You can't buy passenger experience

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The airport experience. For some, it conjures images of long queues, confusing signs, and mounting stress. But what if airports transformed from logistical hubs into seamless travel destinations catering to passengers’ physical and emotional journeys?

The truth is, you simply can’t buy passenger experience. Throwing money at new technology or signage won't magically create satisfied passengers. A successful airport passenger experience (PX) strategy requires a fundamental shift in perspective. One that moves away from the focus of ticket class to one that prioritises passenger needs, behaviours and expectations. As these are always evolving, it's important you evolve with them otherwise, you risk being left behind.


What is a passenger experience strategy?


A PX Strategy is a plan designed to enhance and optimise the passenger experience at all the hundreds of touchpoints throughout the passenger’s journey, from booking, parking and checking in right through to border control and lost luggage.

In our 20+ years of experience working with aviation clients, we have identified five key components of a Passenger Experience Strategy:

  • Define your strategic horizon. Understanding your timelines will influence your strategy.
  • Know your passengers. Develop passenger behavioural profiles to understand your passenger's needs, wants, and expectations to enhance the experience.
  • Define your vision. Define your passenger experience vision. What will you be known for? Efficiency, tranquillity, or a touch of luxury? Your vision becomes a motivating collective ambition for all parts of your airport. 
  • Target passenger journeys. Bring your vision to life through examples of the end-to-end passenger experience, this will give you tangible ways to communicate your vision.
  • Building blocks and phased improvements. Take a step back and build a view of all your recommendations and see how they fit together to enable your journeys to be delivered effectively and consistently. 

To find out more on how to build your Passenger Experience Strategy, download a copy of our Passenger Experience Checklist


The future of passenger experience


Travelling is more than just a ticket. It's the thrill of a new adventure, the nervous anticipation of a business meeting, or the bittersweet return home. A successful passenger experience strategy recognises this emotional journey and caters to it.

Traditionally, airports have relied on a ticket-based hierarchy. Lounges, priority queues, and premium benefits are reserved for business and first-class flyers. While these are attractive perks, they exclude a large portion of your passenger base.

A winning PX strategy looks at all touchpoints across the end-to-end passenger journey and focuses on creating moments that matter at each stage based on the diverse needs, attitudes and behaviours of travellers of today and the future.

The future of passenger experience is more than just adopting the latest technology and believing that will solve any pain points in your passenger's journey.

For example, an airport may invest in state-of-the-art self-service kiosks for check-in but neglect to adequately staff the baggage drop-off counters. Despite the new technology, passengers may still have frustrating delays due to long wait times, ultimately detracting from their overall experience.


A seamless travel experience - check-in


Whilst it’s important to look at all the touchpoints within your passenger's journey, you need to look at each touchpoint in its own right to discover the pain points and opportunities there are to enhance the experience.

If we use check-in as an example of the broader passenger journey, there are several key considerations that can help deliver a market-leading experience, including:

  • Physical environment. A clear and intuitive layout smooths passenger flow. Ample seating, dedicated areas for various check-in options (baggage drop, self-service kiosks, traditional counters), and strategically placed signs all contribute to a positive experience for travellers.
  • Frontline staff. Well-trained, courteous staff who are highly visible and readily available to help with enquiries or issues offer a friendly human touch that’s impossible for technology to match.
  • Integrating technology. Technology should seamlessly complement and enhance the check-in experience. User-friendly and easily accessible self-service options with clear instructions and intuitive interfaces are crucial. Additionally, technology should perfectly integrate with other systems (baggage handling, security screening) to minimise disruptions and delays.
  • Communication. Effectively managing passenger expectations requires clear and timely updates. Announcements, digital displays, and mobile notifications keep passengers informed about changes or delays, reducing frustration and anxiety. 


The benefits of a powerful passenger experience


A strong passenger experience and strategy creates a ripple effect of benefits for everyone involved in the airport ecosystem, including staff, stakeholders, airlines, and the airport itself.

Benefits for passengers
  • Improved journey. A data-driven and well-considered strategy that addresses passenger needs helps ensure a seamless and enjoyable travel journey.

  • Enhanced convenience. Streamlined processes and personalised services minimise wait times and simplify airport navigation for an easier, more enjoyable travel experience.

  • Increased trust and loyalty. Commitment to passenger satisfaction builds trust and promotes loyalty. Happy travellers are more likely to return and recommend the airport, cementing a positive reputation and increasing passenger volume.

Benefits for staff
  • Clear direction. Implementing a PX strategy gives staff clear guidance and objectives, helping ensure they understand the airport's vision of exceptional service.

  • Giving staff the authority to make decisions that directly improve passengers’ experience can be a strong motivator, increasing ownership of their role, job satisfaction, personal and professional development, and fostering a deeper understanding of how they shape the overall experience.


Benefits for airports
  • Competitive advantage: A compelling PX strategy sets you apart from the competition, attracting more passengers and attracting new partnerships with airlines, as well as improving existing relationships with airline carriers.

  • Increased passenger satisfaction. Tailoring services to meet passenger expectations at each touchpoint improves customer satisfaction, creates a positive airport image and encourages repeat business.

  • Operational efficiency. A well-crafted PX strategy can streamline operations, reducing bottlenecks and delivering an effective service.

  • Revenue generation. A welcoming environment encourages passengers to spend more elsewhere, such as retail and dining, significantly increasing revenue opportunities.

  • Financial growth. Higher satisfaction can lead to increased footfall for the airport and the airlines that use it, creating stronger partnerships, increasing revenue and fuelling business growth.

  • Positive reputation: A strong focus on passenger experience enhances the airport’s reputation among stakeholders, such as governments, investors, and local communities, potentially leading to broader economic gains and support for future initiatives.

  • Adaptability. A dedicated PX strategy allows airports to adapt quickly to evolving passenger preferences and industry trends, ensuring competitiveness and relevance in the dynamic aviation market.

  • Accessibility. A PX strategy can ensure facilities and services are accessible to all passengers with disabilities, including those with visual or hearing impairments, limited mobility, and other special needs. Designing an airport that is inclusive for all can position the airport as a leader in inclusivity, enhancing its reputation and competitive edge.

A successful PX strategy is a strategic investment in the airport's future that can accelerate operational growth, improve customer service, and provide a strong return. As airports look to invest in beautiful architecture or the latest pieces of technology, it's never been more important to understand how it all impacts your passenger experience. By prioritising a customer-centric culture, airports can create a thriving ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders.


Ready to reimagine your passenger experience?


Download our Passenger Experience Strategy Checklist now for more actionable insights and essential steps to help create your passenger experience.


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