Pioneering a new era of passenger experience at London Gatwick

As the demand for a memorable airport experience continues to grow, passenger satisfaction remains a top priority for airports and retailers globally. Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer of London Gatwick Airport, and Sacha Zackariya, CEO of ChangeGroup and Prosegur Change, discuss their collaborative efforts to prioritise passenger satisfaction in an evolving travel landscape.

Gatwick is investing in enhancing the customer experience, why is this important?

Jonathan: Our view is that the key to success in any customer facing and customer dependant environment, is being able to deliver an experience that people enjoy, want to enjoy more and are keen to tell others how enjoyable it was.

We operate in a competitive environment (people have other airports they can choose to fly from), so ensuring we have a memorable experience (for all the right reasons) remains a critical area of focus for us.

Recognising that our mission is process-driven, essentially allowing people to arrive and then depart from the airport, then delivering an experience that is simple, frictionless and puts the feeling of control with the customer, is the fundamental objective for us – but for this to be successful, then investment is needed, which is exactly what we’re doing at London Gatwick.  

How does working with concession partners enable you to deliver a better customer experience in this new era of travel?

Jonathan: Firstly, we recognise the value and fortunate opportunity we have to take so many learnings from the different businesses that we work with, across a wide range of sectors. Whilst we have significant expertise within the London Gatwick business, the combined collection of knowledge and experience is much broader when we involve the concessionaire community within the conversations.

We all have our sources of research and insight and the collective sharing of this information helps us much better understand how the future retail experience needs to look, or feel. So, whilst we might initially set out our view on how a particular unit, category or area of the terminal needs to function, these high-level plans often develop and iterate further, when we take on the valued input and opinion from the real experts, the concessionaires themselves.

Why is providing high-quality cash services important?

Jonathan: There is still a significant proportion of the travelling community that only participate in the retail offer, if they can use or acquire cash – it is simple as that. There is a wide range of explanatory factors that not only explain why it remains the case now, but also why it will no doubt stay so for the foreseeable future ahead – people value the security and certainty that cash gives them. These needs vary by individual, but there is undoubtedly a significant volume of people who prefer this method of payment. Continuing to cater for this need correlates well with our vision of being the ‘airport for everyone, whatever your journey’ – the underpinning of this vision being that we celebrate the significant variety of passenger type that travel through London Gatwick and in every sense of the meaning, we wish to provide them an experience that best meets their needs. 

How do you work with ChangeGroup?

Jonathan: We’ve enjoyed a great working relationship with ChangeGroup. From the beginning, there’s been a clear and aligned view on what success looks like. We have been able to jointly identify the drivers of value and focussed our activities on making sure we can accelerate those. Unsurprisingly, linked to the above point around customer experience, a key success factor has been providing an offer to the customer that is clear and easy to understand, easy to find within the terminal, which quickly provides them what they’re after through a hassle-free process.

How did ChangeGroup help you to rebuild?

Jonathan: ChangeGroup took the opportunity to invest further into their offering, with new desks installed across the airport site over the last couple of years – more modern, more accessible and a clearer proposition to the customer. This has helped accelerate the strengthening of a critically important category offer at the airport, that a significant proportion of our passengers see really as a service offering – it is very much part of their core needs when travelling, so it was vital for us to work with a partner that shared our vision for delivering against those passenger needs.

Why is a partnership approach important and how has this worked with Gatwick?

 Sacha: Airports are hugely complex environments with many stakeholders from local customers, foreign customers, visitors, multiple regulators, shareholders, employees, governmental bodies, NGOs, airlines, suppliers and many more. In order to provide the best possible service and in a way that is still profitable for all parties concerned is a true art. Hence for the airport and ChangeGroup to be closely aligned and communicating at a deep level is vitally important to ensure we are all successful.

people value the security and certainty that cash gives them. These needs vary by individual, but there is undoubtedly a significant volume of people who prefer this method of payment.”

Gatwick and ChangeGroup have worked tirelessly to ensure that all levels of our organisations are meeting regularly. We are constantly exchanging ideas and looking at the evolving business operations with changing customer expectations, new technologies and new regulations. This is how we strengthen and build on our great partnership.  

What should airports seek in a concession partner in this new era of travel?

 Sacha: In a post-COVID world I would say that financial strength, reputation for honesty, keeping one’s commitments, openness and flexibility are absolutely key. 

What are you looking forward to in the future of cash services?

 Sacha: I am so excited how customers are exploring more and more exotic locations. I see how the desire for people to connect with new cultures, experience unique and memorable moments is driving a resurrection of cash usage. Cash usage is increasing again because of longer distance travel, from doing business with countries where there are restrictions on currency exchange and banking. Of course, consumers are also wanting more privacy, they desire having total certainty of being able to pay where and when they want, many love being given discounts in retailers when they pay in cash abroad, and of course because people like to reward exceptional service by giving cash tips in hotels and restaurants.

About the authors – Jonathan Pollard and Sacha Zackariya 

Jonathan Pollard joined Gatwick’s executive team in September 2020. Before that, he worked as the Chief Commercial Officer at Luton Airport for three years, where he played a key role in increasing passenger volume and completing a major terminal transformation programme. He holds a BSc in Air Transport Management from Loughborough University and began his career at National Express Group in 2005, where he held various executive positions. 

Sacha Zackariya, B.Eng, C.Eng, Dip(Econ), MBA (INSEAD), is author of the highly acclaimed ‘Leading Travel & Tourism Retail’ book published by Kogan Page in 2023, with exclusive interviews with the heads of Chanel, LVMH, Unilever, Disney World and politicians such as Tony Blair. Sacha is co-founder and CEO of ChangeGroup International Plc. The group, now part of Prosegur Cash SA (listed on the Madrid stock exchange) is a global provider of tourist foreign exchange, ATM and tax-free shopping services to five million customers per year. They operate in over 140 ultra prime shopping streets and airports worldwide. Sacha received the Queens Award for International Trade at Buckingham Palace and is also founder of the Tree Foundation educational charity which he created in 1996 to improve the economic prospects of young people in the developing world, in balance with their environment. In 2021, he was made Chairman of YPO Greater London part of an organisation representing 30,000 CEOs with a combined total of $9 trillion in annual revenues.

Go to Source...