Beyond efficiency: Why accommodating every passenger matters

Beyond efficiency: Why accommodating every passenger matters Image
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Imagine being Sarah. She’s a seasoned world traveller with a keen eye for culture and an insatiable appetite for authentic experiences. For her, airports aren't just transit hubs but a critical part of the cultural journey. Yet, more often than not, her airport experience feels disconnected. 

In the bustling world of modern air travel, efficiency often takes centre stage. Airports and airlines prioritise streamlined processes, reduced wait times, and optimise resources to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.  

However, this need for speed overlooks a fundamental aspect – the diverse needs of Sarah and passengers like her.  

Frequently, there’s a lack of personalisation, a missed opportunity to showcase the area’s unique cultural heritage, and a limited sense of discovery. In short, airports can often feel sterile and generic rather than the gateway to a region's soul. 

Unfortunately, this scenario rings true for many travellers. Each person brings a unique set of requirements, expectations – and challenges. While the standard approach to airport design favours efficiency over experience, and caters to the needs of some passengers, it can fall short for many others.  

From families with young children to elderly travellers navigating unfamiliar surroundings, from people with disabilities to those looking for a respite from the chaos, accommodating the diverse passenger needs isn’t just a courtesy. It’s a mark of truly exceptional service.  

So how can we reimagine the airport passenger experience and transform it from a necessary hurdle into an extension of the travel journey? 

 

Understanding passenger needs, expectations and priorities

 

The days of a one-size-fits-all approach to passenger experience have long gone. Our research shows that today's passengers come in several distinct traveller profiles, each with their own different requirements, including:  

  • The Easy Lifer – who looks for ease and comfort throughout their journey, favouring convenient amenities, facilities, and relaxing spaces. 
  • The Ethical Environmentalist – who wants to make informed decisions that match their values and preferences, particularly around sustainability and ethical considerations. 
  • The Cultural Connoisseur – who sees the airport as an integral part of their journey and wants to maximise their cultural immersion and exploration. 
  • The Speed Specialist – who values speed and efficiency, and is willing to pay for enhanced services like priority lanes and lounge access. 
  • The Smart Spender – who wants value for money and uses tools, resources, offers and strategies to get the best possible experience. 
  • The Equality Advocate – who has physical or non-physical disabilities or 
    special needs and wants an enjoyable – and equal – travel experience.

 

Crafting unique passenger journeys

 

To cater to such diverse needs, airports need to adopt a multi-faceted approach to design and service. This involves integrating technology for efficiency, curating spaces for comfort, and diversifying offerings to enhance the overall passenger experience. 

The standard approach.

While the traditional airport’s focus on functionality and efficiency is ideal for Speed Specialists who want convenience and fast pathways, it’s a disappointing and unsatisfying experience for Cultural Connoisseurs like Sarah.  

Here’s why: 

  • A lack of cultural connection. 

The generic, traditional airport typically highlights general, international designs that strip away any sense of place or locality. These neglect the area’s unique cultural identity and heritage, and leave Sarah with a bland taste of sameness that could be anywhere in the world.  

  • Limited amenities. 

Airports often resemble major high streets, with the same old brands found worldwide. While there are ample duty-free shops, fast-food chains and the usual globally recognised retail outlets, she sees a stark absence of local cuisine, arts or crafts that reflect the local culture and traditions. 

  • Cookie-cutter layout.  

The repetitive, identical terminals and facilities found in one airport to the next lack character and charm. Sarah’s journey from coming through the door to the gate is unmemorable and uninspiring, diminishing her sense of adventure. 

For passengers like Sarah, who long to start their cultural immersion the moment they arrive, the standard approach overlooks their expectations and desires, leaving them feeling like an afterthought.  

The reimagined experience. 

Now, let's reimagine the same scenario with a design philosophy centred around Cultural Connoiseurs’ needs and expectations. 

  • Cultural immersion. 

In our redesigned airport, every corner celebrates local heritage and culture. Sarah walks through a terminal where the walls narrate the region’s history through installations painted by local artists to a background of the area’s music. Interactive exhibits offer a hands-on experience with indigenous crafts, turning her time into an educational opportunity that enriches her travel. 

  • Diverse experiences. 

Rather than – or in addition to – the usual global franchises, this reimagined airport features a marketplace of locally-owned businesses. Sarah explores a variety of shops selling goods made by local craftspeople or eats in farm-to-table restaurants that offer a menu of authentic regional cuisine prepared from locally sourced ingredients. Each meal and purchase supports the local economy and gives her a genuine taste of the region. 

  • Unique architecture. 

The reimagined airport’s design reflects distinctive geographical and cultural elements inspired by the local area. One terminal includes elements shaped like traditional boats or local landmarks, while another showcases sustainable designs inspired by the region's historic architecture and natural landscapes. This captivates travellers and instils a sense of place that begins or ends their journey on a high note. 

The future of airports lies in creating an inclusive and seamless passenger experience for all types of travellers. By moving beyond the limitations of the standard approach and focusing on passenger needs and aspirations, airports can transform themselves from a logistical necessity into vibrant hubs that not only facilitate travel but also create lasting memories and enriching experiences. 

 

Ready to reimagine your passenger experience?

 

By understanding the diverse make-up of your passengers, crafting a customer experience vision, and implementing innovative solutions, you can create a welcoming and engaging environment, and craft unique, unforgettable journeys that start the moment people step inside the airport. 

Download your Passenger Experience Strategy Checklist today and embark on a journey to reimagine your airport experience, and boost passenger satisfaction.

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