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What travelers really want at the airport

What do travelers do – or want to do – when they’re stuck at the airport?

According to a recent survey, they eat, surf the Internet and shop. And they’d spend more money doing all that if airports offered more technological options, said Tyler Craig, general manager and vice president of NCR Travel.

The online survey of 1,010 people, conducted in July by ORC International for Duluth, Ga.-based NCR Corporation, found that 57 percent of air travelers would spend that post-checkpoint dwell time in a restaurant or bar, 39 percent would jump on the Internet and 32 percent would prefer to do a little shopping.  

Beyond that, 44 percent of the survey respondents also said they’d be interested in taking in a history, science or cultural exhibit and 16 percent would be interested in a massage or spa treatment at the airport. For 12 percent, a playground where they could take their kids seemed appealing.

Any time a traveler spends taking advantage of airport amenities is good news for airports because, according to Airports Council International (ACI), airports now rely on non-aeronautical sources (retail, parking and concessions) for up to half of their income.

And that’s where new technologies come in handy, for both passengers and airports. "Passengers are not just travelers, they are consumers,” said Craig. “Airports have an opportunity to improve the experience for their consumers, while boosting revenues throughout the terminal with self-service mobile, web and kiosk technology."

Direct marketing at the airport – in the form of discount coupons for meals, spa treatments and other services delivered to travelers’ mobile devices – appealed to 60 percent of the survey respondents.

The challenge remains selling something to the 23 percent of respondents who don’t explore an airport’s offerings because of concerns about getting lost or missing a flight, and passengers who may get confused about what amenities are where during an airport’s expansion or renovation projects.

That's why the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is launching a new service to bring food to passengers at the gate. The B4YouBoard gate-delivery service, currently offered only at JFK’s Delta Terminal 3, will come to the Minneapolis airport in mid-September.

“Knowing how so many people tend to stick by their gates when they fly, we believe there will be significant interest in [passengers] being able to order food and have it delivered to their gate,” said Melissa Scovronski, public affairs and marketing manager for the airport.

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Find more by Harriet Baskas on Stuck at The Airport.com and follow her on Twitter.