July 19, 2023

The experience-based airport revolution [Benchmark report]

'Passenger experience' is the new mantra for airport industry executives and 'passengers-first' is the must-have phrase in customer communications.    

But what's the reality? Are airport operators investing in passenger experience? What form does the investment take, and most importantly, what are passengers expecting?

Insights into passenger experience investment

To find out, Electrosonic commissioned the industry's first-ever research into the attitudes and intentions of airport executives. Our report 'The Revolution in Post-Pandemic Airport Amenities' provides decision-makers in the airport industry with vital information about both current levels of investment in passenger experience and future plans. The data provides valuable insights that can help other airports benchmark their progress in customer satisfaction. 

To carry out the study, Electrosonic hired an independent research company to explore the reality of experience-based competition for US airport travelers. The researchers conducted telephone interviews with more than 50 key decision-makers in major airports around the US, including Orlando International Airport, LAX, Houston International Airport and Washington Reagan International Airport. They asked executives about airport facilities planning, passenger attitudes, airport experiential technology trends and timescales for investment and budgeting. 

The in-depth findings are summarized in an exclusive, highly visual benchmark report – 'The Revolution in Post-Pandemic Airport Amenities'- highlighting the critical importance of investing in technology-led, next-generation airport facilities.



Download the Report - 'The Revolution in Post-Pandemic Airport Amenities'

Meeting changing passenger expectations

For airport executives, this report's timing and content are critical for two reasons. 

  • With most respondents expecting significant public funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, 2023 will be a watershed year for planning transportation hub experiences. 
  • Just as important, respondents recognize that they have to overcome negative passenger views of customer care services. There is a crisis in customer service and executives see experiential technology as key to improving passenger satisfaction.
Although funding is available to develop improved facilities, changing passenger expectations represents a major challenge for airport operators. Travelers are now more tech-savvy; they have become familiar with the benefits of technology, so when they travel, they expect efficient service and a welcoming, memorable experience, particularly when spending several hours in a terminal. 



Importance of experiential technology

The benchmark report found that leading operators are investing in next-generation digital facilities, services and experiences that enhance efficiency and passenger experience to meet those changing expectations. They understand that technology in airport terminals has become an essential differentiator and an integral element in airport branding. 

As development executives in airports develop plans to overcome those negative attitudes, it's important to understand the technology trends reimagining the passenger experience. This benchmark report provides a valuable signpost, with insights into the level of both existing experiential technology deployments and current investment plans. 

Our research found that

  • 94 percent of responding airports are planning or implementing traveller self-service options in 2023, such as e-gates, automated boarding pass and passport verification and interactive digital signage.
  • 84 percent of responding airports are considering an investment in next-generation interactive signage. 

In addition, the following technologies significantly impact operational efficiency and passenger experience and are set to provide a strong return on investment. 

  • Deploying information-based services helps passengers navigate complex terminal journeys, creating a stress-free experience.
  • Self-service facilities can help to reduce the lengthy queues that are a frequent cause of dissatisfaction among passengers.  

Technology-enabled attractions are also essential. Passengers and other airport visitors may be spending two to three hours in a terminal, so entertainment installations play an important role in relieving the boredom of lengthy waits, as well as creating memorable experiences that can encourage passengers to keep coming back.

As the illustrated examples in the research summary show, leading airports are deploying large-scale immersive and interactive installations that engage attention and create memorable passenger experiences. Many of these installations draw on the techniques and technology of themed entertainment to create a lively, fun atmosphere and transform a functional space.

[Discover 50 Airport Executive Insights into passenger experience investment -  Benchmark Report]


Boosting revenue

Another key finding of the report  was the importance of stronger commercial agreements, with most respondents implementing or considering interactive retail partnerships. They understand the potential of digital advertising to a large captive audience to create a unique shopping experience and grow non-travel revenue. 

Experiential technology also contributes to revenue generation by attracting more retailers to terminals where the enhanced experience and engaging advertising can generate increased passenger spending.

Planning enhanced passenger experiences

As the research indicates, 68 percent of airport development executives see experiential technology as key to improving passenger satisfaction. That makes it essential to leverage technology at every stage in the passenger journey through a terminal to create a seamless, stress-free, positive and memorable experience. 

Enhancing passenger experience is essential for airport operators, so it's important to start putting plans together to create more engaging spaces. Planning experiential spaces for terminals and gates should occur early as part of wider discussions on facility upgrades.

Using the data in the report, airport operators can benchmark their plans and progress against the current situation in airport terminals. The report also includes illustrated examples of experiential and placemaking installations in leading airports as a guide to the potential of passenger experience technology. 

While the benchmark report focuses on developments in airports, many of the research findings are relevant to operators of other transportation hubs, including rail stations, bus and coach terminals, ports, cruise ships, ferry terminals and more.

Photography of Los Angeles International’s Tom Bradley International Terminal and Newark International Airport Terminal A courtesy of Moment Factory.

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Brandon Harp

Brandon Harp, Senior Business Development Manager at Electrosonic focuses on Airports, Transportation, Corporate and Retail verticals. He has a unique ability to look at technology through a creative lens with a consistent passion and determination to develop innovative and impactful solutions for clients. Brandon quickly identifies challenges and pain points by listening and communicating effectively. He is a knowledge expert, a problem solver, a thought leader, and a trusted advisor who always keeps the client’s best interests at heart. Brandon understands the importance of design, architecture, content, storytelling and experience and he is constantly looking for new and innovative ways of pushing the boundaries around what is possible.