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Is it time for airports to introduce mood managers to ensure the right ambience at airports? Martijn Steur investigates.

We are people; we are ruled by the mood we’re in. 

When we’re not in a good mood, we are not happy. When we are not happy, we don’t function well. And to make matters worse, moods can be contagious.

In a 2014 study by Fowler and Christakis, researchers looked at the impact of happiness or sadness on friends. 

The problem with a person who lacks energy and enthusiasm is that their mood impacts others. They can bring others down or pick them up. Moods are even more infectious than germs from people bringing a cold to the workplace.

The good news is, of course, that it does work the other way around, too! If you are around a happy person, the probability that you will be happier goes up by 25%.

A positive mood is worth billions for companies in any shape and form. Coming from a background in the airport industry, I’ve been involved in the dynamics of airports – talk about a high-traffic location – and learned from up close a thing or two about the struggle with mood.

Change of mood

Let’s face it; flying is a severe adversary of anyone’s good mood. The stress factors around flying – and airports can’t help but being the key part in that – are just too high. 

The stress curve on the opposite page depicts what a typical departing passenger experiences at an airport, and what it brings in terms of worries and anxiety.

Naturally, airports are well aware of all this. Airports and their business partners know that happy people are more open to their surroundings, so explore more, and use their dwell-time to spend money. 

This is one of the reasons why airport invest enormous amounts of effort and money in the selection of shops and retail concepts and the design and layout of airports.

Does this effort pay-off? Yes, it does. The most developed airports improve their position in the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) ratings and in recent years these airports have seen a huge increase in non-aeronautical business.

However, because mood isn’t a static element in the overall experience at any commercial location, it needs the extra addition of someone who knows what buttons to push to get the mood right every hour of the day. 

A ‘mood manager’ sensing what to do, and when to do it, to get the customers in the happy mood that will lift their spirits – and their spending.

Everybody happy?

High traffic locations are like theatres: they change with every crowd that comes in. Lights, sounds, smells, dynamic, temperature, movements, the whole atmosphere of to the experience depends on what is happening inside the theatre.

Well-designed surroundings are undoubtedly essential in creating an attractive look and feel. But those surroundings remain a given, the customers that either trickle or pour into them will bring their own variable mood.

Ideally, the mood of every single airport passenger and every single shopping mall visitor should be managed, but it will take some time before we have an app that will make that happen.


The mood manager

In the meantime, the next best thing is a mood manager who‘s sole responsibility lies with nothing but creating the most ideal circumstances for people to feel relaxed, happy and in the mood to spend their time shopping, eating and drinking.

This person should form part of the fabric of the airport management team, as it is not just a matter of better lighting or a change of background music here and there. It needs a helicopter view.

Managing the mood of such a usually large area involves the co-operation of many, from the retail outlet’s owners to the F&B people to the technical department. 

Therefore, it needs to be brought together by someone with the capacity to oversee every possible element that will create an agreed upon mood every day of the year.

Someone who will be able to bring retail experience to the table as well as knowledge about consumer behaviour in high traffic locations. A people’s manager for sure, able to inspire everyone involved, to help create the mood they will all profit from after all.

Would the addition of a mood manager also work for other large organisations? Clearly it would, as long as the workforce consists of human beings. 

Bringing in a mood manager responsible for creating and guarding the right positive mood around any company will pay off in terms of higher productivity, greater motivation and involvement, and will add a spark in terms of customer service.

Now there’s a thought that should put you in a good mood! 

About the authors

Martijn Steur is an experienced commercial manager, consultant and entrepreneur specialising in strategy development and execution.


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