SCOTTSDALE — Data collection is hardly a new thing in the aviation industry. Every time a passenger flies, the airline collect reams of information ranging from gender to birth dates, place of residence to phone numbers and even relatives. Much of that data, particularly for those in frequent flier programs, is leveraged to offer a more customized experience on the ground and especially in the air.
But What If Airports Started to do the Same Thing?
Enter MyGatwick, a recently rolled out program at London’s Gatwick airport that provides passengers with small rewards in exchange for providing personal data.
Passengers must sign up for the program online, and provide answers to a handful of questions including “what is your destination?'” and “why are you traveling?” among others. Once completed, passengers can choose between a handful of rewards, ranging from discounts on parking to a free cup of joe or free double WiFi to a discount on a local hotel.
The intent is, much like with an airline, to build data on the individual and collective level, allowing the airport to track behaviors and travel patterns.
But Gatwick Chief Commercial Officer Guy Stephenson says it is about much more. “This is about engaging with more people than we ever have before on a personal level,” he said Thursday at the 24th annual Phoenix International Aviation Symposium.
He envisions expanding the service down the line to be able to custom tailor packages to individuals, exposing different types of flyers to different types of services. Fly regularly for business? Stephenson says that parting with a little more data could earn you an “individualized bundle” of say, close-in parking and fast pass security access.
What exactly a ‘little more data’ entails wasn’t clear, and Stephenson didn’t volunteer much beyond “it won’t be intrusive.” But whatever it is, he remained confident that the cheese would attract the mice: “The value transfer is you tell us about you and we’ll give you something right away. Passengers will be willing to impart more about themselves the more they get stuff from us,” he said.
At least so far, that appears to be the case: over 115,000 people signed up in the first month.
Stephenson is quick to clarify that this is not a ground-based equivalent of an airline loyalty program. “[This has] nothing to do with redemption for loyalty,” he said. “This is all about instant gratification.”
Yet at the same time, the program is being rolled out as Gatwick works to build and keep market share in one of the world’s most competitive air markets: Greater London. While the airport handles a respectable 20 million travelers per year, it fights for Londoners and beyond against five major regional airports – including the biggest player of them all, London Heathrow.
The challenge, says Stephenson, is learning how to create preference. He argued that a three-fold approach–the physical journey, emotional journey, and the digital experience–can combine to make a memorable experience that turns customers into advocates for the airport.