The sale of Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) may still be grabbing all the headlines, but across the way in London there is a major programme of work going on at Heathrow aimed at building the gateway’s brand and improving the travel experience of all passengers.
This is both a physical and branding transformation, and leading the way on the marketing side is BAA’s marketing and insight director, Nick Adderley.
Adderley joined BAA in March 2008, marking his first foray into the airport and aviation business. With the entire global airport industry sharpening its focus on non-aeronautical revenue streams and e-marketing, his previous experience in retail and e-commerce (from a range of senior roles at UK retailers B&Q, LOVEFiLM, Sainsbury’s and Superdrug) are no doubt invaluable.
In the role, Adderley is focused on building Heathrow’s marketing function, encompassing all aspects of research, passenger strategy, e-commerce, CRM and marketing, as well as leading the airport’s rebranding work.
It may come as a surprise to many people that Heathrow has never developed its brand in the past, but that is now all changing, with a strategy based around the tagline ‘Heathrow, making every journey better’.
Adderley explains: “Heathrow has always been a brand, but we hadn’t managed it in the past. A huge amount of effort has gone in to improving the passenger experience at Heathrow, which creates the opportunity for us to start talking with our passengers about what they can expect from the airport”.
And the branding work is particularly important as London prepares to host the Olympics in 2012. “Our number one objective is to make Heathrow better everyday and provide our passengers with the airport experience they deserve,” he states.
“We want people to love Heathrow. The British public deserve a hub airport that they can be proud of and that is what we are working towards,” he says.
Making sure that passengers have a clear direction is crucial to Heathrow’s work in marketing itself as a premier global transfer hub. Millions of pounds have recently been spent on improving the connection processes at Heathrow to combat what Adderley describes as the “perception that Heathrow is a poor place to transfer”.
“Terminal 5 has allowed us to move airlines around the terminals into alliance-based groups. Terminal 1 (and the new Terminal 2 when built) is home to Star Alliance carriers, Terminal 3 is oneworld, Terminal 4 is Skyteam and of course Terminal 5 for British Airways,” he says.
New connections routing has been developed, creating a colour coded purple path to direct connecting passengers to their correct terminal. This has resulted in significant improvements in the transfer passengers’ experience.
One issue Heathrow faced, however, was limited awareness of the improvements. “We had made a significant investment in redesigning spaces, new buses etc, but very few people knew about it. We recognised that the first step was to work with the airline community on marketing the improvements to their passengers,” explains Adderley.
As such, all airlines at Heathrow have been provided with marketing packs, which allows them to promote the transfer improvements to their own passengers with bmi being one of the first to change their in-flight magazine to match the identity of the revised connecting route. Heathrow itself is leveraging its online channels to get the message across, through its own websites as well as its new Twitter page.
And all the brand and connection work is in addition to the major infrastructure development projects underway at the airport. This includes the construction of the new €1.1 billion Terminal 2, which will be home to the Star Alliance carriers and handle an estimated 20 million passengers a year. The terminal is just one part of a €5.3 billion investment across the airport and its construction will take place in two phases. The first phase will be complete in 2013, with the second expected to be finished in 2019.
The new terminal will completely transform the passenger experience through the facility and is required, as Heathrow has not seen significant traffic declines in the past year, despite the global economic slowdown.
Indeed, passenger traffic is on the rise again – the 1.2% increase in throughput during December is being primarily driven by an increase in European scheduled traffic and the long-haul network to Asia, Africa and Australia.
The late traffic rally meant that Heathrow handled a total of 65.9 million passengers in 2009 – just 1.5% down on the previous year.
This news of traffic holding steady and shiny new terminals and facilities on the way must surely be music to Adderley’s ears, as he sets about convincing an often sceptical British public that Heathrow is one of the best airports and transfer hubs in the world.
This article features in Airport World 2009 - Issue 6. Click here to read more from this issue