New Study and Survey on Airport 2025 – Rethinking the Customer Experience Rohit Talwar – CEO – Fast Future Research November 23rd 2011Rohit Talwar is the CEO of Fast Future Research and Project Director of the Airport 2025study being conducted for Amadeus. In this article he explores some of the key driversshaping customer expectations and the commercial outlook for airports. He then discussesthe resulting critical strategic imperatives for airports to ensure they can survive and thrive ina decade or more of economic and market turbulence.Developing Customer Strategy in Turbulent TimesEvery airport would claim to be dedicated to enhancing the service it offers to its customers– be they passengers, airlines or those just visiting. The issue is one of determining whatenhancements to make over the next decade or more and how to finance them. Airportsaround the world - like many other capital intensive businesses - are faced with anunprecedented level of uncertainty and challenge as they try to develop these medium tolong term strategies and investment plans. A combination of key factors is adding to theuncertainty.Firstly, most analysts and economists now accept that the current economic turbulence,public debt crises and market uncertainty will be with us for the next 5-10 years. The choppyeconomic outlook combined with continued fuel price volatility and intense competition willput real pressures on airline profits in both developed and developing markets alike. In theface of profit concerns, airlines will inevitably seek to reduce landing costs and demandhigher subsidies where they can. Increasingly, we also expect airlines to press for a share ofthe commercial revenues airports generate through activities such as retail, dining andparking. At the same time, continued economic uncertainty means individual travellers maywell become more cautious in their airport spending behaviour.A second challenge is that travellers have increasing choice as a result of more airportscoming online, expanding capacity at existing airports and growing competition from othermeans of transport such as rail. Finally airport users are also becoming more demanding interms of the quality of the airport experience. There is a particular focus on increasing thespeed with which passengers can complete their journey from check-in through bag dropand boarding pass checks to security, passport control and boarding. In addition, there is agrowing emphasis on consumers emphasizing experiences over the buying of more physicalgoods. The issue is determining what kind of affordable experiential leisure activities airportscan develop that would have broad enough appeal to justify the investment.
Despite the challenges, customer insight has never been more readily and rapidly available.Social media now provides a powerful mechanism for passengers to share their feedback,concerns and improvement ideas. Airports have been inconsistent in their approach tohandling this rich source of customer insight.Unintended Consequences of InnovationA growing concern for airports is that the faster we speed the customer through the coreairport journey, the less time they need to allow between airport arrival and flight departure.This could have a direct impact on revenues for retail and food and beverage outlets –particularly for business travellers. Few would argue against the need for improvement. Forexample, enhancements such as permanent boarding passes and baggage tags, biometricsand automated border controls all help smooth and accelerate passenger flows through theairport. Equally, most accept the benefits of engaging passengers through their mobiledevices and the future use of Near Field Communications to give them greater control oftheir airport experience. The challenge though, is how to fund this continuous investment inservice improvement when commercial revenues may be coming under pressure from allsides?Rethinking the Customer Experience – Service is the Killer AppIn response to the commercial issues, a clear strategic imperative is emerging for airportsaround rethinking the customer experience. Key components of this experience redesigninclude: Personalization - An emphasis on tailoring service delivery, communications, offers and incentives according to customer needs, loyalty, travel destinations and past behaviours The Passenger Journey - Streamlining the core passenger processes through physical design changes, technology enhancements, information provision and - most importantly – staff training and development Customer Insight - Conducting real dialogues to reveal where else passengers currently do their shopping, what they buy, why they buy it and how they can be encouraged to do more of it at the airport Retail Proposition- Revisiting the retail mix to determine the balance between luxury, discount, pop-up and novelty that will prove most popular to those passing through the airport Enhancing the Experience - Identifying affordable leisure, dining and experiential offerings that would encourage customers to spend more time at the airport prior to departure Packaging the Offer - Smart bundling of leisure, dining and retail offers to encourage customers to make time at the airport an integral part of the overall travel experience.For some the transformational journey has already begun and there are tremendousexamples emerging around the world of how airports are reinventing themselves. For others,the mists are beginning to clear and the need for a radical rethink is becoming increasinglyapparent. Although many of the changes will require technology solutions and physicalalterations to airport layouts, by far the biggest shift will be in the mindsets of those who own,manage and operate airports. We need to give ourselves permission to focus on enhancingthe total airport experience in a customer centric manner.
The Airport 2025 Study and SurveyTo help examine these challenges and explore the possible evolution of the passengerexperience, Amadeus has commissioned Fast Future Research to undertake the Airport2025 study. The study analyses the key drivers of change, identifies alternative possibleairport business models and assesses future customer priorities. The results will be sharedat the Future Travel Experience Conference Asia in Kuala Lumpur - February 8th-10th 2012.As part of the study, Fast Future is currently running a global online survey to explore howcustomers would like to see the airport experience evolve over the next decade or more. Thesurvey can be found here http://bit.ly/rZA9u2Fast Future will donate US$1 to the Save the Children Fund for each person that takes partin the survey. The survey closes on December 9th 2011.Rohit Talwar is the CEO of Fast Future Research and leads the Airport 2025 researchprogramme. Fast Future is a global foresight research and consulting firm that specialises inadvising firms in the aviation, transport and tourism sectors. Fast Future’s work draws on arange of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deepinsights into a changing world. The research is designed to help clients understand,anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitivelandscape over the next 5-20 years.