Taking a step back. What makes a travel experience truly outstanding?

Warning upfront… this post is not about points. If you’re points junky alone, tune out now. This post cuts into why I try and earn and use points for special experiences – and about why I (try to) write about them.

Finnair have recently (re)launched a campaign called ‘Qualityhunters’ which aims to try and track down indicators of high quality travel experiences in the air and within airports. As described by themselves –

“Quality Hunters 2 is an initiative by Finnair and Helsinki Airport. Together they will hire 7 Quality Hunters to travel the world and seek out fresh ideas on quality and how to improve air travel and the airport experience.”

A link to both this promotion and a post on the same topic by the Cranky Flier landed in my RSS feed this morning. It got me thinking – what would *I* do to improve the air travel and airport experience? I write about what I enjoy and what I don’t when it comes to specific experiences, but exactly what *are* my criteria for a great experience?

It’s easy for me to focus on simple deliverables that are either present or not – good food, wifi that works, no delays, good service, lounge access, nice seats. These are generally binary – they exist, or they don’t (in the writer’s opinion) and there’s little room for grey areas – if there are, I probably won’t write about them as an average experience is neither interesting or uncommon.

So what makes an airport or in-flight experience uncommon, unique, interesting or special?

For me, it’s about being surprised by the unexpected (in a positive way, of course!). This might be a human interaction; a piece of industrial or physical design; or something sensory – but it was an element of my interaction with in-flight or airport space where someone along the production chain decided to go out of their way in making an effort to make something look good, work well, or train and incentivise an individual to over-deliver.

I can think of only a few of these I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in airports and on airplanes –

  • Flight attendants going out of their way to enable a pleasant journey – just 2 or 3 really significant gestures spring to mind
  • Simple and great food
  • The broad travel experience on the A380 – quiet, clean, new, well designed, and with less-humid air – it’s a different world to anything else, in my opinion

And some I’d love to see / find out if they are truly surprising, despite the marketing noise around them – for example the considered design elements of the Qantas First Class Lounges in Sydney or Melbourne…

makes a travel experience truly outstanding

makes a travel experience truly outstanding

Similarly, I’ve had some really bad perceived experiences thanks to overly high (or unrealistic?) expectations.

Going forward, I’m going to try and focus my insights on these great experiences and try and note what it really was about them that actually made them, well, great. It’s too easy to concentrate on the factual, and not enough on the emotional – hopefully I can strike the right balance.

Happy travelling!

Taking a step back. What makes a travel experience truly outstanding? was last modified: February 25th, 2014 by Keith