From taking off your shoes to being patted down to racing to the gate before boarding closes, the average airport experience makes most travelers wish they stayed home. In fact, a 2011 survey of travelers in the United Kingdom revealed that more than one-third of travelers think being at the airport is worse than being at work, and nearly one-quarter find it as stressful as moving. All these numbers lead to one question: is there any hope for all those TSA lines, delays and baggage carousels?
Fortunately for fliers, one airport is working to answer with a yes. Kim Day, CEO, Denver International Airport, told the audience at the Skift Global Forum in October that the team at DIA is aiming to create a boutique airport where travelers can enjoy the time before and between flights.
“Our goal is to reduce your stress,” Day said. “We know that passengers want an airport experience that feels human.”
In an era where customer service is delivered via screens, the plans for the future of DIA don’t just involve a personal touch, though. They start with four-legged friends. DIA is launching CATS, the Canine Airport Therapy Squad, a program with 28 certified and trained Newfoundlands, golden retrievers, German shepherds, terriers and more. Unlike the off-limits, bag-sniffing security dogs you might see while you’re waiting to speak with a TSA agent, you are encouraged to hug, pet and yes, take selfies with these pups.
“Every once in a while, we all need a little stress release and nothing does it better than to pet or hug a friendly animal,” Day said in an announcement about the program. “Just seeing a dog on a concourse should put smiles on many faces.”
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Analyzing What People Really Want At The Airport
The CATS program is just one step in the process to make DIA an airport where people will want to spend their time. At Skift, Day said the past two years have involved a comprehensive study on passengers who travel through Denver to determine how to make their experiences more enjoyable. From high-speed Wi-Fi to high-end shops, Day said the study revealed that some elite travelers expect a five-star airport experience. Even those who aren’t necessarily looking for the Four Seasons of Air Travel still want more than most airports are offering today.
“They want charging stations, power hubs and opportunities to exercise,” Day said. “They want to keep their lives going despite the fact that they’re traveling.”
They’re also looking to have fun, too. That’s why Day says DIA is aiming to create outdoor dining in an après ski environment, which is the ultimate way to enjoy Denver’s legendary craft beer scene.
“We want to add services that make people say, ‘wow, I didn’t know I could do that in an airport,’” Day said.
Directing Passengers Downtown For Less
In 2016, passengers arriving in Denver will already be surprised at a new addition that will reduce another source of stress: travel expenses. A new commuter rail line will offer easy and affordable service from the airport to downtown Denver for just $9. For budget-conscious attendees, the new service will dramatically reduce the cost of taxi service to the heart of Denver, which is great news for meeting planners.
“From a convention standpoint, this really helps to bring our city to the next level when our visitors can connect to our airport with such convenience and value,” Rachel Benedick, Vice President, Sales and Services, Visit Denver, said. “Meeting planners are typically looking for a scenario that is both cost effective and convenient, and this new rail line will feed passengers directly into our convention center area with access to more than 10,000 hotel rooms within walking distance by the end of 2016.” As airports evolve, how will airlines change, too? Check out “4 Predictions For The Next Generation Of Air Travel.”