How to Improve the Airport Experience


How to Improve the Airport Experience

Airports are often places of stress, urgency, and inconvenience for travelers. Providing a good airport experience can encourage regular travelers to choose to fly out of one particular hub over another, leading to increased revenue for the airport. The airport experience can become a place where travelers can relax before starting a big vacation, heading to work conferences, or making regular commutes — and when they return home and wind down from their journey.

Modern airports interested in offering the best airport passenger experience need to understand the traveler's perspective on what passengers want and need when passing through the terminals and gates. One study showed that most travelers consider airports more stressful than work or filing taxes. The key is establishing a consumer-focused goal prioritizing passenger comfort and convenience. 

Understanding how to boost the airport customer experience and what airport innovation ideas to implement is important to retaining regular travelers and appealing to potential customers.

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Why Invest in Providing a Better Airport Experience?

Creating a good airport experience

Airports should consider focusing on providing a positive traveler airport experience for several reasons. Apart from satisfied and loyal travelers, the top motivation is the return on investment it provides. 

Reduce Frustration and Complaints

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 at a checkpoint will take, only adds to travelers' frustrations. Automated check-ins, improved signage, and queue control are some ways to reduce stress and confusion during a traveler's airport experience.

Improved Reviews and Business Retention

How airport employees treat passengers can positively or negatively affect an airport's reputation. Negative online reviews and word-of-mouth comments can leave an airport in an unfriendly spotlight, possibly resulting 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. 

A negative airport experience and overall dissatisfaction could result in passengers choosing to fly out of a different airport, which means another hub would ultimately earn their business.

Minor Improvements Lead to Major Returns

Many of the biggest passenger complaints are easy fixes. Grand renovations of airport terminal layout designs and expensive renovations are not always needed. Instead, focusing on simple upgrades and airport innovation ideas, like improving lighting, providing comfortable furniture, and offering premium parking, can go a long way. The key to happy passengers is anticipating what they want or need and making those accommodations.

The Basics of a Good Airport Experience

The basics of improving the airport customer experience come down to three things:

  1. Cleanliness
  2. Easy Navigation
  3. Customer Service

Any industry can apply these fundamentals for improved customer experience. However, they are especially crucial in airports where thousands of people, often in a hurry, travel to numerous destinations daily.

 Cleanliness in airports

1. Cleanliness

Following the pandemic, people are increasingly aware of germs in bathrooms, leading to a greater focus on the cleanliness and number of touch-free options of public restrooms. This sentiment also rings true for airports in general. Parking, retail, duty-free and restaurants are among the most common ways to generate non-aeronautical airport revenue. Establishing an atmosphere and ambiance in an airport that is clean and tidy is beneficial to encourage passengers to become repeat customers.

Ensuring airport bathroom cleanliness may seem like a daunting ongoing service considering the sheer volume of people traveling through continuously. Still, it's the dedication to cleanliness that leaves a lasting impression. Passengers are more likely to remember an unclean and filthy airport bathroom experience and associate that negative experience with poor management and customer service at the airport hub. After all, if one bathroom is poorly maintained, there is a good chance that the rest of the bathrooms at the airport are just as unclean.

Maintaining cleanliness in airport bathrooms, terminals, lounges, and other public areas can improve airport revenue by establishing comfort, positivity, and appreciation between the airport and the consumers. It also lends to the airport's prestige, which benefits them in the long run with loyal passengers.

2. Easy Navigation

The efficient flow of passenger travel is vital in an airport, especially in large hubs with multiple terminals. Few things are more stressful for travelers than finding themselves late for a flight — despite having arrived early — because they cannot locate their gate or a service desk associate to help guide them.

Clear and visible signage is a necessity regardless of the airport size. Compared to airport staff, only regular passengers thoroughly understand 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 essential role in wayfinding since having a physical person available to answer questions is extraordinarily beneficial and often preferred by travelers. Employees should be able to answer questions or promptly find a colleague to address the query so passengers know they can rely on airport staff for help.

Improve customer service in airport

3. Customer Service

In the same vein as having airport staff available to assist with navigation, providing top-tier customer service to travelers is crucial. Rethinking airports as consumer hubs can be beneficial as customer service is a pillar of successful businesses. To facilitate the best airport passenger experience, airports must understand good customer service traits and components.

Passengers need to feel confident that airport staff understand the airport layout and can accurately guide them to where they need to go. In addition to being knowledgeable, staff must treat passengers as customers by being courteous and respectful.

How to improve customer service in airports

How to Improve Customer Service in Airports

While an airport 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 the most outstanding characteristic of a preferred airport is having professional, courteous, and unified staff. This unity allows team members to answer passenger questions correctly and promotes a collective goal toward 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 shared vision. Establishing a client-focused goal helps unify airport staff to work harder as a team to ensure the customer is satisfied, whether by guiding a traveler to their appropriate gate or going above and beyond to assist a passenger. Customer service should excel in these three areas:

  1. Sanitation and Neatness
  2. Processes and Organization
  3. Commerce and Eateries

These three areas generally cover the essential needs of travelers throughout the airport. Ensuring travelers are pleased with cleanliness, processes, and commerce can improve an airport's daily operations and reputation as well as help to establish repeat business.

Sanitation and Neatness

Sanitation and neatness are more or less self-evident — mainly ensuring bathrooms and other public areas are kept tidy and sanitary. Cleanliness and tidiness also overlap with processes. 

Processes and Organization

Processes deal with 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 self-serve kiosks to:

  • Reduce passenger waiting time. 
  • Address customer complaints and concerns with empathy. 
  • Assist passengers in navigating the terminals and gates.

Commerce and Eateries

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.

Fostering Improved Customer Service

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 traveler's shoes. Airport workers know the airport's layout and operational practices, so it could be helpful for them to 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 having a 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 Streamline 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 staff are usually uninvolved in the planning process for designing airport layouts, they can help improve passenger flow without additional construction requirements. Their understanding of the airport is paramount to improve passenger flow.

Cutting queue time is the best way to move waiting crowds and avoid running into friction points throughout the terminal. There are several airport innovation ideas to reduce queue times.

  • 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 so passengers can head straight 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 they can do from home or on the go means they are aware of any changes, delays, or cancellations.
  • Signage: The benefits of proper signage cannot be emphasized enough, especially when improving customer service at the airport. Passengers who do not require assistance navigating the airport are more relaxed and leave staff free to help those with more urgent concerns. Incorporating easy-to-understand pictograms and 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, airports must 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.

Ample Seating

One of the most frustrating things about air travel is often the inability to find available or adequate seating, especially if a person has a long wait ahead. Finding seating can be even more challenging for those traveling in groups or with family.

Providing sufficient comfortable seating throughout the terminal and gates allows passengers to rest and catch their breath after the hustle and bustle of security checks and finding the right gate. Ample, comfortable, and well-maintained seating takes the stress out of airports, allowing passengers to begin their vacation or business trip in earnest.

Electrical Sockets

Nowadays, travelers rely on their smartphones and are always looking for an available electrical socket to charge electronic devices. Ensuring there are enough outlets for charging phones, tablets, and laptops is an indirect way to help passengers relax.

A charged device means they can entertain themselves or complete work before their vacation or work travel. Those on business trips will appreciate being able to work before boarding their plane.

Regarding airport layout improvements, install outlets at every seat or more evenly distributed throughout the gates, instead of only at a handful of locations throughout the terminal. When a traveler is starting a vacation, it is 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 a unique ambiance that can affect how a traveler feels, including calm and serene versus stressed and anxious. Improving an airport involves making small changes, such as changing out harsh, unflattering lightbulbs for softer, more calming options. Adding plants or even creating an indoor garden is another way to improve airports for a calming, gentle ambiance. 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 airports know that passengers can spend their extra time shopping and dining, which helps generate increased airport revenue.

A variety of eateries and stores spread throughout the terminal encourages travelers to spend money by enjoying a nice meal or purchasing souvenirs or other items on the go. These establishments also encourage travelers to arrive at the airport earlier, skipping over any potential rushes to leisurely enjoy 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 them to burn energy 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.

Rooftop Hail Proection

How to Enhance the Airport Parking Experience

The parking lot is one of the first and last airport amenities passengers will notice, and quality airport parking structures are critical for improving the airport parking experience. Once built, parking lots are often forgotten, with airports focusing more on improving the indoor airport customer 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 and quickly and securely pay for parking as they make their way to the airport exit.
  • Shuttle Service: Airports with 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 commercial covered 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: With rooftop hail protection and shade structures, covered parking offers added comfort and security through protection from catastrophic weather and extreme heat. 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 covered parking can help significantly decrease the internal temperature of a vehicle.
  • Renewable Energy: Most airport parking lots cover large areas, which can be further utilized by harnessing solar power. Forward-thinking airports that install solar panel-covered parking structures reap the benefits of renewable energy. As a result, they can reduce utility costs and help attract customers who support green energy.

In the long run, parking at the airport can potentially be more financially viable than using a ride-share service or taxi. Well-maintained covered parking areas offer a cost-effective solution that promises a better airport experience for passengers who now have one less thing to worry about.

Improve the Airport Parking Experience With VPS

What makes for a great airport experience? In line with cleanliness and improving passenger flow, covered parking lots can add to creating the best airport passenger experience, leaving a positive impression that the airport is one of the industry leaders. At VPS, we're committed to helping airports improve the overall traveler experience with airport parking innovation ideas. Our customizable solutions for airport mass coverage parking structures are designed to protect customer vehicles from sun and hail until they return.

Covered vehicle parking is an increasingly common and desired benefit for travelers. Whether an airport seeks to protect vehicles from harsh weather or explore solar energy solutions for their airport, VPS is here to guide the way.

Complete our online form or call us at 866-887-4233, and one of our experienced representatives will be in touch.

Improve the Airport Parking Experience


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