improved customer experience can be applied to any industry and are especially crucial in airports where thousands of people are traveling to a destination, often in a hurry.
A survey found approximately 64% of people consciously choose to shop at places that they know have a clean and sanitary restroom. This sentiment also rings true for airports in general. Parking, retail, and restaurants are three of the most common ways to generate airport revenue. It is beneficial to establish an atmosphere and ambiance in an airport that encourages passengers to become repeat customers.
Airport bathroom cleanliness may seem like a daunting ongoing service to continuously provide considering the sheer volume of people traveling through, but it's the dedication to cleanliness that leaves a lasting impression. Passengers will more likely remember an unclean and filthy airport bathroom experience and associate that negative experience with the airport hub. After all, if one bathroom was not maintained properly, there is a good chance that the rest of the bathrooms at the airport are just as unclean.
Cleanliness — not just in bathrooms, but also in terminals, lounges, and other public areas of an airport — can improve airport revenue because it establishes a level of comfort and positivity between the airport and the consumers. It also lends to the airport's prestige which benefits them in the long run with loyal passengers.
The flow of passenger travel is very important in an airport, especially in large hubs with multiple terminals. Few things are more stressful than finding yourself late for a flight — despite having arrived early — because you cannot locate your gate nor a service desk associate available to help guide you.
Clear and visible signage is a necessity in airports regardless of their size. Unlike airport staff, passengers do not always have a thorough understanding of the airport's layout, so clear and frequent signage is necessary for wayfinding. This also helps improve airport passenger flow by preventing congestion throughout terminals and helps keep foot traffic moving smoothly.
Airport staff also play an important role in wayfinding since having a live person available to answer questions is extremely beneficial and oftentimes preferred by travelers. Employees should be able to answer questions or quickly find someone who can so passengers know they can rely on airport staff for help.
3. Customer Service
In the same vein as having airport staff available to assist with wayfinding, it is also crucial to provide top-tier customer service to travelers. Rethinking airports as consumer hubs can be beneficial as customer service is a pillar of successful businesses. Customer service is essential when it comes to improving the airport experience.
Passengers need to feel confident that airport staff are knowledgeable in the airport layout and can accurately guide them to where they need to go. In addition to being knowledgeable, staff also need to treat passengers as customers by being courteous and treating them respectfully.
How to Improve Customer Service in Airports
While airports and its services and amenities can sometimes be considered a type of retail environment, customer service in airports will still differ from that in a shopping mall or restaurant. It is a much larger operation and one of the most outstanding characteristics of a preferred airport is having a staff that is unified. This unity is not just so that everyone can provide the right answers when passengers ask questions. It is also having a set goal of achieving customer satisfaction across the board, which lends numerous perks to the airport.
One of those perks is the feeling of being on a united team with a common vision. Establishing a client-focused goal helps unify airport staff in working harder as a team to ensure the customer is satisfied, whether it means to guide a traveler to their appropriate gate or to go above and beyond to assist a passenger. Customer service should excel in these three areas:
These three areas generally cover the essential needs of travelers throughout the airport. Ensuring travelers are pleased with cleanliness, processes, and commerce can help improve an airport's reputation and establish repeat business.
Cleanliness is more or less self-evident consisting mainly of making sure bathrooms and other public areas are kept tidy and sanitary. Cleanliness and tidiness also overlap with processes as maintaining a clear, easy-to-navigate area for checking in, baggage drop and security checks are essential to keeping passenger foot traffic steady without causing congestion. This can include things like self-serve kiosks to reduce waiting time, addressing customer complaints and concerns with empathy, and assisting passengers in finding their way around the terminals and gates.
Airport commerce is where traditional customer service is most prevalent as restaurant and retail employees are still part of airport staff and should aim to achieve the same client-focused goal.
The power of "yes" is an excellent customer service tool that should be utilized whenever possible. It doesn't mean that customers can get whatever they want when they ask for it, but it does encourage staff to find ways to help the customers with their requests and seek an agreeable resolution.
Similarly, it's a good idea for staff to imagine themselves in the shoes of the traveler. Airport workers are knowledgeable of the layout of the airport, so it could be useful if they step out into the terminal and experience it as a passenger would. This allows staff to identify potential points of concern such as areas with high congestion or places where passengers tend to get lost. The idea is to implement solutions to the problems as a team.
Part of what makes an airport known for excellent customer service is staff that solves problems before they arise, allowing travelers to feel their trip begins at the airport rather than when they leave it.
How to Improve Airport Passenger Flow
The key to smooth-running airport foot traffic is passenger flow. The idea is to have passengers seamlessly pass from check-in to security to the gate without needing to wait hours in between. While the staff is not usually involved in the planning process when it comes to designing airport layouts, they can help to improve passenger flow without the need for construction by understanding where terminals, gates, and other destinations are located.
Cutting queue time is the best way to move waiting crowds and avoid running into friction points throughout the terminal. There are several ways to cut queue times, including:
- Automation: Online check-ins or self-serve kiosks reduce the number of people lined up to see an agent, allowing more people to check-in quickly and efficiently. Automation also reduces some of the potential stress of air travel, allowing passengers to head right for security with their pre-printed boarding pass when they arrive.
- Communication: Informing passengers ahead of time via email or text message about where they need to go and what options they have can help reduce the risk of hundreds of passengers showing up at the same time or stressing out over inconvenient changes. Informing travelers of automated options that can be done from home or on the go means they are aware of any changes, delays, or cancellations.
- Signage: Benefits of proper signage cannot be emphasized enough, especially when it comes to improving customer service at the airport. Passengers who do not need assistance from airport staff to find their way around will be more relaxed and will leave staff free to help those who have more urgent concerns. incorporating easy-to-understand images or multilingual signage increases the volume of travelers who can interpret the signs, thus improving the airport experience for a larger group of people.
Security barriers are another solution for those wondering how to improve the layout of airports. These security barriers are optimally utilized when positioned in an organized way so that travelers aren't forced to walk through a cyclical lineup. The organization of the barriers in an ideal layout maximizes the efficiency of the space in the pathways.
Features to Include in Airports
As newer generations become the target consumers, it is important for airports to adapt and upgrade to suit their unique needs. While some features are evergreen, such as cleanliness and wayfinding, other features to include in airports for passengers change with the times and provide convenience and comfort.
One of the most frustrating things about air travel can be the inability to find available or adequate seating, especially if you have a long wait ahead of you. For people traveling in groups or with family, it can be even harder to find seating together.
Lots of comfortable seating throughout the terminal and gates allow passengers to take a load off and take a breath after the hustle and bustle of security checks and finding the right gate. Ample comfortable seating takes the stress out of airports, allowing passengers to begin their vacation or business trip in earnest.
Nowadays, travelers do not leave home without their smartphones and are always on the lookout for an available electrical socket to charge electronic devices. Ensuring there are more than enough outlets for charging phones, tablets, and laptops is an indirect way to help passengers relax.
A charged device means they can entertain themselves with games or ebooks while waiting for their flights or get some work done before business travel. Those who travel for work will find it beneficial to not have to wait to board the airplane before resuming work.
When it comes to improving the layout of airports, instead of access to only a handful of electrical outlets throughout the terminal, have charging capability at every seat or more evenly distributed throughout the gates. When a traveler is starting a vacation, it is more ideal to have access to an outlet nearby versus finding one in a busy walkway or path without seating and having to sit on the floor near the charging device.
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Every place has its own unique ambiance and can make travelers feel a variety of ways including calm and serene or stressed and anxious. Part of how to improve airports is making small changes, such as switching from harsh, unflattering lightbulbs to softer, more calming ones. Adding plants or even a full indoor garden is another way to improve airports by creating a gentle environment. Similarly, installing artwork can be a great way to encourage people to spend extra downtime browsing the terminal.
Restaurants and Retail
Airports are increasingly incorporating a vast selection of eateries and retail shops for travelers because they know that with extra time on their hands, that time can be spent shopping and dining. Shopping and dining are at the top of the list when it comes to how airports can increase revenue.
A variety of eateries and stores spread throughout the terminal encourages travelers to spend money, either by enjoying a nice meal or by purchasing some souvenirs or other items on-the-go. These types of establishments also encourage travelers to arrive at the airport earlier, skipping over any potential rushes to leisurely enjoy some shopping and dining before the flight.
This also helps prevent heavy congestion in other areas of the airport, such as the gate seating areas, and provides something for people to do while waiting for their flight.
Activities for Passengers
One of the worst things about airports is inevitably waiting. While a lot of it can be alleviated with solutions to steady passenger flow, there are other times when it is truly unavoidable, such as while waiting at the gate before a flight or if a flight is delayed. Shopping and dining are two ways to occupy travelers who have a long wait ahead of them, but other activities can also be entertaining.
An indoor play area for kids is one idea that keeps children occupied and allows for energy to be burned before boarding a flight. Indoor gardens or art exhibits are other forms of entertainment activities to consider for travelers. Some airports even include gyms or yoga studios to allow passengers to spend their extra time on fitness.
How to Improve the Airport Parking Experience
Often, parking lots are forgotten once they're built, with airports focusing more on improving the indoor airport experience for travelers inside. However, the parking lot is one of the first and last things passengers will notice and is critical for improving the airport parking experience.
Airports commonly invest large sums of money in building first-class parking facilities, but sometimes fail to maintain them. This results in the deterioration of the parking areas, which then requires costly and unnecessary repairs. Cleanliness is one of the telling characteristics of a well-run airport, as are well-maintained parking facilities.
More ways to improve the parking lot experience for airports include:
- Automation: If there are long lines or congestion at the entrance or exit of a parking garage, upgrading to an automated payment system might be an ideal solution. This enables passengers to avoid waiting in long lines, quickly and securely paying for their parking as they make their way to the airport exit.
- Shuttle Service: Airports that have off-site parking can offer shuttle buses to the terminals, with the cost of this service integrated into the total parking fee. These parking facilities are often lower cost than parking on airport property or are similarly priced, but with the convenience of vehicle-to-terminal transportation.
- Wayfinding: With larger parking areas, passengers may be deterred by the size of the lot or worry about being able to easily locate their vehicle upon their return. Installing a wayfinding system that can guide passengers to available parking spots is becoming commonplace at leading-edge airports.
- Covered Parking: Covered parking, whether surface or rooftop, offers added comfort and security in the form of protection from catastrophic weather elements and extreme heat. With covered parking lots, passengers who need to leave their cars in long-term airport parking can do so with peace of mind. During the hottest months of the year, they'll also return to a more comfortable vehicle, as properly covered parking solutions can help significantly decrease the internal temperature of a vehicle.
In the long run, parking at the airport can potentially end up being more cost-effective than using a ride share service or taxi. Additionally, it promises a better airport experience for passengers who have one less thing to worry about.
Improve the Airport Parking Experience With VPS
What makes for a great airport experience? Covered vehicle parking is an increasingly common and desired benefit for travelers. In line with cleanliness and improving passenger flow, covered parking lots can add to a travelers' airport experience, leaving a positive experience and the impression that the airport is one of the best. At VPS, we're committed to helping you improve the overall traveler experience for your airport. Our innovative and customizable solutions for on/off-airport covered parking structures are designed to protect the vehicles of your passengers until they return.
Whether you're seeking protection from harsh weather, explore solar energy solutions for your airport, VPS is here to guide you. Contact us today, and one of our experienced representatives will be in touch.