Airport Experience Research - The New Customer Relationship

The concept of ‘loyalty’ isn’t what it was. Membership of frequent flyer programs continues its slow but steady decline. The percentage of passengers who were members of these programs fell from 66% in 2019 to 53% in 2021, and slipped further in the last study to 52% in spite of the return to travel. A significant 18% have dropped out of elite status.

And certainly, passengers have fallen out of love a little with airports. In 2021, 7% of passengers said they didn’t want a relationship with airports, but in our latest research, that number had risen to 12% - a small but concerning increase.

Nevertheless, our study also suggests that travelers just want that relationship to be better. It’s the communication that makes their lives easier that they look for first (and a third will visit an airport website for flight status updates, 31% look for other relevant information and 25% visit to purchase travel services such as parking and travel insurance). However, we’ve seen a small but steady increase in the number of passengers joining airport loyalty programmes (18% up by 2%) and those signing up to receive communications (19% up 5%). With intelligent use of these potential channels for communication, the door is open for airports to build the relationship with the people that matter to them.

This trend is even more noteworthy given the fact that it is the younger age groups who are rejecting the programs. Just 40% of Gen Z, and 52% of Millennials are members, compared with 60% of boomers, and 75% of elders.

This presents airports with an interesting portfolio of opportunities. Across all passenger groups there is growing appetite for paid-loyalty programmes at a range of price points. Over half (53%) said they would be interested in purchasing a basic loyalty offer, encompassing entry level benefits such as one fast track pass, priority parking and one drop off plus 5% discounts at the airport for a cost of $25, while a not insubstantial 32% would be interested in splashing out $500 on a package that included unlimited lounge access, unlimited fast track and 10% discounts.

Getting the loyalty proposition right in this shifting climate will be the challenge (and the opportunity) in the future.

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