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A Customer Value Mindset in Asia’s Airlines Business by Michael Santonino * [8]

                      Photos by Michael D. Santonino III/Kim Pei Lu travel photography

Asian airports are transforming the airlines industry by creating value for customers in convenience, availability, and access with a multitude of services. The top airports in the world offer customers a travel experience with a “Disney-like” park feeling as airports display picturesque rainforest waterfalls, lush landscape, open glass designs, cultural artwork, sustainable operations, luxurious amenities, connectivity, and selection of dining and shopping preferences for passengers. Airports (and airlines) are creating value in the Now Economy with Speed, Service, Solutions, Selection, and Sociability (the 5-S model) in many Asian countries (i.e. Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong). 

The United States with its aging airport infrastructure has not been a passenger’s preferred choice in comparison to these Asian countries airports, as many of the service quality performance measures used by the various industry rating agencies exclude the aged US airports. The airlines have equally transformed their businesses with new aircraft, new cabin configurations, and extended ancillary services/fees (baggage, seat upgrades, fast-boarding, in-flight meals, WiFi, cancellation/changes, etc.).

Maximizing Value Attributes in Airport Layouts 
Suvarnabhumi Airport, in (Bangkok) Thailand, offers an excellent example of convenience, accessibility, cultural art, open-glass design, and luxurious amenities. It is strategically designed with seamless passenger movement flow to gates, multiple access points for shopping and tax refunds, and cultural art photo stop points, and is one of the most tourist-friendly airports in the world.

What a Jewel!
The Jewel located at Changi Airport in Singapore is creating value in the Now Economy with airport solutions and product selection for customers. The Jewel has an amazing sustainable architectural design with an integrated nature-themed entertainment park known as the Canopy and a retail mall complex. Value attributes of experience differentiations (product/services that tap into the five human senses) can be found throughout this airport complex with its customer interactive activities (walking trails, explorer slides, water mists, flower garden, and other family-centric fee paid services). 

The Jewel is strategically designed between terminals with seamless passenger movement flow to gates, shopping, dining, scenic photo taking areas, play-stations for kids, and interactive-themed park experiences for visitors, passengers, and local Singaporeans. Changi is ranked the number one airport in Asia and the world for its outstanding customer service. 

Changi Airport provides a mere glimpse of the future with technology and innovation as it relates to products (or services) in the pre-introduction stage of the product life cycle with artificial intelligence (AI), robots, virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and real-time data analytics. Expect fully autonomous aircraft or other global transportation vehicles as the technology evolves.

Creating Value with Technology for Better Passenger Experiences
Airports and airlines are incorporating technology to improve the overall passenger experiences. The use of virtual assistant holograms are being utilized by more airports to help arriving passengers make that transit to the next departure (or arrival hall) a better experience. Airlines are increasingly offering more extra room seating cabins for better comfort, as Air Asia Behad offers “hot seats” (with red headrest seats) for an upgraded fee. Tray tables and cabin bins are prime shelf-space designs for airlines (from the traditional supermarket shelf-space for products) as airlines expose passengers to new routes, tours, and other advertisements to its captive audience. Airlines are transforming cabins with newer aircraft designs that include the blue-red-yellow mood change lighting for improved cabin comfort. Airlines are upgrading the in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems to offer more TV channels, movies, games, and other IFE services for improved in-flight experiences throughout the entire journey.

The Now Economy is dominated by the services sector with an emphasis on creating exceptional customer experiences for the digitally-savvy customers. Sustainability, holistic perspectives, and personalized platforms are value attributes that digital-native customers are sensitive toward the future of airports and airline travel. The airline industry in Asia and worldwide is rapidly changing to build a competitive advantage through flexible production, innovative business models and strategies, hiring the best people, speed-to-market, and collaboration with the right business partners.  

 * Dr. Santonino is Associate Professor, College of Business, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. Contact him at


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