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Customer Experience of Airport Passengers in Asia - Pre and Post-COVID

Category Analysis – Airport

Region: Asia

The highest number of passengers, 3.3 billion, traveled through Asian airports in 2018. The ACI World Airport Traffic had estimated the first-quarter revenue of Asia to be $12.4 billion. But with COVID-19, passenger traffic is expected to be slashed at Asian airports by 24% in Q1 2020 and cut revenue by $3 billion. 

With the existing uncertainty about the speed of recovery in demand for air transport, airports are now calling for a data-driven approach to identify and improve customer experience in a post-COVID landscape.

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The analysis is based on customer reviews and conversations online in the segment. The analysis results presented are completely unbiased and not based on any subjective judgment. The source data used for the analysis are user conversations available publicly online like public forums and social media.


Total number of customer conversations analyzed


Nov 2019 Pre-COVID – 4,473

Apr 2020 Post-COVID – 4,312


Executive Summary – Key Takeaways


Asia Airport Industry Overview

  • Asia has 25 major airports and holds 9 of the world’s top 20 busiest airports by total passenger numbers
  • China, Tokyo, and Dubai are in the top 10 airports in the world by passenger number
  • Passenger traffic in Asia recorded a growth of 2.1% in June 2019 according to data by Airports Council International Asia-Pacific (ACI)
  • Pre-COVID, Asia-Pacific reported the highest global passenger traffic share, with around 33%


Source: Statista

COVID-19 is expected to slash passenger traffic at Asia airports by 24% in the first quarter of 2020 and cut revenue by $3 billion

Asia Airport Passenger Analysis – Pre and Post-COVID

Today, airport passengers are expecting a higher customer experience than just the basic facilities that they used to get earlier.  Long waiting times, unhygienic facilities, and lack of food options are no longer considered an acceptable airport customer experience. The stress of not knowing the way to their terminals, inconvenient car parking, or a long wait for security checks were considered an expected part of air travel, but not anymore. 

The new-age passengers expect excellence, and their expectations are always rising. Airports need to be flexible in the way they operate to meet the evolving customer experience. If not, they are sure to get left behind. In this fast-changing landscape, it is important to understand how to deliver a wonderful customer experience.

Clootrack research looked into the passenger conversations of Asian airports, and this report contains some unique insights that include:

  • Perceptions of passengers during pre-COVID days
  • Passengers’ perceptions and priorities change post-COVID
  • Passengers’ rating of key drivers and sub-drivers
  • Comparative analysis of Asia airports and ranking based on Key drivers

What Were The Key Drivers of Customer Experience For Asian Airports During Pre-COVID?

Airports have evolved from being just the beginning and end of journeys to being an integral part of the overall customer experience of a passenger. If airports are willing to listen, air passengers are more than happy to share their good and bad experiences, their demands, and expectations about how they’d like the airport experience to be improved.

Through a detailed analysis of 4,473 online consumer conversations, Clootrack has listed down the top 5 drivers of customer experience for Airports pre-COVID in Asia. 

1. Food & Beverages

Until recently, a hurried cup of beverage and a cold sandwich on their way to the boarding gate was quite normal. But nowadays, a new generation of passengers wish to begin their travel experience even before they get on the plane – and food and beverages form a key element of this wonderful experience.  Passengers are looking forward to a great selection of restaurants at affordable prices. 

Food Court 81.60%
Great Options 48.31%
Good Restaurants 14.12%
Wide Choice 96.70%

As per the sub-drivers extracted from passengers’ conversations, passengers experience a great customer experience when they get a wide choice of food options in food courts. They want to see multi-cuisine restaurants, vegetarian restaurants – all with great variety and reasonable prices.

As more passengers are getting comfortable with eating out at an airport, the expectations of their dining experience have increased. This is forcing airports to upgrade their food and beverages offerings.

2. Faster Boarding Process

Long lines are not new in airports. Over the last decade, things have gotten worse due to heightened security checks, increased passengers, and an increase in flights – but not much space to increase infrastructure.

No matter how carefully a passenger has planned business trips or vacations, a bottleneck cannot be predicted. A passenger might be stuck in long queues at entry gates, boarding passes, security control, and immigration before boarding the aircraft.

The below sub-drivers highlight the areas where passengers spend most of their time – waiting for passport clearance, security checks, and near boarding gates. 

Passport Control 14.03%
Immigration Process 8.58%
Security Check  39.14%

Passengers prefer that international airports have reduced waiting time by implementing self-check-in options, lounges to wait, self-service bag drop options, and priority boarding options. All of this will reduce the waiting time and the frustration attached to waiting thereby improving the customer experience. 

3. Friendly Staff

It is often noticed that the experience a passenger has with an airport is directly proportional to the experience with the airport staff. In order to enhance customer experience, it is important for airport staff to provide friendly, professional, and good service.  

When you look at the sub-driver below, you know that passengers lay a huge emphasis on having friendly airport staff who are professional and skillful. They want to be greeted and treated with a lovely smile.  

Friendly Staff 99.99%
Good Service 38.59%
Pathetic Staff 48.59%
Rude Staff 4.71%

Passengers are quick to appreciate the help they received from airport staff – “one of the best international airport staff are willing to help you go through the transfer process,” says a passenger. 

Airport staff should manage all processes and ensure the smooth functioning of the airport to create a stress-free environment for passengers. 

4. Duty-Free Shopping

Duty-free shopping is one of the top drivers in airports in Asia. Passengers want to enjoy duty-free shopping after the stressful ordeal of getting through airport security. 

When passengers have crossed all security checks and dropped their baggage, the only thing on their mind is to browse through a duty-free shop that offers a vast variety at the best prices.

Free Zone 15.38%
Best Price 10.83%
Vast Selection 7.57%
Expensive 77.02%

But most passengers feel that duty-free goods are expensive. 

“Shops in the duty-free zone are rather expensive.”  

This will leave a traveler thinking if duty-free really saves their money. Airports should offer duty-free goods at reasonable prices that can be compared to their prices across borders.   

5. Clean Premise

Tokyo Haneda Airport takes the top award as the World’s Cleanest Airport in 2020. What makes passengers feel that airports are clean? Passengers look at floor cleanliness, toilets, waiting for areas, water fountains, and much more to consider an airport as clean.

According to the sub-drivers derived from traveler conversations, passengers attach a high value when surroundings are clean, well maintained, and world-class.  

Very Clean 13.46%
World Class 27.81%
Attractive Facility 19.45% 
Very Clean 97.82%

A passenger who is delighted highlights how clean an airport was. “Clean and well maintained international airport in Kuala Lumpur.”

Brand Equity for Asia Airport Pre-COVID

For a customer to love your product, you must build pleasant experiences around your brand. If they experience positive thoughts, opinions, feelings, and perceptions about your product, it signals positive brand equity.

Below is the brand equity of 6 different airports. It shows how customers feel about a particular brand for each of the category drivers.

brand equity

  • Singapore Changi airport stands out in food and beverage followed by Thailand airport.

  • Tokyo Haneda airport has won the hearts of passengers in terms of the faster boarding process, closely followed by Singapore Changi airport

  • Passengers found friendly staff behavior in Tokyo Narita airport and Singapore Changi airport

  • Dubai airport has topped the charts for duty-free shopping

  • Tokyo Narita airport and Tokyo Haneda airport have been ranked on top for clean premises

Top Conversations Taking Place On Asian Airports Pre-COVID

“A very nice, clean, very tidy airport, with many shops both for eating and for last-minute shopping”

“As a foreign passport holder, the number of security booths open was ample, the wait time was not long, and we were humanely greeted by the immigration officer.”

“Everything works, and the best bit is the super clean washrooms! Very friendly staff and the ambiance is so good.”

“Funny how they rush you at the scan and treat your belongings like dirt but when you get to the immigration counter, they make you wait for a century before you finally step outside.”

“It was a mistake not to know the names of the unkind and screaming employees during the immigration process, but I was shocked by the unpleasant response. If you’re working at an international airport, I want you to be polite.”

“Terrible layout at the international departures, water fountains were nowhere to be seen at the gates, passport control had ridiculously long lines even though it was to get out of the country”

What Are The Key Category Drivers For Asia Airports Post-COVID

Travel bans and flight cancellations have become a norm in response to the COVID outbreak. There are severe drops in passenger traffic as many people prefer to wait until the airports come up with safe and healthy air travel measures.  

In this scenario, it’s important to understand the concerns going into the minds of the passengers. 

Clootrack, in its latest consumer insights report adapted to the post-COVID-19 context, reveals the mindset of US passengers. They are expecting airports to adapt social distancing and lay greater emphasis on health protection when flights resume. 

Through a detailed analysis of 4.312 online passenger conversations, Clootrack has listed the top 5 drivers for airports in Asia post-COVID. 


1. Security Screening 

Post-COVID, security screening is coming up as the top driver for airports in Asia. 

It has become crucial to adapt security screening to suit new circumstances without compromising the overall security of the system.

Passengers feel the need for security inspection personnel to wear disposable gloves, surgical masks, uniform caps or disposable medical caps, goggles, and protective suits. 

The sub-drivers clearly bring out the passengers’ voices asking for easy security checks and avoiding unnecessary checks and long queues. 

Security Check 93.59%
Easy Checking 47.27%
Unnecessary Screening  47.27% 
Long Queues 19.51%

Airports should allow passengers to wear gloves and masks for safety. They should reduce hand searches and minimize surface touches to a great extent.

Overall, airports have to follow the guidance regarding airport security screening so that they can safeguard airport passengers from COVID while still preserving security measures.

2. Social Distancing

Now everyone understands that the only way to break the chain of contagion is by way of social distancing. No wonder it is coming up as an important driver, even for airports.

As flights are getting ready to resume operations, airports have to gear up to ensure minimum contact between passengers, airport staff, and crew members. The basic social distancing guidelines as set up by the governments are to be followed by everyone.

The sub-drivers of social distancing clearly indicate that passengers are asking for more counters to avoid long queues and waiting time while maintaining social distancing. 

Professional Distancing 47.99%
More Counters 19.26%
Long Queues  40.47%
Busy Airport 35.86%

Passengers are hoping that airports take additional precautions to create extra space during boarding, seating, terminals, food and beverage outlets, shopping areas, and restrooms.

3. Staff Behavior

Airport staff has to don a variety of roles while serving thousands of passengers in a busy airport and play a key role in creating this unified passengers journey. Regardless of whether passengers had a bad day with delay or disruption to their flights, or they had a smooth journey, airport staff played a significant role in dealing with the passengers. 

Friendly Staff 73.35%
Helpful Staff 48.12%
Good Service 34.08%
Rude Service 13.88%

Passengers expect airport staff to provide reliable and accurate services. Airport staff who have professional knowledge of airport services and those staff who behave kindly and courteously have a higher likelihood to win the customers’ trust and confidence.

A happy passenger says, “The airport staff is also amazing helping people out with whatever they want.”

Smiling airport staff everywhere! That is all that passengers need to have a memorable experience.

4. Shops and Restaurants

Airports are expected to have a lot of facilities for passengers to enjoy a huge terminal – ranging from duty-free shops to world-class lounges and food courts. Passengers enjoy the restaurants and food courts that are easily accessible on every floor. 

Duty-Free Shops  59.23%
Food Court 38.43%
Good Shopping 26.82%
Expensive Restaurants 5.17%

Passengers love it when they have duty-free shops that offer a variety of products at reasonable prices.

We can note that one passenger says, “Great airport and one of my favorites ..great duty-free shops, food outlets, and other facilities.”

When passengers have nothing to do except wait for their next flight, the least they expect is to take a nice walk around the terminal and explore shops and food courts.

5. Health Protection & Hygiene

The world is witnessing the deadliest crisis of the 21st century. Airports that are known to ferry thousands of passengers daily, unwittingly have become the gateway for this contagion.

Hence, passengers expect airports to play a major role in health protection and hygiene during this current pandemic spread.

Clean Airports 79.64%
Medical Staff 47.50%
Poor Arrangement 48.71%
Infected Droplets 47.50%

Passengers demand, “Changi airport  need  to  think  about the public  health  instead  of inviting  to  come  there  tell  it  not  safe  to visit  at  present  for  risk  of  getting the virus.”

The conversations reflect the state of mind of the passengers. They demand more cleanliness, additional screening, and medical advancements. Passengers want to see flights are disinfected, airports are cleaned more often, and sanitizers are made available. 

Passengers demand hand sanitizer dispensers & antibacterial wipe dispensers liberally located throughout the airport. 

Their biggest worry is about traveling with infected people or confirmed cases on the flight. Airports have to address this concern as the aviation industry’s future depends heavily on the health and screening of passengers.

Brand Equity for Asia Airports Post-COVID

Customer perception can be positive when a passenger has a pleasant experience with an airport, while an annoying or displeasing experience can lead to a negative perception. When airports understand the importance of customer perception, it will realize that it is the most important factor for success. 

Below is the brand equity o different airports. It shows how customers feel about a particular brand for each of the category drivers:

  • Thailand airport has been ranked number one in security screening post-COVID, followed by Dubai airport.

  • Social distancing has been followed the highest in Chatrapati Shivaji airport while Thailand airport takes up the second position.

  • Tokyo Narita airport and Dubai airport are doing better than other airports when it comes to staff behavior, and Shops, and restaurants.

  • Singapore Changi airport has the highest rank in maintaining health protection and hygiene.

Top Conversations Taking Place on Asia Airports Post-COVID

Customer sentiments can be positive or negative around a particular topic. Airports can deep dive into conversations to capture positive emotions to strengthen their offerings further. But at the same time, negative sentiments offer numerous opportunities for improvement.

“The airport is large, too large, friendly staff, there are instructions but still not effective, making it difficult for passengers like me to find the way.”

“Especially the duty-free is a fantastic place to shop with so many varieties.”

“It is inconvenient that there are no shops near the entrance gate.”

“Fast security, lots of shops, easy to navigate, beautiful and very clean, so no complaints.”

“Terminal 2 for budget airlines – too crowded, no nice place to rest, facilities are not clean, no sockets available.”

“What happened to #SocialDistancing They’re too close.”

“Reach out the airport at least 2 hours before the departures as sometimes the crowd of passengers is too much that takes hell lot of time in security and check-in.”

“The signage could be a bit more user-friendly, and the security checks could be done once only instead of having to go through the procedure twice for some reason.”

Asia Airport Industry – Future Trends

  • COVID-19 pandemic is creating demand for facial recognition which will eliminate human interference.

  • Thermal scanners and infrared scanners for passenger screening will become a norm in all airports.

  • Demand for thermal imaging cameras to detect fevers from a long distance will soar up amidst the social distancing and quarantine measures.

  • Opportunities emerge for innovative technology companies to manufacture smart biometric solutions, thermal imaging, and fever detection scanners


Insights from passenger conversations pre and post-COVID clearly show the difference in the way people are thinking about airports. While in pre-COVID emphasis was higher on airport security and screening, aesthetics, airport staff, and car parking, post-COVID it has shifted completely towards health and protection.

Emerging from nationwide lockdowns, airport passengers will be more alert about health protection and therefore increase their demands on social distancing and safety precautions.

Airports will have to gear up to provide the best customer experience that satisfies rigorous health and safety checks that can rebuild trust for passengers.

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