API magazine
October 1, 2020
Airport life

How to WOW your passengers

If you take a look around the world, you can see a number of examples of how airports have created architectural masterpieces in order to WOW their passengers. However, to create an unforgettable WOW factor, you do not necessarily need to spend obscene amounts of money on a fancy architecture. There is much more to it than that.

Airports worldwide have demonstrated that the WOW factor can be achieved by selectively investing on the areas that have a significant uplift on customer experience. Some great examples therefore can be found at Munich Airport.

Munich has various events throughout the year, taking place at the open space area between T1 and T2, which is accessible not only to users of the airports, but to the whole public and the surrounding communities – the so-called Munich Airport Center. These events include amongst others public cooking classes, tennis tournaments, public viewings during the football world cups, bmx race courses, a surfwave and the yearly winter market. Apart from making passengers, staff and visitors feel valued and engaged, these kind of activities also generate a significant income for the airport.

Public viewing football World Cup at Munich Airport

Let us take a step back and place ourselves in the eyes of the passenger. What do we mean when we use the term WOW factor in relation to passenger experience? There are many different definitions, but it all comes down to one thing: Creating the WOW factor happens when we turn our passenger’s ordinary experience into an extra-ordinary one.

The Pyramid of Passenger Perception
The approach by which you make passengers feel valued can only be achieved by fulfilling the requirements of what is known in the industry as the pyramid of passenger perception (Source: ACI World). This pyramid is divided into three pillars with each pillar generating a unique level of passenger satisfaction, in relation to passenger experience.

1. First and foremost an airport has to meet its passenger’s basic requirements. In this phase, the passengers will expect the basic facilities to be available, such as toilets, seating, clean premises or signage. Passengers do not feel a complete sense of satisfaction here; however, it could lead to dissatisfied passengers if these facilities are not maintained to a standard which is universally acceptable.

2. In the next phase, passengers expect their basic needs to be met at a level matching their own preference. Passengers here will expect to see a good range of F&B outlets, different type of seating and lounges, smooth and effortless airport processes, dedicated facilities for families or for those requiring special assistance.  

3. Lastly, it’s only when the above two pillars have been established, that our passengers have the mindset to feel valued by outstanding architecture, excellent hospitality and surprising concepts.

Achieving this stage is crucial for all airports that pride themselves on their customer service delivery. Passengers at this stage feel touched and valued by what they see, feel and experience at an airport and eventually become loyal customers. Loyal customers invariably leads to an increase in non-aeronautical revenues. ACI World studies have found that a 1% increase in passenger satisfaction generates a 1.5% increase in non-aeronautical revenue. This has to be the ultimate goal for every airport.

Airports have to consider all these factors relating to passenger perception, to establish high quality standards. Only if all basic needs and expectations are addressed properly, you can start focusing on creating an unforgettable, added value experience.  
It is worth noting that various airports are at different stages of their passenger perception journey. Services classed as expected in one airport, may fall under the required category in another. In the same light services that make passengers feel valued in one airport, may fall under the expected category at other airports around the world.

Engaging staff as key to success
Good facilities and infrastructure only provide a stable platform to where an airport can deliver customer service excellence. The real driver behind an airport’s ability to deliver great customer service is its people. Engaged staff will always advocate for your organization and in most instances, they are likely to stay with your organization despite other lucrative opportunities on the job market. If you manage that your staff see themselves as ambassadors of your organization, they will quite likely go above and beyond to contribute to its success.

Airports around the world are increasingly recognizing the correlation between engaged staff and the positive effect it has on customer experience as well as non-aeronautical revenue. Happy passengers, make good shoppers. Munich Airport for example, has an extensive range of people focused initiatives in place, such as staff surveys, regular audiences with the senior management, staff recognition awards, great team events, employee benefits and a platform to share innovative ideas. As a result, employees have long since become more than just colleagues – they are family and committed to their joint success.      

Living the WOW factor at Munich Airport
Apart from the already described aspects, what else differentiates Munich from other airports? This is where as per Skytrax the regional focus comes into play. Examples for the smooth integration of the Bavarian culture include an own onsite brewery (Airbräu) and the satellite terminal designed with local references such as the Viktualienmarkt and the offering of regional products. The selection of brands in the retail sector have been made with great care and are aimed to target national as well as international passengers. The Bayern Munich store, for instance, is a brand that raises positive emotions not only with locals but with international guests as well. Munich Airport incorporates Bavarian traditions and hospitality, Munich's unique lifestyle and the blend of nature with state-of-the-art technology – this, together with an excellent service along the entire travel chain, distinguishes a successful 5-star airport.

Bavarian Culture - 'Viktualienmarkt' at Munich Aiport

Some final examples:
- First-class ambience and high comfort: recreation areas, VIP Wing, high-quality airline and common user lounges, silent airport concept (keep announcements to a minimum)
- Comprehensive service offerings: showers, meet and assist services, premium PRM handling, unique VIP services
- Efficient processes: new security checks within T2, real-time queuing time display
- Extraordinary hospitality: multi-lingual shopping assistants, attractive shops and dining facilities, regular events available to travelers and visitors
- Easy way finding: clear signage and routing, convenient information points (InfoGate)

Munich Airport’s management is fully committed to providing a unique passenger experience. Anchoring a high quality standard within the overall strategy provides the basis for the development and implementation of various activities and measures that transform Munich Airport into the special place it is today.

Would you like to find out more about the WOW factor at Munich Airport? Contact Georgios Efkolidis ( or Kyrian Eke (

Key Points
• Investing in facilities and people is a win-win for airports. This not only leads to improved passenger experience, it invariably leads to an increase in non-aeronautical revenue.
• Wowing passengers is not something that can be done in isolation. In order for passengers to feel valued, you must first satisfy their basic needs and expectations. It is only when these two requirements have been satisfied that passengers will be in the mindset to feel appreciated and delighted with their customer experience, hence increasing the propensity to engage commercially with the airport.
• Maintaining a customer centric workforce is a key ingredient to sustaining great customer experience. Engaged staff act as customer ambassadors to your company and are more likely to go that extra mile to contribute to its success.


This article has been written by Kyrian Eke - "Munich Airport International GmbH”

Kyrian Eke