Visiting an airport is like riding a roller coaster for many passengers, even seasoned flyers, because there’s a constant rise in tension. They arrive at the terminal stressed after searching for a car park and then battle a busy check-in area only to find another queue at the check-in counters. Then it's another queue at security. And then another at customs. Finally, after all the anticipation of making it to their gate (the big drop), they get a brief second to relax... before the coaster picks up speed all over again.

There’s actually a lot of things airports have in common with theme parks. Long queues. Over-priced food and souvenirs. The occasional engineering issue. However, rarely the fun. Why is that? Can we as airports play a bigger role in entertaining our customers?

I don’t mean entertaining customers by sticking a ferris wheel in the middle of your terminal either (or a cinema, or a giant slide like Changi, as fun as they might be). I’m talking about entertaining them through the platforms in which we already communicate with them, like smartphones and laptops. The same BYO device approach that airlines now use to entertain their customers onboard. The only difference is airports would be providing it to all passengers, while they wait.

It doesn’t have to be movies and TV shows either (although the opportunity for large airports to partner with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu as the airlines have done isn’t out of the question). Instead think about what you can create on smaller budgets, like podcasts, ebooks or music, that would be of interest to travellers. Perhaps it’s a partnership with international or local creators, writers or musicians, or perhaps it’s all produced in house. Either way, it's going to take some time around a whiteboard to work out what can capture the attention of your customers for longer than 2 minutes.

The token airport book shop has kept passenger minds busy for decades and airports have enjoyed leaving it up to the retailers to provide the ‘fun’. But is this sustainable if we truly want to provide an exceptional experience?

Vancouver Airport CEO Craig Richmond said a few months back that if it was up to him to fix airport security in Canada, he’d get someone from Disney to do it. ‘I can teach someone security regulations in 2 weeks, but I can’t teach you how to look after people’. Let’s also seriously consider what else we can learn from Disney when it comes to entertainment.

Do we have a role to play here or are passengers so overwhelmed with choice already that it’s a pointless endeavour?

Michael Meloni
+61 410 223 843

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