Top Strategic Opportunities for Airports in 2021
After nearly a year spent in the shadow of a pandemic, the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine has finally begun. As airports gradually begin to see travelers return to the sky, passenger safety and confidence will continue to be a top priority in 2021 and beyond.
Last year, contactless everything emerged as a primary safety tool at airports’ disposal to combat the pandemic, alongside physical distancing and masking requirements. Airports also found innovative ways to communicate critical information to passengers such as locations for hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment (PPE) vending, and more. Airports must further embrace this contactless future to boost traveler confidence and deliver uncompromised customer journeys.
Airports can do this with three strategies: Continuing to improve how travelers navigate within the airport, promoting relevant points of interest (POIs), and continuously communicating health & safety protocols.
Contactless, accurate airport navigation
Airport wayfinding signage can have a big effect on passengers’ day-of-travel experiences. Standard physical signs are no longer enough: passengers need to know about temporary concession closures, construction projects, or other changes that impact how they navigate the airport at a moment’s notice.
To build travelers’ trust, airport teams need to deliver accurate, real-time information on every screen, from installed signage to hand-held mobile devices. The last thing you want while you’re trying to re-establish trust is for passengers to end upat the wrong gate due to out-of-date information.
A PwC survey revealed that 85% of consumers say their decision to travel hinges on communication from travel providers. The study also found 40% of consumers are unsatisfied with the current communications regarding travel safety protocols. Make 2021 about satisfying your passengers with useful and timely information, despite the possibility of having fewer staff at information desks and walking the airport.
Airports can minimize the number of passengers simply asking staff for directions by making sure these passengers have access to up-to-date mobile mapping, and by integrating QR codes on airport signage and kiosks across the property to help passengers find check-in areas, departure gates, airline baggage claim, rideshare drop off areas, parking garage exits, or public transportation points. This helps keep staff and passengers safer by removing contact, and making employees more efficient by freeing them up for other duties.
Useful and current wayfinding resources also help travelers discover points of interest beyond what’s in direct view of their gate.
Discovery beyond the gate
Traveler-friendly airport navigation generates revenue. If passengers can easily find their gate, they’re more likely to have time to explore the airport for dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
In keeping with our “contactless everything” theme, integrating third party providers into your digital maps, like, can drive traveler spending. Grab is a mobile food ordering platform that offers contactless delivery at the gate, offering convenience and safety at every point of the customer journey. The easier (and safer) it is for passengers to get what they want, the more they’ll spend.
Even just getting travelers to the airport faster with in-app priority pre-paid parking and security lane access options can give them the time and inclination they need to explore POIs and possibly make purchases.
Health and safety first
The CDC’s trifecta of behavioral policies for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 are handwashing, physical distancing, and mask-wearing. Even with the rollout of a vaccine, prioritizing traveler and staff health and safety should continue.
Continuing to communicate these guidelines to everyone in the airport is a must. According to the aforementioned PwC study, “almost 75% of respondents said employees wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and third-party certified sanitation reviews offer them a sense of security.”
Airport employees should be properly wearing PPE at all times, and passengers should be made aware of the location of the nearest sanitizing station, to foster a sense of security. Airports can shift from talking about adaptive responses to showing travelers what safety initiatives look like in practice, i.e. by sharing images of boarding agents wearing masks to introduce airport safety protocols.
Airport teams can follow Charlotte Douglass (CLT) International Airport’s lead and update wayfinding tools throughout the airport and across all platforms to direct passengers to hand sanitizing stations and—if available—COVID-19 testing locations, and PPE vendors. CLT also encourages travelers to download its airport app, to give them the most up-to-date information.
Strength and innovation from adversity
Reassuring travelers that they can have a safe, contactless, frictionless day-of-travel experience is paramount in 2021. We’ve learned some hard lessons, and these lessons have also cleared the way for airports to transition to a better, real-time, more confident passenger experience.