Wednesday, June 29, 2011

3 Reasons Why Airport Operators Are Not Customer Oriented

All what passengers want is good service, including less delays and less lost bags. They do not care who owns or runs the airport. Though there is a lot of discussion about passenger experience there are a few reasons why airports are not customer focussed.

Here are the top three:

1. Airport Operators do not know who their customer is. There was this Airport Operator who had an executive meeting to kick-off their Balanced Scorecard process. The goal of the first workshop was to define the Balanced Scorecard. After a day's discussion they had to abort the meeting, because they could not agree on who their customer was. Airline or passenger? Or even retailer, or visitor? They all deliver revenue.

2. Airport Operators lack competition. In another post I was highlighting the fact that for local passengers there is no real competition between airports. Suppose you live and work in Zurich. Would you choose Munich or Geneva as your home airport because you encountered bad service at Zurich Airport? Not really.

3. Airport Operators do not think short-term. Airport Operators are a different species if you look at all the other stakeholders at the airport. Airlines, ground handlers, retailers, they all have to move quickly to consistently win their customers. They face high variable cost while Airport Operators are investment driven with high fix cost. Airport Operators think in master plans and capex and do not look at current customer (who is it?) needs. Not in the short term.


  1. Hi,
    what about the differences in 'customer orientation' around the different countries, types of economy or culture?

    Do you think all around the world those reasons apply the same way?

  2. Good question, Sonic. There can be local differences about the motivation of staff at all levels to do a good job. I am not a human factor expert but it seems that low paid and low respected staff will probably not go the extra mile sometimes needed.

    You will also find different types of airport operator business models. Why, for instance, should an airport operator who leases a terminal to an airline bother at all about services and performance?

    My personal opinion is that the passenger perceives the 'airport' as one product and the airport operator has a unique opportunity to 'orchestrate' this. Obviously, they will need a great ensemble to deliver a great experience. They will need to know which player is not in sync. And, they will need to define, considering their local framework, what levels of performance and quality they want to achieve.