Global Airport Experience Research

Airport Experience Research 2024

For more than a decade, we've monitored global travelers perspectives on their airport experience. Our newest study, AX24: The Age of Airport Experience, offers unique insights from over 9,000 regular travelers, examining evolving passenger expectations and preferences, identifying key trends and highlighting opportunities for airports looking to drive stronger commercial revenues.

Airport Experience Report

This report unveils insights from our most recent global research, highlighting travelers' altered spending priorities and their growing appetite for new experiences. It uses the results of this comprehensive survey to make recommendations on how airports can increase traveler satisfaction and grow revenue accordingly.
  • Derived from input gathered from 9000+ respondents spanning 16 countries
  • Presents feedback from frequent travelers, each taking a minimum of 2 trips in the past year
  • Outlines key growth drivers we believe leaders should be actively considering
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AX24: Travelers Are Prioritizing Services and Experiences Above Traditional Retail Offerings

  1. Travelers expect 8% overall expected growth in travel frequency over the next 12 months 

  2. 70% overall passenger satisfaction with airport experiences (2022/23), a 2% decline from the previous year 

  3. Travelers are looking for new experiences across the airport as they are perceived to offer greater value for money than traditional retail  

Global travelers, particularly those from younger generations, are looking for much more than just utility and a bit of shopping when they visit the airport.  

Findings from the latest round of the Airport Experience research, a comprehensive study of more than 9,000 travelers conducted by global airport lounge and experience specialists Airport Dimensions, highlight the growing appetite for new experiences. All respondents in the survey are classed as regular travelers, defined as those who have taken a minimum of two return trips in the last twelve months. This means they offer robust feedback based on multiple trips and airport experiences.

The data demonstrates altered spending patterns and explores the way airports need to develop if they want to increase the satisfaction of travelers and protect and grow revenue accordingly.  

‘AX24: The Age of the Airport Experience’ surveyed travelers about their current journey through the airport, how satisfied they are, and what changes they would introduce in order to improve their experience. The comprehensive study also takes a deep dive into their spending habits and consumption behavior across the airport journey. This research is the latest instalment of an annual deep dive into traveler behavior that Airport Dimensions has been conducting for the last 10 years.  

The 2024 study revealed that overall, travelers expected 8% growth in their travel over the next 12 months led by a strong return to travel in emerging markets, maintained primarily by Millennial and Gen Z travelers. Travelers in mature markets expected slower growth over the next year in comparison to emerging markets, many of which are still enjoying a post pandemic rebound.    

The research identifies some key areas in which traveler expectations are changing, creating both challenges and significant opportunities for airports, as well as the brands looking to grow by attracting more business from travelers.  

1. Pivot to New Experiences

The travelers of today and tomorrow are looking for new and better experiences.  
The AX24 research shows that older travelers are still looking to spend on utilities that make the journey easier and more efficient for them. Older travelers are more than twice as likely than younger travelers to spend on areas such as airport parking. Younger segments significantly outperform their seniors when it comes to spending on new services and experiences with the growing popularity of new services such as sleep suites (11% of discretionary spend), gaming (5%) and wellness and grooming (9%). The pivot to prioritizing experience is reflected throughout the findings, as all segments reported the desire to spend less time shopping and browsing stores (13%), preferring to visit dining and bar options (15%) and increasingly airport lounges before boarding their flight.     

71% and 70% of all respondents would like both a single app for all services and more lounge access respectively. This trend highlights the growing importance and influence of new digital services for improving passenger experiences. These findings, however, do not diminish passenger expectations for the basics. For instance, 83% of travelers want better seating and 79% want to see less queues.   

New experiences supplied in isolation don’t necessarily translate to increased traveler satisfaction as the research reveals overall satisfaction fell (2%) to 70% over the last year. However, there is a real opportunity for airports to enhance the experience and drive new revenue, provided they ensure they have addressed the requisite hygiene and maintenance factors first.

2. Travelers Want Positive Engagement

Whilst airports have made progress in investing in traveler engagement and dialogue, travelers actually report a drop in engagement year on year. With only 17% receiving regular emails from their preferred airport and 21% saying they have no marketing interaction with the airport whatsoever. This comes at a time when almost all travelers (93%) say they are open to having a relationship with the airport, highlighting the need for airports to close the engagement gap.  

58% of travelers said they would be encouraged to purchase via airport e-commerce sites if they were better promoted and marketed. As e-commerce becomes the ‘new normal’ for consumers, and travelers pivot to airport services and experiences more readily booked online, airports may be leaving revenue on the table by not moving fast enough on an e-commerce and relationship strategy.   

The research has tracked a decrease in airline frequent flyer programme participation since 2019,  suggesting there might be an opportunity for airports to do better at utilizing this opportunity to engage and own the relationship with receptive audiences.  

3. Retail Revolution

When it comes to their discretionary airport spend, travelers are increasingly looking to spend on better dining (15%), more lounge access (13%) and new experiences such as sleep suites and pods (9%). This comes at the expense of spending on traditional retail. This finding aligns with the general pivot to experience that has been identified, potentially being driven by passengers looking for greater value for money. 40% of travelers say they would spend more if there was price parity between airport and high street pricing, and 32% want to see on and off airport price comparisons. Gen Z travelers were the most enthusiastic when it came to spending on shopping activities, opening up new shopping formats and experiences for airports to bolster revenue streams.   

Evidently, there is an opportunity for retailers to continue to enhance the retail experience with concepts like walk through duty free remaining popular, with 53% of travelers saying that they would like to see more of it. Furthermore, 48% of respondents would like to see more branded showrooms. Integrating retail with airport lounges is important for travelers, 48% stated the desire for in-lounge retail and 50% would like to see more hybrid retail lounges sponsored by leading brands (50%).   

There is a real opportunity for retailers to follow the pivot to experience, especially in areas such as the Middle East and Asia where travelers display a higher inclination towards shopping experiences. By enhancing the retail experience, working with the airport on better engagement and making e-commerce easier, they can help to grow and bolster airports’ overall revenue streams.

4. Lounge Demand is Growing and Democratizing

Lounge access is the new democratic travel luxury, with its popularity as a travel benefit showing no signs of slowing down, led by the market-leading airport experiences programme, Priority Pass. In the markets surveyed, 30% of our travelers told us they paid directly to access a lounge, following the trend of seeking out and paying for a better airport experience. Indeed, travelers continue to value lounge access, with 70% saying more options to lounge access would improve their time at the airport.   

Once exclusively the domain of the business traveler, the research highlights an increased emphasis on leisure and lifestyle for lounge guests. Facility to pre-book the lounge has grown in importance, ranking even higher than parking among traveler priorities. Lounges' food and beverage proposition also holds key influence, with 79% of travelers ranking in lounge F&B as a more important factor when considering access purchase than the cost of lounge entry, and 61% willing to pay for premium food & beverage options once in the lounge.   

Lounge guests value digital services in lounges, with 86% of travelers saying access to flight information and 80% saying F&B ordering is important for them. But digital in-lounge also opens up opportunities for new spend. 61% would likely spend on additional F&B and over half of lounge guests (52%) are interested in shopping at airport stores from the lounge. The link to airport retail is supported by very strong levels of interest for brand sponsored lounge experiences, with 77% of guests saying they would like sampling of high-end beverage or food brands.   

Stephen Hay, Global Strategy Director at Airport Dimensions, said:
“This is a really exciting time for airports. Travel is growing again, and travelers, especially younger travelers, have come back looking for new airport experiences. They tell us that they want to spend on new experiences like lounges, quality food and beverage and a different sort of retail experience. Airports need to seize this opportunity and ensure they have the tools, relationships and engagement capability in place to drive revenue growth.”