The Solo Female Traveler

apex-experience-6-5-the-solo-female-traveler

Illustrations: Monica Garwood

APEX Insight: As women become more of a recognized force in business and leisure travel, airlines and airports are working harder to accommodate them.

The face – and gender – of air travel is changing. “The average adventure traveler is not a 28-year-old male, but a 47-year-old female. And she wears a size 12 dress,” writes Marybeth Bond, a travel analyst reporting on statistics released by the Travel Industry Association of America. Beyond adventure travel, solo female travelers are taking to the skies in larger numbers, and bringing spending power with them – representing upwards of 85 percent of consumer buying decisions.

SmartWomenTravelers.com is a popular example of the many websites that have sprung up to offer tips to women looking to balance work and home obligations while traveling. “When I think about the whole travel experience, from the time I leave home to the time I board my flight, I think about what I want,” says Carol Margolis, travel consultant and the website’s founder. She says she’s noticed some promising trends emerge in her travels, including secure parking, more nursing rooms and pods, and female-targeted travel products and services.

From Boundaries to Comfort Zones
Parking can be a concern for female travelers who worry about dark and unguarded lots and garages. While Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport offers Park-Ride Reserve parking options for all customers, the service offers an extra level of security that women travelers may appreciate.

“Generally speaking, women are more likely to share their experience with others.” — Hiroko Kawamoto, All Nippon Airways.

The airport park-ride concept was initially launched to the traveling public at Hartsfield in 1985 with 1,250 spaces, says Andrew Gobeil, deputy director of Policy and Communications at the airport. The airport now offers more than 8,000 Park Ride spaces where women can use a secure pickup and drop-off service.

A free shuttle bus that runs 24 hours a day picks up customers at their vehicle and takes them to the curbside at their respective terminals. They can use credit cards to enter and exit the facility without having to pay at a kiosk, which also offers security for female travelers. Other airports with similar services include Baltimore–Washington International and Dallas–Fort Worth International (DFW).

Taking parking a step further, Frankfurt Airport reserves 250 women-only spots in car parks P1–P5 and P8 as a means to shorten distances and ensure security. Introduced in 2013, the pink-marked and flower-decorated spots, which can be reserved in advance, have, however, come under scrutiny by some for singling women out, or reinforcing stereotypes.

apex-experience-6-5-the-solo-female-traveler-2Necessity Is the Mother of All Invention
A 2014 study that looked at breastfeeding spaces in 100 US airports found that only eight offered a private space outside of a bathroom that included electrical outlets, a table and a chair. While 62 percent of airports stated they were breastfeeding-friendly, the study noted that operators need to be educated as to the minimum requirements for a lactation room.

In response, nursing pods and rooms have been popping up across the US and around the world. As of August 2016, DFW offers three nursing rooms for traveling mothers, with the first one having opened in 2014. “The nursing rooms were opened primarily in response to requests from customers, either through our Ask DFW website, phone calls or via social media,” says David Magaña, senior manager, Corporate Communications, for the airport.

The rooms are furnished with a comfortable swivel rocking chair and matching ottoman, along with a sink and a baby changing station. Decorated in nursery-themed colors that appeal to children, the rooms are also fully equipped with diapers, hand wipes and powdered infant formula.

“Once the need was identified and prioritized, DFW’s Customer Experience team worked with the Airport Real Estate team to find space for the rooms, and the Customer Experience team developed the design and contents,” Magaña says, also noting that the airport has plans to add nursing rooms in Terminals C and D in the future.

Whole Kit and Caboodle
In flight, airlines are increasingly offering services and amenities tailored to female travelers. “Generally speaking, women are more likely to share their experience with others,” says Hiroko Kawamoto, executive vice-president and Member of the Board for All Nippon Airways. “It’s important not simply to provide major moments of joy, but an accumulation of small, pleasant experiences. If we understand something new through conversations with a passenger, then we need to reflect that in our services.”

Kawamoto suggests that airlines carefully consider passenger feedback when looking for opportunities to enhance service. “It’s important to come up with innovative ideas that are not in the manual for providing a special experience,” she says. “For example, if a passenger who enjoys wine tells us that the wine was delicious, then you could remove the label from the bottle, attach it to a card and send it to that individual with a message, or if someone likes flowers, you could put some of the flowers from inside the cabin on that passenger’s table.”

“It’s important not simply to provide major moments of joy, but an accumulation of small, pleasant experiences.” — Hiroko Kawamoto, All Nippon Airways

One product that several airlines are differentiating themselves with is amenity kits. Singapore Airlines has created its Salvatore Ferragamo-branded amenity kit specifically for female travelers. Leveraging its extensive system of gaining insights through customer surveys, the airline determined that kits designed uniquely for women would improve passenger satisfaction.

“The surveys are great because we get high participation and gain insights. It’s a fantastic secret weapon to find out what customers want during their flights,” says Singapore Airlines’ spokesperson James Boyd. Packaged in a stylish black-and-white clutch, Ferragamo products include a floral-scented eau de toilette sealed with a pink ribbon, moisturizer and lip balm. In contrast, kits for men come in a PVC wash bag packed with cologne, hand cream
and lip balm.

“We’ve gotten a positive reaction from female passengers because the amenity kit serves as a reminder of their time with us,” Boyd observes. “Our amenity kit is one of those anticipated items from the airline,” he says. “We like for it to stand as a nice reminder of an elegant and comfortable experience on Singapore Airlines.”

Down under, Qantas offers kits for women designed by Kate Spade, while British Airways has turned to Aromatherapy Associates and Emirates offers kits by Bulgari.

Cultivating a Culture
First published in 2005, Lufthansa’s Woman’s World magazine was created to target the increasing number of female frequent flyers in business class. “It made sense to create an additional communication tool addressing travel and lifestyle topics that are especially interesting to this target audience,” says Jens Polkowski, the magazine’s marketing manager.

The magazine comes out four times a year: April, June, September and December. Polkowski explains, “It is available on long-haul flights in first and business class. Female frequent flyers in Germany and Austria also receive the magazine in the mail, with a total circulation of 160,000 copies per issue.”

Taking the theme “traveling in style,” the magazine offers background stories that aim to make the lifestyle and travel of female frequent flyers more attractive. “That includes wearable business and leisure fashion, jewelry and travel accessories, cuisine, culture and design topics,” Polkowski says.

Onward and Upward
SmartWomenTravelers.com’s Margolis applauds these services and amenities, but also points to more initiatives airports and airlines could launch for female travelers. “For example, some Chinese airports have security lines just for women because it makes them feel comfortable and more secure,” she says.

Lounges with more female-friendly features would also be welcome. “They are still more masculine spaces. I’d love to see more comfortable seating and private spaces,” Margolis adds. She would also like to see airports with larger restrooms. “The international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson has large stalls with lots of hooks, so you can fit your luggage, carry-on bags and purses.”

Until then, Margolis recommends that female travelers create their own comfort zones. “I have the mindset that I’ll have a great trip. I always have enough to read and keep me busy. And I always have food like protein bars so I don’t have to worry about being hungry,” she says. “I always travel with my Bose noise-canceling headphones to put myself in a cocoon of relaxation to keep me stress-free.”

“The Solo Female Traveler” was originally published in the 6.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.