The recession is a time to assess cost bases and identify further opportunities for improvements in productivity and efficiency. That means stripping back products and services to the point where legacy and low-cost services are virtually indistinguishable. This also affords airports some important growth opportunities within a competitive environment.

As airlines homogenise, airports need to create market distinction for themselves. There is scope for added value products across the total passenger experience – all with attractive revenue potential.

As airports take greater ownership of passengers, they will also have to share the responsibility of attracting traffic to the destination. While online booking facilities are commonplace, airports must build better relationships with key corporate accounts and travellers. They will need to become more sophisticated in their marketing activity and commercial revenue generation if they are to succeed in restoring value and service differentiation into a commoditised product where the historical differentials have become blurred.

Invest in brands

Some airports, such as Athens International Airport and Brussels Airport, have invested in their brands and built working relationships with clients so that they stand out from the crowd. Others have embraced new market segments and created products to meet those needs. Kuala Lumpur has become the market leader for low-cost services in South East Asia. Its incentive support programmes have transformed passenger volumes, opened new destinations and increased frequencies. Since acquiring Lima airport, Fraport has excelled in developing the airport facilities and transformed a tired facility into one of the best in South America.

These airports share common themes: they saw an opportunity, recognised that they could make a difference and achieved their objectives.