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Re-imagening the world's cosiest airport

Tallinn Airport

Our challenge was to define the key competitive advantages and uniqueness of Tallinn Airport as input for architects who are going to make it twice the size in the next years. 

When we started, the airport was a travel hub for 3.5 million yearly passengers in a country with a population of just around 1,3 million. This explains why it is also considered one of the cosiest and most comfortable airports in the world, due to its compact size and personal approach to handling daily travellers. How do you make sure that isn’t lost in translation when the airport grows?

To solve this problem we needed to define the most important passenger profiles: map their customer journeys and define key touchpoints that influence their experience at the airport. So the airport could continue to excel in what the passengers love while fixing all the pain points with the new concept in the future.

One of the key success factors for the project was close collaboration with the airport’s core team – everyone from board members to security, customer support and ground handling were actively engaged through joint workshops, passenger interviews, ideation and validation stages. This meant that everyone had skin in the game and worked based on real insights gathered from actual passengers, not just a gut feeling.

Research, interviews and observations helped us to identify six repeating passenger behaviour patterns and extremes. Our hypothesis was that if we can make the airport experience better for these six, it will be better for everyone else too. One of the decisive moments of the project was the realisation that any one of us can be a different passenger persona at different times – it’s determined by our context, needs and extremes – not age, ethnicity, status, gender or other stereotypical parameters. The research also revealed a conundrum. While generally satisfaction with the airport is high, the perceived value for money for passengers declines the more a person travels. In essence, the more frequent the flyer, the less interested they are in spending money at the airport. The perception is, that all airports are alike and the stuff for sale is the same everywhere. Addressing this issue will be the most important aspect of the upcoming enlargement project.

Together with the airport’s team we defined the key jobs to be done for each traveller persona, new value-for-money opportunities and validated our insights by gathering feedback from over 500 passengers at Tallinn Airport.

Although the pandemic delayed initial deadlines – the project outlined dozens of touchpoints that could be (and have already been) fixed at the airport today. Very often it’s the smallest details that have the largest impact on customer experience. Like refilling your water bottle for free at a water fountain or knowing in advance if the boarding will be boarding bridge or by a ride with a bus to the far end of the airfield. It makes all the difference if it snows and you are wearing your favourite shorts and flip-flops for your tropical vacation.

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