Nowadays most airports’ sites are clear and easy to use, so you can easily get all the information you need about your trip.
We found out that the Airports Council North America (ACI-NA) – the trade association that represents most North American airports with airline service – runs an annual ‘Excellence in Marketing & Communications’ contest.
All of its member airports can enter the contest and one of the award categories is for ‘Best Web Site,’ with awards being given to the top three entrants each year based on their sites’ clarity, content, creativity and overall effectiveness. (This year’s winner was Edmonton International Airport in Canada, which has a terrific site.) So we went to the source to ask ACI-NA why airports’ web sites have improved so dramatically in recent years.
“There has been a recognition by airports that people want information electronically,” says Eileen Denne, ACI-NA’s senior vice president of marketing and communications. By creating well-designed web sites that are easy to use and by providing clear information on the air travel topics that people most often want to know about, airports “are providing a great service.”
Denne explains: “Airports’ first priority is to ensure that passengers are traveling safely and conveniently. Their other priority is to provide a choice of flights at reasonable prices. To the extent that they can provide this through their web sites, they are providing a service to their communities. If they can provide information on their air service, that’s a benefit, too.”
That said, there are certain features that make some airports’ web sites stand out as really being front-runners in a very good field. Some sites have short videos that direct you step by step through important but confusing parts of the airport – such as its international arrivals and customs hall – to help prevent you getting lost when you get there. (The ‘Airport Wayfinder’ computer-graphic videos that some airports’ sites feature are particularly well-designed for this purpose.)
Also, increasing numbers of sites feature interactive terminal maps. These are of varying design and effectiveness, but the best interactive maps clearly show where each of the airport’s terminals is located within the overall plan of the airport and what basic amenities, shops and food and beverage options are available on each floor of each terminal. In some sites’ maps, when you click on the location of a shop, bar or restaurant, an extra web page will pop up providing a photo and a brief description of the establishment.
Some airports’ web sites have other features that are imaginative, unusual, or just plain fun. For instance, because they are ideal places to show off their communities’ culture to visitors, many North American airports now host art exhibitions, and their web sites highlight the artworks they have on show.