Building New Passenger Experiences

May 18, 2023 / Pedro Villanueva

This is the first post in a series by Aviation leaders Ben Dawson (Singapore), Geoffrey Ax (New York) and Pedro Villanueva in Brisbane , looking at the major trends as airports build back stronger from the challenges of the past three years.

Passenger experience and satisfaction, is, and will continue to be the cornerstone of airport projects, whether they’re upgrades and expansions or a whole new airport terminal.

While this includes low and no-touch systems for baggage handling, new security screening devices through to an entirely new terminal; the bigger picture is about destination creation and building on the anticipation of the journey through new sights, sounds and experiences not usually associated with an airport.

In the same way that old stadiums catered mainly for their key market (home fans), many airports built their operations around four basic sectors of users: the business travellers, leisure travellers, the international and domestic travellers.

Yet there’s so many more people that go through an airport and they have all different types of experiences. They all want to see and feel different things. Some are in a rush, some have plenty of time, some are traveling with a large group, some have cultural experiences, some just want to sit quietly, and there are many who use the same few airports regularly.

If we take a parallel from the sports’ industry, we can see how a shift in thinking around the types of users can design a whole new eco-system for the operator.

Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has created a whole range of experiences inside and outside their new stadium. These experiences have been designed to increase arrival and dwell time, to provide a ‘new’ experience in terms of food and beverage options for visitors at all price points, and to connect the stadium with the wider community every day of the week.

So unlike stadiums of the past, Tottenham has added a banquet space that doubles as a conference venue, cafes in a plaza as big as Trafalgar Square that are open every day, to a Club shop and museum, and the SkyWalk attraction, a guided climb along the side of the Stadium to a viewing platform on the roof.

Tottenham saw a double-digit rise in revenue during the last financial year (2021-22) as the Premier League club reaped the benefits of its stadium’s growing events list of concerts and NFL matches.

Commercial revenues increased by 20.7% to £183.5m … aided by the start of new major events being hosted at the stadium throughout the year as well as sponsorship and merchandising.

Airports are often quite stressful parts of a journey. They can be seen as and designed like machines for processing people or they can be reimagined to genuinely create a new experience of a city.

Kansai International Airport is in the process of reconfiguring the domestic and international areas including moving landside and airside boundaries to meet growth in visitation, new traveller profiles as well as make the terminal experience more free-flowing and enjoyable for everyone.

New and expanded retail offers, better and larger amenities, ease of processing, tailored passenger journeys and crafted spatial experiences are also the centre of decreasing stress and increasing passenger joy.

And happy staff and happy travellers leads directly to increased returns for the commercial outlets and airport itself. So, when all elements of the airport eco-system are designed for ‘people first’, it creates a virtuous circle that feels natural and effortless and special.

If you’d like have a chat please leave a comment or DM me, or my colleagues Ben Dawson or Geoffrey Ax. Ben Dawson is going to share thoughts on continuing operations during renovations in our next post.

Keep an eye out for that.

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    Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
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Meet the author

Pedro Villanueva

Aviation & Transport Lead, AU/NZ, Associate Principal / Brisbane


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