New Research Reveals How Airports Can Influence Passenger Behaviour and Increase Customer Spend

Sept. 7, 2017

New insight from global loyalty experts ICLP has highlighted how better understanding of what motivates passengers will enable airports to encourage increased dwell time and spend at their terminals.

While it’s widely accepted that elements such as fears of longer queues, or passengers’ familiarity with the airport (or lack of it) will be key determinants of dwell time, ICLP’s research has revealed that airports can have a significant influence when it comes to persuading passengers to spend longer at the terminal. A substantial percentage (42 percent) of passengers said they would arrive at the airport earlier if they were offered shopping discounts or food and drink vouchers (46 percent). Nearly a third (32 percent) said they would arrive earlier if the airport offered engaging entertainment or exhibitions.

In addition, while nearly one in five (19 percent) of those surveyed say that going to the airport is something they do simply because they have to, over half (53 percent) say they actively enjoy visiting the airport. This suggests that there is plenty of scope for airports to invest in strategies that will encourage passengers to build in extra time in the terminal before their flights.

Passengers can also be tempted to spend more while in the terminal. Nearly half (45 percent) of those surveyed said that if they received offers in advance of travel it would persuade them to up their spending. Over a third (35 percent) said they would feel encouraged to purchase more at the airport if they received air miles, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) said they would spend more if they could compare the price of goods between inbound and outbound airports. Discounts are also a key incentive, with both infrequent (43 percent) and frequent (46 percent) travellers saying they could be encouraged to spend more by these initiatives.

A significant 40 percent of passengers said they would choose an airport based on its loyalty or reward programme, with 18 percent saying they would spend more if they had access to a programme that was linked to spending at the airport. However, with only 7 percent of airports rating a loyalty programme among their top priorities, it seems that passengers set greater store by loyalty schemes than the airports that serve them.

Mignon Buckingham, managing director of ICLP, said that airports are becoming increasingly aware that the key to driving greater commercial gain is understanding the passenger in order to provide experiences that have genuine appeal to travellers, whatever their reason for travel, their age or their gender.

“Truly meaningful customer relationships are based on identifying and understanding the airport passenger as an individual, and then finding ways to engage that customer. As in any other business, airports need to look at efficiency and profitability, but as competition increases and market trends evolve, many struggle to retain this profitability.

Since around 40 percent of airports’ revenues are non-aeronautical, often delivering higher profitability than aeronautical revenues, it’s not surprising that more airports are turning to this industry to maximise commercial success. Our survey shows that by engaging intelligently with customers there is potential to increase non-aeronautical revenue at a time when it has never been a more important source of income for airports.”

All data has been taken from the 2017 ICLP airport and passenger surveys. 35 airports and 2,589 passengers were surveyed.