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How do you create an innovative brand experience for growing airports? Big Vision’s founder and CEO, Joe Quinn, provides some thoughts and reflects on the successful rebranding of Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Hailed as the safest way to travel, aviation continues to grow with ACI World expecting global passenger numbers to double by 2034 and exceed 20.9 billion by 2040.

With market demand forecasted to increase, primary and secondary airports worldwide have an opportunity to increase their market share by keeping pace with industry trends.


Singapore Changi (SIN), Incheon (ICN), Indianapolis (IND), Delhi-Indira Gandhi (DEL), Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Mumbai-Chhatrapati Shivaji (BOM), Dubai (DXB) and Doha (DOH) are just a few of the airports that are traditionally ranked by passengers as among the best airports in the world in ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) customer excellence programme.

One thing many of these award-winning airports have in common is a strong brand. Indeed, Doha’s Hamad International Airport enjoyed a two-year partnership with a brand consultancy before releasing its new brand and revamped website to the world in 2014. A year later it was a top five airport in ACI’s ASQ survey.

While Dubai Airports recently launched an exciting new brand for DXB, which it believes reflects the company’s transition from airport operator to a consumer led firm “committed to making the world’s busiest international airport, the world’s best”.

While these are major airports processing tens of millions of passengers a year, there are still lessons to be learned for regional airports.

Between the digital and physical experiences these major airports provide, they have effectively become a destination in their own right. This has arguably never been more important, as with a growing number of flight options to choose from, passengers are starting to pick flights based on the destination airport.

In other words, brand loyalty makes a difference. If regional airports want to compete for market share by stealing budget-conscious passengers from major airports, they need to accelerate their branding efforts.

User experience

Airports build loyalty by providing for their passengers’ needs and wants. Many focus on the physical experience, modernising terminals and streamlining security checks, but the digital experience makes airports memorable as well.

Between the lines, tight schedules, and cost, air travel can be stressful. Passengers need key information like directions, departure times, and flight status at their fingertips. By providing these features on a mobile responsive website, airports can optimise user experience (UX) and foster brand loyalty.

With a simple and fresh design, the London Luton Airport website provides a mobile-friendly, customised user experience. To help passengers get to and from LLA, the website uses a decision tree with friendly questions to funnel travellers to the answers they are seeking.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website compliance

In the US, in 2018, there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in US federal courts, a 181% increase from 2017. As the risk of lawsuits increases for all businesses, airport websites need to be made ADA compliant.

Spurred on by these lawsuits, accessibility has become a critical element of a website’s user experience. The goal of UX design should be to make a website accessible to anyone, disabled or not, regardless of their hardware, software, language, location or ability.

By incorporating ADA standards into their website code, airports can provide an improved user experience for everyone and avoid potential lawsuits.

ULCC model

Ultra Low Cost Carriers (ULCCs) like Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit constitute roughly 12% of US airline departing seats. This represents an approximate 5% growth in ULCC air travel from mid-2018.

The ULCC model makes flying more affordable and, therefore, competes with users’ discretionary spending. Allegiant’s model, for example, makes air travel more accessible by combining low-cost fares to secondary airports in tourist destinations with high-value vacation packages.

As the ULCC model continues to grow, we can expect to see related growth at secondary airports. But it’s high reward, high risk. If traffic drops to unprofitable numbers for the ULCC, it could reduce flights or worse. This means regional airports that are dependent on ULCC flights need to build brands that can continue to attract and retain customers.

Client challenges

Florida’s Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), a secondary airport, accommodated just over three million passengers in 2018, representing three-fold growth since 2012.

SFB has experienced the benefits of the ULCC model first-hand, with Allegiant passengers making up 85% of their total passengers.

As a burgeoning, regional airport pursuing more ULCC passengers and competing with Orlando’s major airport for tourism air travel, SFB needed to be repositioned with a strong, distinct brand as a destination airport and to optimise its website solutions.


Brand repositioning

We created a modern, scalable brand for SFB to reposition them in the market. Their key audience consists of families and seniors travelling domestically for leisure on a budget.

To target this audience more effectively, we re-engineered their brand identity, choosing an energetic, yet mature, colour palette that feels very ‘Florida’ and creating key graphical elements to be woven throughout all brand touchpoints.

For example, the new brand has scaled to some of the airport’s secondary services, like a shuttle to Universal Studios called the Attraction Express.

We also established a new messaging strategy, communicating SFB’s three key points-of-difference across the brand:Affordable flights to exciting destinationsProximity to Central Florida’s hottest attractionsFirst-rate convenience

By balancing inspirational copy on top travel destinations with informative content about travelling with families (and/or special needs), we reached SFB’s audience where they are and positioned SFB as a gateway to paradise.

All in all, the new design and messaging directions create a unified brand experience for SFB’s passengers that raises awareness about each of its key points-of-difference.

Website solutions

We created a modern web solution to enhance passengers’ digital experience at the airport and to streamline SFB’s back-end processes. Our team factored ADA compliance into the UX design and development, so all passengers can have an optimal digital experience.

Delivering a ‘Level AA’ ADA accessible website was particularly important for SFB whose site is interconnected with their service-offering. With this solution, the airport is now protected against future website accessibility litigation.

Even non-disabled passengers benefit from their accessible website, whether they’re experiencing situational limitations like bright sunlight or temporary disabilities like a broken arm.

The website solution also expands SFB’s self-service passenger journey. For departing flights, users may require quick access to a mobile version of their flight status or directions to their gate or a diet-friendly restaurant. For arriving flights, users may want to learn about popular attractions in close proximity to SFB.

Featuring interactive airport maps and a modern flight checker, SFB’s new website helps passengers enjoy a smooth travel experience. Plus, with a mobile responsive design, travellers can get answers immediately on their phones.

If passengers have additional questions during their visit, the website features a pull-out search bar with quick links to the most critical information. Each of these elements help provide a more efficient self-service experience for passengers.

The new website streamlines SFB’s back-end processes. Thanks to a customised content management system (CSM) solution, various stakeholders at SFB can easily update content, post career openings, enhance content for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and more, which helps them communicate more effectively with passengers, business partners, and the local community.

Future outlook

Air travel is currently growing by 4.1% every year, on average, and ULCCs can continue to create fast growth in regional airports. Add to this SFB’s location near one of the world’s largest tourism markets, and you have a recipe for accelerated growth if the right industry trends and brand solutions are capitalised on.

With a distinct, unified brand and a modern website solution that can be leveraged as a branding and marketing tool, Orlando Sanford International Airport is better positioned to capture a larger share of an expanding market.


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