Terminal Bliss

Delta Air Lines is improving its brand experience by changing its terminal experience, reports Christine Negroni in The New York Times (1/22/13). In the past, the areas around the boarding gates at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminals C and D were “filled with people with nothing to do but wait.” Now it features iPad-equipped cafe tables, where passengers “can play games, browse the internet or see what’s available for sale” at nearby shops. The terminal now also features “two dozen restaurants, cafes, food courts and bars,” some “linked to locally known chefs.”

“We wanted to create the desire to go to the airport early, not because you need to get to the airport early but because you think ‘I’ll get there early, plug my laptop in, get a glass of wine and relax before my flight’,” says Rick Blatstein of OTG Management, which “owns and operates all the concessions” at the terminals. Thanks to the iPads, travelers with “gate anxiety” can “order food or products from their seats and have them delivered.” The concept is also paying off in sales, with the average traveler spending $9-$11, which is $3-$5 higher than dollars spent at the typical, large airport.

“We’ve been saying the real sweet spot for airlines is to enhance passenger experience and monetize at the same time,” says Brett Proud of GuestLogix, an airline consultancy. “Bag fees aren’t enhancing the experience.” Of course, a more pleasant terminal doesn’t necessarily compensate for lost bags, delays or a cramped in-flight experience. But Delta’s Gail Grimmett says passengers tend to be in a better mood when they board the plane if they had a good time at the airport. “It is too late to start that passenger experience when they get on the plane if they are already stressed out,” she notes.

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