But not the Charlotte Airport.
Compared to other airports I didn’t spend much time there. It was just a short layover two times in two days. Enough time to grab a sandwich and a do a little people watching.
What made the Charlotte Airport memorable was a bunch of things, many of which I have never seen at an airport.
1. A piano player
The music was lively but not overbearing. The pianist was not only good but clearly enjoying herself.
2. Trees with lights
Potted trees were everywhere, complete with decorative lights. It made for a festive atmosphere, especially when combined with the piano player.
3. Friendly employees
They say the South is friendly and the people who staff the Charlotte Airport prove it. Even with the crowds of rushed and tired travelers, everyone I observed seemed to be cheerful, warm and pleasant to work with.
This facility was available to current and past members of the armed forces. It was a place to get away from the hustle and bustle, relax, read, sleep, whatever. Bravo! This is a classy was to treat the people who serve in our military. I’m a big fan of anything that gives them a little extra care. They deserve it.
5. Business Center
Below the USO was a business center provided by Bank of America. You didn’t need a Platinum Card or a million frequent flyer miles to get in either. It was open to anyone. It provided a nice, quiet place to get some work done between flights, in a comfortable setting.
6. It was clean
This should be true of all airports. It’s not.
7. Hub and spoke layout
I never had to walk far to get from my gate to the central area of the airport. The design is very efficient for passengers to get from place to place.
8. Free Wifi
This always brings a smile to my face. It’s such an easy thing for an airport to provide and it means so much for travelers. It tells me they care about their customers.
9. View of Downtown Charlotte
The gate where I met my plane had a magnificent view of the Charlotte skyline. There’s something striking about a city skyline. Why not show it off to people who visit the city?
10. Rocking Chairs
This was the best part of the Charlotte Airport. They had rows and rows of rocking chairs. (If you live in a part of the country where they have Cracker Barrel restaurants, you’ll understand this.)
What a brilliant idea! It’s a great way to get people to stop and relax for a few moments. Think about the last time you sat and rocked in a rocking chair. They have a wonderful calming effect. That’s nice to have in a place that’s well known for being stressful.
These 10 things, and many more, made for a memorable experience at the Charlotte Airport. It’s not the biggest or the newest or the fanciest airport. But for me, it’s been the most memorable because the people there took the effort to make these things possible.
They didn’t have to, but they did. They did so because they want their airport to be a place where travelers can have a good experience. (As opposed to the usual airport experience.)
A skeptic or penny-pincher might say they’re crazy. Airports don’t need to market themselves, right? People just pass through them. No one decides to go somewhere because of the airport.
So, why care? Why take the time and effort to help people have a better experience in an airport?
The answer is simple. And it’s the same for any organization. It’s all about purpose.
Many airports seem have as their purpose: “minimize expenses”. They manage to that standard. So, everything they do is focused on saving money. Sure, they still need to move people and planes through their facility. But they assume the people and planes will be there, regardless of how well they serve them.
It might be a bad assumption.
If you do a bad enough job as you move people and planes through your airport, eventually, it will have an effect. From bad publicity to people problems or ‘incidents’. To the extent travelers have a choice, they’ll choose another option. And whatever ill-will the airport generates will rub off on the host city and the airlines that serve the airport.
Eventually everyone loses.
On the other hand, the Charlotte Airport seems to have a different purpose. They seem to be saying, “we’re in the business of helping people who use our airport have a great experience while they’re here.”
When they look at their purpose that way, everything changes. It’s no longer about saving money. It’s now about caring for people. It’s about trying to create a remarkable customer experience for their travelers.
Sure, they have to meet a budget while they create this experience. But they might find that happy customers spend more money at their airport. They might find that providing a great experience actually costs less.
When people focus on saving money, that’s where their creative energy gets invested. When they focus on providing a great experience, within a specific budget, then their creativity gets invested differently. So they create different solutions, They try different things. They find ways to help their customers feel great about being there, and they do it within their financial means.
The solutions your company provides your customers will be a direct result of how the company views its purpose. Make sure your purpose is in alignment with your mission and your customer’s expectations. You’ll have more happy customers and a better bottom line.