Airports connect to travelers with scent

Airports wake up and smell the roses, the coffee and lots more

UK’s East Midlands Airport, located about an hour and a half north of London, serves about six million passengers a year. Two years ago the terminal underwent a major renovation that included upgrading shops and restaurants. But Sales and Marketing Manager Sarah Fletcher didn’t think upgrading the look of the facility was enough. She wanted the airport to smell better as well.

It wasn’t as if travelers were steering clear of the airport because it was stinky or anything like that. Fletcher says it
was just that, as the 2008 holiday season was approaching, the airport had run out of wall space to decorate or
use to communicate with passengers and the staff was intent on creating a pleasant ambience in the airport. “We
realized,” says Fletcher, “that one thing we could do was send Christmas up the passengers’ noses.”

To choose an appropriate aroma for the East Midlands airport, Fletcher and several staff members went shopping in ScentAir’s scent library. “I told them I was looking for a holiday smell to start people off on their journey. After a day of testing scents, we settled on a cinnamon/Christmas smell.”

Using special scent-diffusers, the scent was piped into the airport for the 2008 holiday season. Now the airport is
sending out a fresh scent for the spring and summer travel season that smells like coconut, almond and suntan oil.
“It’s really about the customer experience,” says Fletcher, “As people go through security it can be a difficult, stressful
experience. Now, as they walk through security, the smell relaxes them and puts them in the frame of mind that
this is where their holiday journey begins.”

It’s not just travelers setting off on their journeys who experience the scent program at East Midlands airport. The smell of chocolate chip cookies being baked wafts through the baggage claim area. “It’s subtle, not overpowering,” says Fletcher, “We’re hoping travelers will feel welcome and at home, but also a bit thirsty and hungry. Then they might fancy something to drink in our coffee shop. It’s a little bit crafty but it works.”

In the United States, ScentAir works with several U.S. airports and/or airlines in varying capacities. When working with airports, the company develops a signature fragrance that can be “delivered” at the check-in counters and in security areas. (For one international airline, a signature fragrance used in the gate areas and frequent-flier club areas is also spritzed
in the airplane cabins between flights.)

Other airports and other airlines might want to wake up and smell the terminals. Sarah Fletcher says this past winter retail sales figures at the East Midlands Airport matched those from the year before, despite the sagging economy. And while sales figures can’t be officially tied to the airport scent, a general feeling of well-being among travelers and employees might be. Lucy Hobson, a duty manager at the East Midlands Airport says while the airport used to smell “just like a building, nothing more,” the new, scented air seems to make both passengers and employees much more relaxed. “And that makes the airport a much better place to work and, overall, a more pleasant place for passengers.”

Credit -Harriet Baskas, USA Today

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