What do passengers really want from airports and airlines? So went the smirk-inducing title of the event I attended recently. Organised by the UK's Chartered Institute of Marketing Travel Industry Group and London City Airport, the event took place at the airport itself, with an awesome view of aircraft taking off and landing.
So, what do passengers really want? Well, it appears we're a predictable bunch really. Yes we want low fares. But as David Evans, managing director of the newly launched BA Connect (BA's regional arm), said, if all we wanted was just low cost, we'd all be driving Ladas. And that's not the case. "Price is critical but it's not the only factor," he says.
Yes, it appears we want low fares, but we're also prepared to pay for more. And that's where there's money - and product distinction - to be made.
The success of easyJet and Ryanair in Europe has sparked the influx of low-cost carriers compared with five years ago. Tim Jeans, managing director of Monarch Scheduled Services, says that easyJet and Ryanair's domination has given rise to a number of successful second-tier operators: bmibay, flybe, Jet2, Monarch and Thomsonfly.
"The market is sufficiently large that niche players can offer products and succeed," says Jeans. "The market has moved on from simply wanting low fares. Now passengers want a choice of seat, meal and extra leg room. And they're prepared to pay for it."
Monarch for example took out one row of seats and created extended 32" seat pitch on 42 seats for which passengers pay extra - a move that's been worth ｣200,000 a week in revenue for the carrier.
"It's not all about minimum everything," stresses Jeans. "This is a niche market. It's not a one-size-fits-all model."