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Munich Airport’s on-site airport brewery holds craft beers that adhere to purity standards from the 16th century and beer garden-style seating for 600. Image via Munich Airport

APEX Insight: Airlines are racing to ensure that they have the brand power and bandwidth to accommodate the needs and preferences of millennials – and they aren’t alone. As millennials overtake Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in business and leisure travel, airports are vying to impress this key market segment with breweries and luxury gyms.

Research by global loyalty agency ICLP found that 58 percent of millennials enjoy the airport experience, compared to only 42 percent of Baby Boomers. Unlike the majority of Boomers, which perceive the time spent at the airport as little more than a means to an end, members of the 18 to 35-year-old age group are more likely to see and seek value in the airport experience. “This survey highlights the need for airports to identify those passengers who have a choice in the airport they travel from, and understand the factors that are particularly important to that group,” says Mignon Buckingham, managing director of ICLP. According to the survey, these factors include retail and dining options, which are reportedly more important to millennials than any other generation. Companies with strong, authentic brand stories are a shoe-in for the generation, but quantity is another selling point: Millennials want the option to choose and curate their own experiences.

Research by global loyalty agency ICLP found that 58 percent of millennials enjoy the airport experience, compared to only 42 percent of Baby Boomers.

Millennials may select one airport over another because of available retail and dining offerings, but what does that really mean for a generation heralded as the cheapest? Indeed, millennials may be less likely to purchase a house and car than their predecessors, but that doesn’t mean they’re opposed to spending money altogether. According to Katie Jones, director of Business Development for Sixel Consulting Group, millennials are selective and sporadic with their spending, but willing to splurge if there is a high experiential return. “We’re going to spend $1,000 on concert tickets to get to Coachella,” she said. “But we’re going to get there using Spirit and when we get there we’re going to camp.” When it comes to airports, millennials enjoy the experiences provided by lounges, and luxury is fair game, too, explains Jones. This is likely what Baltimore–Washington International Airport was thinking when it opened ROAM Fitness in the new connector between Concourses D and E. The luxury gym, which sells and rents Lululemon clothing so that users needn’t tote around their gear, was specifically designed to cater to on-the-go millennials.

As digital natives, millennials are self-reliant and accustomed to fast, online service options, making them likely candidates for the self-service kiosks emerging in airports across the world. According to the Airport IT Trends Survey, self-service check-in kiosks are almost universally available with nine out of 10 airports having deployed them this year – up 75 percent from the previous year. But airports shouldn’t nix human interaction altogether: Millennials prize efficiency but their aversion to human interaction is a matter of debate. The findings of a survey conducted by Mattersight Corporation show that, contrary to popular belief, millennials prefer communicating in person in most instances, as these interactions are more likely to result in meaningful experiences.

Self-service check-in kiosks are almost universally available with nine out of 10 airports having deployed them this year.

Flexible booking options, best value for the dollar and a wide selection of à la carte add-ons make low-cost carriers a favorite among millennial travelers, and airports that service these airlines are likely to garner higher numbers of millennial visitors. Houston’s George Bush International Airport, for example, offers flights with Frontier, VivaAerobus, Volaris and WestJet – and was rated a top five North American airport for millennials, according to Trazee Travel, an online publication targeting millennials.

Number one for the second consecutive year in the worldwide category is Munich Airport, reports Trazee Travel. In addition to its bright, airy architecture, and unique selection of shops and restaurants, the airport is home to a wave pool, skating rink and brewery, which are sure to appeal to millennials’ drive for experience. The on-site airport brewery in particular, the first of its kind, features an enormous white awning and beer garden-style seating for 600. Inside the brewery, copper casks hold craft beers that adhere to purity standards from the 16th century – a great photo op for social-media minded millennials.