New Research Highlights a Disconnect Between Airports and Passengers

April 24, 2017

A new study commissioned by global loyalty experts ICLP reveals how airports are failing to understand what passengers see as important factors when choosing an airport. The 2017 ICLP research surveyed both airports and passengers, and found that airports believe that passenger’s reasons for choosing an airport are rational, rather than emotional. For example, a high 97 percent of airports believe that proximity to home or office influences a passenger’s choice of airport, while just 66 percent of passengers claim this is a factor in their decisions.

Alongside functionality and ease of passage, ICLP’s research indicates that passengers are increasingly looking for a range of food and beverage outlets at the airport, with a significant 48 percent of passengers citing this as something that influences their decision in choosing an airport. This lies in contrast to the airport survey data which indicated a failure to realise that choice of food and drink outlets is among the top five most important passenger priorities. Furthermore, passenger data showed that nearly two thirds (60 percent) of passengers would welcome airport shop or restaurant offers but only a small number (10 percent) of airports appreciate this is an important factor in passenger airport choice.

The disparity between airports’ passenger deductions and the preferences of passengers is also prevalent in the loyalty category with 40 percent of passengers stating they would be interested in being part of an airport loyalty or reward programme, compared to just 7 percent of airports who recognise the importance of passenger loyalty schemes.

Efficient check in and security clearance at the airport is also an area of misalignment, featuring high on the list of influencers for passengers when choosing an airport with 82 percent of passengers stating this as an important factor vs. only 41 percent of airports.

Mignon Buckingham, managing director of ICLP commented: “As we can see from the recent data there is a stark misalignment between what airports think passengers want and what passengers actually want from the airport. If practical considerations such as proximity and convenience are not the sole influencers in a passenger’s choice of where to fly to and from, then airports need to tap into other ways they can appeal to potential customers. Airports need to consider the ways in which they can collect more passenger data, and use it to reduce this misdirect, focusing instead on offering services that will have real resonance with their specific passenger demographic.

“Understanding that passengers are not just motivated by purely practical factors, but also by things such as food and retail outlets, travel retail offers, and loyalty schemes, allows airports to increase the influence they have on customer behaviour. This means they can encourage passengers to turn their time at the airport into an experience, rather than just a part of the process of getting from A to B. They have then paved the way for genuine customer engagement, which in turn can drive a rise in revenue and repeat visits.”

All data has been taken from 2017 ICLP airport and passenger surveys. 35 airports and 2,589 passengers were surveyed between 16th January – 31st January.