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OTHER ARTICLES Last modified on November 19, 2017

What passengers want

A new study reveals that airports can build greater customer loyalty by improving the way they communicate with passengers, writes Katie Smith.

We all like to talk, but imagine a conversation with someone when you want to find out about something in particular and they tell you about something completely different instead.

You ask about a film you’re going to see, for example, and their reply is about a restaurant recommendation. Similarly, they want to tell you about the result of a sporting event you’ve just come back from and know what happened.

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it, but these kind of conversations are reminiscent of the dialogues airports are engaging in with their passengers every day.

And according to Mignon Buckingham of airport loyalty specialist ICLP, this failure to communicate effectively is in turn impacting their ability to build the loyalty that could significantly increase non-aeronautical revenue.

“There’s a real lack of personalised and relevant communication between the two parties,” she says. “This is having a negative impact on airports’ ability to engage with passengers, and increase both dwell time and spend.”

ICLP recently undertook a study, which highlighted a gap between the number of airports that are sending passengers timely communications, and the number of passengers that want to receive them.

Currently 83% of passengers actively seek updates on flight arrival and departure times from the airport prior to transit, but only 58% of airports are sharing this information.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of passengers surveyed reported that they do not receive any communications from the airports they use, with 65% of those passengers declaring that they have never been given the option to sign up or subscribe.

However, 45% of surveyed passengers stated that receiving communications that contained airport offers and discounts prior to travelling would encourage them to spend more.

This already substantial figure rises to over half (51%) of Asian travellers, and 54% of travellers from the Middle East.

The majority of passengers are keen to hear from airports at all stages of their journey. Indeed, 55% said that they would like to receive information on the day of travel and 48% when relevant.

Around 47% are happy to receive information at any time after booking their flight, 25% when they are at the airport, and 11% when they have passed through security.

Nevertheless, even with these wide parameters, many airports are getting the timing very wrong, with 30% of passengers stating that they receive communications from the airport post travel, when they are no longer relevant.

There is also a misalignment between the information that airports are communicating and what passengers want to receive. For example, details of airport car parking options are sent by 88% of airports while just 31% of passengers want to receive this information.

Even when airports do open communications channels, they often fail to capitalise on the relationship. Well, over half of passengers (58%) say they would share personal information in exchange for free Wi-Fi, for example, and this increases to nearly a third (61%) of Asian passengers, and 66% of passengers from the Middle East.

However, although 100% of the airports taking part in ICLP’s study provide free access to public Wi-Fi, less than half (only 48%) are collecting data from the passengers using this service.

And when airports do collect data, they rarely use it to maximum effect, with just 45% of airports saying they use the information they collect to drive marketing campaigns, and an alarming 23% confessing that they don’t use it at all.

“What the research is highlighting loud and clear is that customers are open to having a dialogue and airports are missing opportunities to engage with them,” insists Buckingham.

“Airports need to capture passenger information and use it to personalise communications in order to drive better engagement and relationships.

“This in turn will leave airports better able to meet the needs and demands of their passengers, helping to secure longer-term loyalty and increase dwell time and spend.”

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