Understanding tomorrow's travellers: Millennial and Gen Z passengers take increasing share

13 April, 2022

A dramatically reshaped passenger demographic in the emerging post-Covid environment means the “old rules no longer apply” when it comes to keeping airport passengers happy, according to research from Airport Dimensions, a specialist in designing, building and operating shared-use airport lounges. A seamless digital experience at the airport is “now an essential not a luxury” and airports “need to evolve” to meet changing passenger expectations, it says.

The company says a dramatically reshaped passenger demographic means the old rules no longer apply when it comes to keeping airport passengers happy. This based upon an extensive research project that involved an airport experience survey of over 6,000 air travellers conducted in partnership with online market research firm Dynata.

Millennial and Gen Z passengers now account for greater share of passengers

The research shows that Millennial and Gen Z passengers now account for three quarters of the market compared with two thirds before the pandemic. As this demographic increasingly dominates the market, airports will need to adapt and consider how effectively they understand and are engaging with these new customer segments, who think and behave very differently to their parents.

Satisfaction with the airport experience is increasing

The findings show satisfaction with the airport experience increased by nearly 2% to 62% over the past two years.  The number of dissatisfied airport travellers also fell from 14% to 12% in the same period, suggesting that while there is less travel, people making journeys are having a better overall experience despite the challenges of COVID-19.

However, the research also highlighted a major gulf in satisfaction levels between different regions and age brackets. For example, more than four in five (86%) travellers from Singapore were satisfied with their overall airport experience compared to less than half (48%) of travellers in Spain. More work was also needed to meet the needs of older passengers, with millennial and Gen Z passengers almost twice as likely to enjoy the airport experience compared to those aged 76 and over.

Airport Dimensions states airports should "make sure they are getting the basics right" when providing amenities such as seating, use the best technology to provide a single digital interface for all services, provide better and more flexible options for ordering and collection and work with concessions to drive better targeted promotions.

… but engagement with the airport has dropped

While travellers appears more satisfied their engagement with the airport has dropped. However, the use of mobile apps and membership programmes and the desire for regular communication all remain steady or have increased slightly.

Airport Dimensions notes that too many airports are not taking advantage of the opportunity to connect and build dialogue. The organisation says airports need to use data more effectively and understand that the growing availability of information about off-airport retail means they need to work harder to win business.

Travellers keen to shop, but believe there is too much retail

The research shows that nearly three quarters of passengers say they feel there is too much retail at the airport, and while travellers are keen to shop, they do not want to do so at the expense of comfort and other facilities.

This means that airports need to look at more imaginative ways of generating non-aeronautical revenue, such as making retail more engaging and immersive, alongside more experiential services. The construction of a hybrid space that combines retail with other amenities such as seating could also provide a lucrative alternative to standard shopping, observes Airport Dimensions.

More comfortable seating and queue reductions are travellers’ main requests

Of the elements that would help enhance their journey through the airport, more comfortable seating areas was the most popular choice among all respondents (80%), followed by the option to have a queue-free airport journey from arrival to departure (78%) and more public transportation options (73%).

While satisfaction levels for airport services were higher at landside (72%) and at gate (73%), there was room to improve the passenger experience during the middle of the airport journey – with satisfaction levels lower at departures (64%) and around facilities (52%).

Respondents to the survey were also generally dissatisfied with value for money in retail and dining establishments (24%), WiFi speed and reliability (14%) and entertainment options (14%). Airports will need to address these issues in order to maximise revenue opportunities and offer more incentives for passengers to spend, notes Airport Dimensions.

Tech-savvy travellers have developed new attitudes and habits

Mignon Buckingham, CEO of Airport Dimensions, identifies that today’s tech-savvy traveller has developed new attitudes and habits over the past two years that will influence travel behaviour. “As travel continues its return, it is vital for airports to understand exactly what these changes mean, and how they provide an experience that blends the best of physical and digital in the way their passengers want, he says.