Airports 'not ready to become theme parks'

Passenger satisfaction still more vital than raising revenues, World Routes 2017 hears.

Airports must remain focussed on keeping passengers relaxed and happy before they consider becoming "theme parks", an expert panel at World Routes 2017 has said.

Despite the growth in non-aeronautical revenue and economic impact of airports, customers are not ready for off-site shopping centres and airport cities, said Jeremy Pennington, director, commercial, Vantage Airport Group.

“I don’t relax until I’m through security and I know our passengers don’t either," he said. "Our priority is still getting people through that process and providing services airside."

Datuk Badlisham Bin Ghazali, managing director, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, spoke of the increasing pressure on airports to become more than just transport facilitators. 

“We’re no longer just gateways into a country; we’re economic enablers for a country. But we won’t be doing theme parks for at least 50 years; we need to focus on our core services."

He also said that the changing industry adds pressure.

“We created a plan for 100 years in the 1990s. With this unbridled growth, we need to change already. Malaysia is facing a capacity crunch. Our main hub has 16 percent growth in international arrivals this year.”

Jordi Candela, executive director, Aeroports de Catalunya, agreed. "Airports need to learn how to change from being landlords to being service providers," he said.

Meanwhile Mike Benjamin, COO, of data provider OAG, warned that the increasing challenges are occurring at a greater rate than airports can adapt.

“The market is growing faster than we’re able to grow airports; so it’s all about efficiency," he said. "When it comes to handling challenges we can’t predict the future but we should learn from the past.”

"A lot of energy is wasted in discussions because airports cannot standardise services and work together. We’re highly reliant on third party services.

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