More shops won’t make airport customer experience better

When you’re stood in a line for security at a UK airport, with hundreds of people ahead of you in the queue, what would improve your customer experience?

If you’re looking for somewhere to sit before your flight, but can’t find any seats what would make things better for you?

A few months ago I wrote an article about the shocking state of UK airports. About endless queues. Layouts designed not to speed you to the gates, but to make you walk in long, winding, convoluted route marches through shops and restaurants.

 airport customer experience

My article turned out to be one of most popular articles on this blog. My rant resonated with travellers.

Airports or shopping malls?

UK airports are not airports.

They are vast, badly designed shopping centres with a few gates welded into the corners for planes to park at.

At Edinburgh airport you’ll find it difficult to see any aircraft until you’re at the bottom of the steps for boarding. Windows are a luxury the owners of the airport can’t afford to give their passengers. Windows take up too much valuable retail space.

Like most UK airports, they’re expanding the terminal all the time. Last week, after my forced hike through the mall at 6:30am, I came across a hoarding concealing yet more expansion work.

The sign read as follows, “We’re upgrading your journey with more shops, gates, seats and destinations.”

Take a moment to read that statement again.

When upgrading our journey, for that read, our customer experience, the priority for the airport is…


More shops.

Sure they mention more gates, seats and destinations.

But the first upgrade they mention is more shops.

How to upgrade airport customer experience

Here encapsulated in one advert is the reason travelling through UK airports is such a miserable experience. Despite their protestations to be improving, these changes aren’t about a better customer experience. It’s all about cramming more retail outlets in so they can fleece passengers of more of their cash before they fly.

Wouldn’t you like to see quicker and more efficient security lines?

What about more comfortable seats with a view over the runway rather than a few rock hard benches crushed into a dingy corner?

Don’t get me wrong. I know people like to do some shopping and have a meal before their flight. But UK airports have lost a sense of balance between the customer experience of getting on a plane and flying off on business or pleasure, and the forced retail overload many of us endure many times a week.

So Edinburgh airport please reassess your priorities.

By all means build more shops.

But they should come last behind more efficient queuing.

More seating and most important, more comfortable seating.

More gates with seats and space.

And please. As this is an airport. Can you give us an opportunity to see the odd aircraft through a window at some point?

Now it’s your turn:

What do you think would improve the UK airport experience? More shops? More seats? More gates. Please leave a comment below and share on social media.