Airport frustration is no longer terminal

Justin Banon
Gales and Heavy Rain Threaten The Festive Getaway
Source: Getty

For some, the airport can be the most stressful and unpleasant part of a trip.

When you consider that the UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow, sees on average over 200,000 passengers come through its doors each day, it’s easy to understand why.

For business travellers in particular, the airport can be a thorn in their side – a regular part of their working routine which can be unproductive and often eats into personal time.

As consumers, we expect a high level of customer experience across every facet of our lives, so why shouldn’t we have this at the airport too?

Thankfully, many terminals across the world are now transforming to better appeal to travellers, creating a seamless travel experience and changing our perceptions of airports.

Recent research from Collinson Group shows that 53 per cent of travellers now say they enjoy the time they spend in airports. So why is this change in perception occurring?

No hustle and bustle

Airports are striving to keep up with connected, fast-paced passengers. From the moment you enter through the terminal doors to the second your feet touch foreign soil, digital tools are playing an increasingly important role.

Electronic self-service check-in facilities and mobile phone applications designed to help navigate through the airport process are testament to this. Expect to see more digital advancements in future, from robots greeting passengers, to facial recognition while boarding.

Retail therapy

There’s been a huge push to expand retail options, particularly around adding luxury shops, expanding duty free discounts, and introducing top-class restaurants in airports.

At Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport, they’re serving up signature dishes from some of the city’s top restaurants.

Slightly closer to home, Gatwick invited an award-winning restaurant, Grain Store, into the airport, while Heathrow boasts over 20 fashion and luxury brands, including Harrods and Louis Vuitton.

Be entertained

Some airports are storming ahead, creating exciting entertainment and leisure hubs which could rapidly become a staple of the airport.

Singapore’s Changi Airport has two 24-hour cinemas and game-console booths that are free to use. Visitors at Hong Kong International Airport can enjoy a high-tech golfing simulator, and if you fly to Seoul-Incheon, you can even enjoy a 330-yard driving range. And if you fancy something calmer, there’s a museum at Athens International Airport.

Unwind your mind

There’s a big emphasis on creating sanctuaries for passengers to relax ahead of flights. At Dubai International Airport, there’s an indoor oasis called Zen Gardens, and sleep pods for weary travellers. Heathrow’s Aspire Lounge has a spa, and Vancouver boasts a few aquariums.

Most airports around the world now also have premium lounges where both leisure and business passengers can take advantage of quiet, connected spaces and complimentary snacks and drinks.

As digital technologies become smarter, expect airports to look at new ways of using passenger data to tailor experiences and make them more intuitive; whether that’s sending personalised retail offers to mobiles or allowing passengers to check-in via biometrics.

While it’s been a challenge to change our negative connotations with the airport experience, expect to see a lot more progress over the coming years as they continue to innovate and transform into a destination in their own right.