Airports are not often the first place you might think of for a great customer experience (CX). What with the check-in lines, security, endless duty free stores, and a long walk to a gate with no bathroom or snacks available, most of the time airports are places best avoided. But some airports have taken the criticism on board and really focused on improving the customer experience.

A new survey released by the Airports Council International (ACI) has revealed the best airports for customer experience, as part of their Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. The best airports serving over 40m passengers a year were led by Mumbai, Delhi, Rome, and Toronto.

The survey, which quizzed 600,000 passengers at 343 airports in 84 countries, looks at criteria including service parameters, airport access, check-in, security screening, restrooms, stores and restaurants. The UK doesn’t see any action in the results for large airports, but in the smaller 2-5m passenger category, Newcastle Airport scooped the best airport prize.

Why Newcastle and not one of the busier London-based airports?

Newcastle has focused on being family-friendly. There is an emphasis on helping holiday-makers start their vacation the moment they enter the airport. There are several areas that are designed to keep children occupied with arcades, slot machines, and games such as air hockey. For the adults there are facilities beyond just the shops alone, such as the aero spa offering massage, facials, and manicures.

This isn’t the only award that Newcastle airport has won recently – Newcastle was named Airport of the Year 2017 at the North of England 2017 Transport Awards. Clearly the management team is doing something right that makes this airport experience different to most.

In recent years, there has been an investment programme that has focused on the customer experience. New floors, premium wi-fi for passengers, gate modernisation, and self-service bag drop have all been measures introduced to improve the way that customers experience the airport.

Some airports have a constant level of customer use – regardless of how good or bad they are. London Heathrow would need to get much worse before passengers stopped using it because it is the closest major airport to central London. However, for the smaller regional airports there is often more choice, especially when the primary use is for holiday travel. Creating a great experience at the airport is a sensible business decision.

If holiday-makers found that the first day of their time off is ruined by the airport experience then they would never book another holiday starting at that airport. By focusing on the customer experience, Newcastle airport is cleverly attracting more passengers from all across the north of England. More passengers choosing to use the airport means that more airlines will route flights there, and more flights mean more passengers – offering a great customer experience can lead to solid business success for an airport and some happy passengers.

The ever increasing use of digital communications by travel companies and travellers is also having a major impact on the travel sector. But how often are travellers using these digital methods? Download our survey report to see our key findings on the technology in the travel sector.

Let me know what you think about the changing focus on customer experience by leaving a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn.