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Birmingham Airport chaos could have long-term impact on airport revenue

image credit: Birmingham Airport

New research from AeroCloud, the intelligent airport management platform, reveals that 70% of UK consumers plan to sustain or increase their leisure or business air travel in the next 12 months, but will prioritise travelling from airports that offer a better experience (55%).

The Destination Airport: The Runway to Revenue Growth report, which surveyed 2,000 consumers in the UK, exposes the passenger experience priorities and pain points that airport leaders must address if they want to benefit from the boom in air travel, which is expected to reach a staggering 9.7 billion passengers in 2024.

The research finds that airport loyalty is a thing of the past when choosing departure airports, with shorter queues and reduced wait times in security and check-in topping the list of experiences that make passengers choose to travel from one airport over another.

Better experiences translate into higher spending

Passengers spend more when experiencing a seamless journey through the airport. For example, 82% of passengers indicate they would spend more if they could move through check-in and security more quickly.

It would also maximise the spending potential of the 66% of passengers who intentionally arrive early so that they can shop, dine and/or relax at the airport.

This presents a significant opportunity as passengers already spend on average £46 per visit on duty-free purchases (such as perfume, alcohol and cigarettes), £38 on parking per visit, £36 on restaurants, £30 on gifts and £22 on drinks at the bar.

However, 52% of passengers report they have no time to visit stores or restaurants because it takes too long to get through the airport.

This undermines airports’ opportunities to unlock new revenue and increase growth margins, which is the joint #1 commercial priority for UK airports, alongside increasing airline capacity.

The variety of destinations and airlines is also a driver for passengers. Over half would fly from one airport over another because it has cheaper flights (57%).

Other influential factors include the variety of destinations offered (38%) and whether their preferred airline operates from the airport (30%).

The blueprint to become a Destination Airport

With 80% of UK airport leaders rightly concerned about passengers choosing to fly from another nearby airport, airport leaders need to understand and address the wants and needs of their passengers to capture the boom in air travel.

These include:  Cutting queue times: Over half of passengers (56%) feel they spend all their time in airports waiting in queues and as a result, they have no time to visit stores or restaurants. It’s no surprise then that over half of passengers (51%) say they would pay more to speed up this process so they can get through to departures faster.

Offering tech-enabled self-service: For 32% of passengers, the availability of self-service options, such as check-in kiosks, is a deciding factor in choosing one airport over another. 48% also want to see updated security scanners introduced to save removing liquids and electrical items from their bags at security.

Dispel the markup myth: 82% of passengers believe prices in airport retail and dining establishments are too high. And 42% spend as little time in departures as possible to avoid what they deem to be unnecessary expenditures. By offering attractive incentives, such as discount codes, airports can entice the 75% of passengers who are tempted with value propositions.

Investing in the business travel experience: Business travellers in the UK spend nearly double the amount spent by leisure travellers, including on fast-track services, electronics, and fashion retail. Duty free accounts for their highest spending category (£62).

Creating an inclusive environment: Over a quarter of airports recognise the importance of catering to all passengers. This includes improving accessibility for passengers with disabilities, creating designated areas for neurodiverse passengers, such as those with autism, and zoning the airport for different experiences.

Having something for the whole family: Providing play areas and entertainment options makes the journey more enjoyable for kids, so it’s unsurprising that 22% of passengers travelling as a family would choose an airport based on family-friendliness. 68% would also be more likely to spend money at the airport if entertainment facilities were available.

Increasing capacity to introduce new airlines/routes: Three of the top four factors influencing passengers’ decisions relate to flight destinations and the airlines serving them. To increase their capacity for new airlines, airport operations leaders can embrace a more agile and flexible approach to infrastructure management.

George Richardson, CEO and co-founder, of AeroCloud, said: “The future is looking bright for global air travel as it experiences a huge surge in passenger volumes. This is encouraging for global airport leaders, particularly given as recently as October 2023, 52% of leaders were worried about the financial stability of their airport, with 37% still in debt.

“It presents a massive opportunity for the airport sector to soar to new heights. However, our research shows that passengers won’t settle for mediocre experiences and if airport leaders get it wrong, they will lose out on attracting these new passengers to neighbouring travel hubs.

“Consumers want seamless, self-service experience powered by tech. Discerning passengers are looking for comfortable and inclusive environments, with more choices in concession areas. We’re confident that airport sector leaders are committed to meeting passenger demands for improved experiences. With today’s innovative technology, talent and partners, airports have access to all the necessary tools needed to attract and retain passengers, boost passenger spending, and capitalise on the boom in air travel.”

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