You work for an airport, which inevitably means you’ve been asked at least half of the questions we’ve collected for this blog post, and if you haven’t been, you will be. It’s only a matter of time. And when you are, how will you answer? How will everyone else who represents your airport answer? Here are our top questions aimed at airport employees and how to answer them like a pro.
So, do you get to fly for free?
We can hear you smirking all the way through the internet. You were probably asked this question before you even began your job, and, way back then, you might have even answered with a hopeful, “I don’t know, but I hope so!” By now you’ve accepted the truth that you still pay your own way for vacations, and you’ve probably heard this question so many times you’ve threatened to punch the next person who asks. (If that’s true, you might consider buying yourself two tickets to paradise — you need that vacation.)
But there’s a reason people are asking this particular question, and it’s related to the romance of travel — something you can use to your advantage with your marketing efforts. As you know, travel is often a highly desirable activity, and the ability to do it at no cost is the object of many a person’s affections. That’s why we have mileage programs and travel rewards. People love free travel.
The next time someone asks, follow up your sigh and it’s accompanying, “Sadly, no,” with a story about that great trip you did take recently. While free travel is primo, any leisure travel at all is a close second and the point is that you have an opportunity to share a piece of the world with your
interrogator conversation partner, and you might even inspire them to think about taking their own trip.
What’s going on at the airport these days?
This is a huge question, is it not? You may have just wrapped up your fall advertising buy, begun a runway expansion, or revised your crisis communication plan, but is that what your question-asker is getting at? Well, it depends on who’s asking, but generally, probably not. Chances are, what your audience is really looking for is some inside information, a tidbit of news that might not be quite 100% public information yet. So how will you answer? If you’ve got something in the works, give them a teaser. We’ve all seen those ads for next week’s episode of Best New Drama on Television and they always leave you wanting more information.
New route coming soon? No need to say which airline or city, just drop a hint that you’ve got something big coming down the pike, and they might want to pick up a bottle of sunscreen, or wax their skis, or save up their appetite, depending on what sort of destination you’ve secured.
Jobs can be another great opportunity to give a little inside information. You might know, for example, that the airport is looking to hire a new customer service person or electrician, and spreading the word can generate goodwill in the community, and might even help bring the airport a great new employee.
But what if there’s nothing new going on? In that case, start something! It can be as simple as a Facebook promotion where you’re giving away a $50 gift card as a reward in a travel photo contest or simple sweepstakes.
When are you going to get a flight to [fill in the blank]?
There are two ways to answer this one. The first is a technical breakdown of how air service works. Oftentimes, your audience doesn’t understand the fact that to get a flight to a new destination first means that you must prove to the airline that you can fill seats to that city. Even fewer people understand that the airlines have a limited fleet and must make their decisions based on profitability. If you think your audience has interest — and time — to hear you out for a 2-minute crash course, go for it! Not so much? Try plan B.
Plan B involves building trust by first acknowledging your audience’s desire for that flight, no matter how unlikely it is you’ll get non-stop service to Matamoros, Mexico. Your inquirer is sharing with you something that has meaning to them and won’t hear a word you say if you begin with, “Unfortunately….” In fact, they’re probably already prepared for you to say that you’re never going to get a flight to their desired destination, so catch them off guard. Start with, “Oh, that’s a great destination — what is it that interests you in visiting there?” They’ll likely respond with, “grandkids,” “family,” “second home,” or something similar. When they feel heard, they’re more likely to hear your own response.
At this juncture, break it to them easy with something along the lines of, “I can see why you’d want a non-stop flight to that city. I appreciate you sharing that with me and just so you know, if we are able to show through data that enough people fly to that city from our airport every week, we would have a chance at securing service with an airline. Thank you for supporting our airport — it really takes community support to help us grow!”
I had the worst experience with [fill in the blank with airline, rental car agency, or other tenant]. Can you fix it?
This is another great opportunity to build trust with your audience by letting them know you’ve heard them and understand their frustration. After that, consider asking them to send you a letter or email documenting their experience. With that in hand, tell them, you’ll be able to address the situation to the extent you’re able. Depending on how receptive your audience seems, this may be a good place to educate about the difference between the airport and its tenants. We like using the “we’re like a mall” explanation — helping them see that the airport is a facility that leases space to tenants, like a mall leases space to each store.
It’s a little tricky to explain this without sounding like you’re shifting blame or shirking responsibility, which is why we will also pause to remember that when it comes to the customer, perception is reality. If they perceive that the airport is the same as the airline, then they will hold you equally responsible, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a bad experience with an airline at your airport, for example, will not keep the passenger from choosing that airline in the future, but may cause them to avoid your airport instead.
As a member of the airport staff, you can apologize for their negative experience (not that the airport is necessarily responsible, but that you’re sorry they had to go through what they did), and you can document and attempt to address the situation.
What other questions are you asked on a regular basis, and how do you answer them? Tell us in the comments section!
Need more help with crafting responses to challenging public relations questions and situations? We offer marketing mentoring and public relations training, which means we can help you create solutions. Visit our contact page to tell us about your biggest challenges and we’ll let you know how we can help!