“The ‘wow’ factor happens when we turn a passenger’s ordinary experience into an extraordinary one. We want the Houston Airports experience to be efficient, pleasant, and memorable across the board for every person who passes through our facilities.”
Those are the words of Kathleen Boyd, Chief Marketing Officer at Houston Airports. The wow factor is a key component in the HAS’s “drive for five,” the airport system’s stated goal of reaching 5-star status with Skytrax, recognized as the leading global air transport rating organization.
In March 2019, based on analysis of hundreds of assessment items, Skytrax awarded William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) a 4-star rating for the fourth year in a row, while George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) earned its second straight 4-star rating. Liliana Rambo, HOU General Manager, said that HAS is elated to have achieved and maintained 4-star status for consecutive years – but it’s not the end goal. Houston Airports vision statement declares its intent to Establish Houston as a five-star global air service gateway where the magic of flight is celebrated.
Groundbreaking 5-star driven initiatives such as the IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program (ITRP) and the Terminal A Modernization Program are well underway and will be transformative for Houston Airports in better serving our customers, Boyd said. But we are also intentional in our efforts to further take advantage of wow factors.
“When someone takes a trip, whether to a neighboring city or across the world, the airport experience can make or break the trip,” Boyd said. “Houston Airports is doing everything in its power to make stops to and through our airports to be positive and pleasant – even exceptional - every time.”
A few of the wow factors that distinguish Houston Airports, including the Harmony the Air music program, Terminal C North at IAH, and reimagined smoking areas at HOU.
Harmony in the Air, HAS’s Performing Arts Program, was created to provide a memorable and positive passenger experience. Maricela Kruseman, Program Manager, said the program showcases an average of 600 live daily music performances per year by 57 of Houston’s best professional musicians at both IAH (Terminals A and D) and HOU.
Kruseman said that passengers are amazed and delighted at the quality of music performances and routinely write glowing responses including a recent note that said, “it gives a fantastic impression of Houston as a hospitable and cultured city.” Now that’s a wow!
Skytrax has paid attention as no other HAS program has received the volume of “likes” as Harmony in the Air, and the program accounts for the greatest number of videos shared by passengers on Twitter of any HAS program. Click here for the HOU Harmony in the Air program schedule and here for the IAH Harmony in the Air program schedule.
United Airlines’ master concessionaire OTG oversees the food, beverage and retail operations at the new Terminal C North concourse at IAH, a prime example of how upgraded infrastructure can vastly improve the flying experience. The $277 million, 265,000-square-foot terminal was built by United in partnership with Houston Airports and completed in 2017.
“OTG is proud to have partnered with United Airlines and Bush Intercontinental to really create an airport experience rooted in Houston feel and flavors,” said Eric Brinker, OTG VP of Experience. “With this signature mix of local chefs and cuisine, immersive design and leading-edge tech, we strive to provide those lucky enough to pass through IAH a truly world class airport experience.”
Dawn Hoffman, Manager of Landside Operations at HOU, said of the airport’s smoking art murals, “The Airport wanted to encourage smokers to use the designated smoking area. Instead of relying solely on enforcement of the City’s smoking policy, we decided to make the designated smoking area more welcoming. The art murals were essential in creating an inviting environment. Both beautiful murals were created by local artists. Seating also was improved, and plants added to provide a more pleasant area.”
“We are truly delighted when we can please our customers,” Boyd said in summary. “When Houston Airports can provide a personalized experience that resonates with individuals, they take notice.” The wow factors are important in moving forward, she said. “Satisfied customers are great to have, but delighted customers are even more likely to return!”