Posted on September 25, 2013

Airport retail featured prominently in discussions at the 2013 ASQ Airport Forum for Asia, Middle East and Africa, that was hosted by Doha International Airport (DIA) recently. More than 35 airports were represented, making it a highly dynamic international event to review and exchange best practices on effective management of passenger satisfaction amidst rapidly evolving trends in the global aviation industry. 

During the two-day forum delegates reviewed some of the pressing trends and passenger expectations that have led to dramatic changes in the way airports are managing passenger satisfaction today. A number of topics were addressed ranging from airport security, smoking policies, airport cleanliness, and wireless internet provision, but it was airport retail that proved to be a hot topic amongst the 100-strong delegation. They considered the significant impact of an airport’s retail offering on overall passenger satisfaction, a trend that is causing airports to become increasingly competitive in providing the best retail experiences to passengers.

Commenting on the event, CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar al Baker, said, “Globally,airports are increasingly seeking to develop as much as 50% of their revenue from non-aviation sources, with the bulk of revenue potential coming from retail. This trend is seeing many airports deploy significant investments towards increasing retail space for duty-free shops and F&B outlets, which in addition to revenues can positively impact passenger satisfaction. Airports today are seeking to improve performance and optimize the management of concessions and nowhere else is this more apparent that in the Middle East, in particular the GCC.”

Speakers from Airports Council International (ACI), organisers of the ASQ Airport Forum, shared important research on how passengers shop at airports. It showed that most passengers do not view airports as shopping destinations, although they have tremendous potential to become so.

When it comes to buying retail, which includes food and beverage (F&B) and duty free, there is a difference between intended purchase versus planned purchase. Only 35 percent of passengers who have the intention to purchase F&B prior to going to the airport will actually do so, while 25 percent of passengers who have the intention to purchase duty free prior to going to the airport will end up purchasing. However, 93 percent of passengers who plan in advance to purchase F&B end up purchasing while 74 percent of passengers who plan to purchase duty free end up purchasing duty free.As such, passengers need to know about an airport’s retail offering in advance in order to plan to shop there. Some 40 percent who come to the airport to buy retail end up leaving empty-handed due to concerns about whether they have enough time to locate the items they want to purchase, and this can adversely impact satisfaction rates.

Insights were shared on how airports might improve their retail offering in order to increase passenger satisfaction ratings. Airports need to do more to promote themselves as retail destinations and give passengers a greater sense of choice as well as develop attractive retail offers. Technology now plays an integral role in enabling airports to effectively communicate with passengers and to make their retail proposition more welcoming, entertaining and user-friendly.

They also need to ensure that passengers can find what they want quickly as the average passenger spends no more than 15 minutes shopping at an airport. It was also agreed that airports need to invest in dedicated research on airport retail, which is crucial in determining the purchase behaviour of passengers and ultimately in how to improve an airport’s shops and restaurants. 

Overall the ASQ Forum was a resounding success. Patrick Muller, Executive Vice President of DIA, shared the key highlights of Hamad International Airport with the delegation and they were later taken on a tour of the new airport.

The ASQ Forum is the annual meeting of participants in the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Programme from around the world to share best practices on effective management of passenger satisfaction. ASQ is a comprehensive ACI initiative to help airports in their continuing efforts to improve the quality of service experienced by passengers. It provides a range of core benchmarking programmes ranging from customer satisfaction to performance and commercial services, in addition to customer service certifications. ACI is the airport sector’s foremost voice on a global level, consisting of some 597 member airports and airport authorities, and operating in over 1679 airports in 177 countries or territories.