Investigation reveals Heathrow airport staff are set targets to get passengers to spend money in shops
The Sun has used an undercover reporter to work as one of Heathrow’s Passenger Ambassadors, whose job is to boost retail sales in the terminals. There is a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on this, also showing how airport passengers are getting a raw deal from changing money. In 2016 the airport made a record £612 million in retail income, which is rent from retailers and from car parking charges. This was up 7.7% compared to 2015, while aeronautical income remained unchanged at £1,699 million. Heathrow’s retail division now makes up 22% of its revenues – £612 million out of £2,807 million. The 150 Passenger Ambassadors help travellers once they are through security, and are set strict targets about persuading them to visit shops and spend money. These are between £2,500 to £4,000 per day, and the most successful senior ambassadors claim to hit £10,000 per day. They are told: “The majority of the role will involve interacting with passengers, persuading them to shop if they had not planned to, or encouraging them to spend more by talking to them about offers and promotions across the Terminal….The average spend per passenger must go up as a result of your presence on the terminal floor.” The job description says: “A minute should not pass without a conversation with one or more passengers.”
DUTY SPREE Investigation reveals Heathrow airport staff are set targets to encourage passengers to spend money in shops
An undercover reporter lifted the lid on the sales targets that are Heathrow Passenger Ambassador staff are set
BY HARRY WALLOP (The Sun)
26th February 2017
HOLIDAYMAKERS are being secretly enticed into spending money at Britain’s biggest airport, an investigation has found.
Heathrow has hired staff to stealthily persuade reluctant shoppers to part with their cash, according to a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, which also lifts the lid on how passengers are also getting a raw deal from changing money.
The revelation comes just two days after the airport published figures which shows it is making a record amount of money from renting out space in the airport to retailers such as Harrods, Burberry, World Duty Free and WH Smith.
It made a record £612 million in rent from retailers and from car parking charges last year. This was a jump of 8%. Its retail division now makes up nearly a quarter of its revenues.
One of its methods of boosting sales is the use of Heathrow Passenger Ambassadors. The airport employs more than 150 of these to help travellers once they are through security. “Whether you’re looking for flight information, directions or any kind of help with your journey, our team will get you quickly on your way,” the airport says on its public website, explaining the role of the ambassadors.
But what the company does not make clear is that the employees, who wear a distinctive purple uniform – as well as helping passengers find their way about – are set strict targets about persuading them to visit shops and spend money.
Passenger Ambassadors are set daily targets to persuade travellers to spend between £2,500 to £4,000, by guiding travellers towards the shops. The most successful senior ambassadors claim to hit £10,000 a day.
Dispatches sent a reporter undercover to work as a Heathrow Passenger Ambassador. On being hired, they received the following job description: “The majority of the role will involve interacting with passengers, persuading them to shop if they had not planned to, or encouraging them to spend more by talking to them about offers and promotions across the Terminal….The average spend per passenger must go up as a result of your presence on the terminal floor.”
Ambassadors, who wander the public areas “airside” (where passengers kill time once they are through security), are told they need to approach as many passengers as possible, asking if they need any help, and then guiding the conversation towards the shopping opportunities and the deals in the shops.
“Approach all passengers with a smile and a benefit statement regarding the promotions on offer. The more passengers you approach and help, the more conversions achieved. A minute should not pass without a conversation with one or more passengers,” the job description states.
The aim is to persuade passengers to visit the shops, which ambassadors escort them to. If a holidaymaker spends money, the Ambassador can then find out from the shop assistant the value of the transaction, which the Ambassador then logs on a handheld terminal. If they hit enough of their targets they are paid a bonus.
Agnes Nairn, a consumer and marketing expert who is dean at the Hult International Business School, says: “I think that’s deceptive. There are rules about how any advertising has to be clearly labelled as advertising. I’m not sure this is much different.”
Helen Dewdney, a consumer champion who runs the Complaining Cow website, says: ‘Heathrow is not breaking any laws, but I do think it is underhand.
‘It’s one thing for a Turkish taxi driver to take you via his brother’s carpet shop, but you kind of expect that. You certainly are not prepared for these sort of tactics at Heathrow.’
At the end of last year, it was disclosed that bureaux de change at airports were offering terrible rates to customers, with the average rate 13% worse than the market exchange rate, according to one report.
But the Dispatches programme also reveals that at Stansted, Moneycorp, which operates all the bureaux de change at the airport, fails to inform customers that they can avoid paying a 5% commission on changing money if they use the foreign exchange ATM – also operated by Moneycorp – right next door to the desk.
The member of staff is recorded as telling an undercover reporter: “I can’t tell you that; you have to ask me. If you ask me is it cheaper I can tell you. Because if we…say to every customer who walks past we’d never get anyone to serve because everyone would just go to the cash machine. So we are not allowed to tell you it.”
Mark Horgan, the chief executive of Moneycorp, said: “Our aim is to provide the best possible service to our customers, and we do not ask staff to conceal information about where to find the best rates.”
Heathrow denied they were misleading any travellers and that it had been voted by passengers as ‘best airport shopping experience’. A spokesman added: “Passenger Ambassadors are an important part of our business and we expect the team to put the needs of our passengers first.”
Heathrow’s 2016 profits rise by 20%
by Lee Hayhurst (Travel Weekly)
Feb 24th 2017
Increased passenger numbers helped Heathrow hike profits by almost 20% last year.
The west London hub achieved a pre-tax profit of £267 million, a rise of 19.7% over 2015.
This came a revenue rose by 1.5% to £2.8 billion with passenger numbers up 1% to a record 75.7 million as passenger charges fell by 1%.
Retail revenue increased by 7.7% to £612 million, including £138 million from duty free sales and £114 million from car parking.
The airport received the green light in October to build a third runway, subject to final government approval, and will consult on plans to bring in 25,000 extra flights a year from 2021 including up to 40 new long-haul routes.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “2016 was a milestone year for Heathrow. I am very proud of what our 76,000 colleagues have achieved.
“We gave better service at lower cost to a record number of passengers and helped British businesses across the country trade more with the rest of the world.”
He added: “We have started the planning process for expansion and are preparing the skills and the supply chain we will need to build it sustainably and affordably. Heathrow is delivering for Britain.”
Heathrow (SP) Limited Results for the year ended 31 December 2016
Some extracts from the results are copied below:
Passengers 75.7 million in 2016 compared to 75.0 million in 2015 (up 1.0%)
Retail revenue per passenger £ 8.09 in 2016 and £7.58 in 2015 (up 6.7%)
In the year ended 31 December 2016, revenue increased 1.5% to £2,807 million (2015: £2,765 million).
Aeronautical £1,699 million in 2016 and the same £1,699 in 2015
Retail £612 million in 2016 and £ 568 million in 2015 (up 7.7%)
Other £496 million in 2016 and £ 498 million in 2015 (up 0.4%)
Total revenue £2,807 million in 2016 and £ 2,765 million in 2015 (up 1.5%)
In the year ended 31 December 2016, retail revenue increased 7.7% to £612 million (2015: £568 million).
Retail revenue per passenger rose 6.7% to £8.09 (2015: £7.58).
Duty and tax-free £138 million in 2016, and £128 million in 2015 (up 7.8%)
Airside specialist shops £115 million, and £100 million in 2015 (up 15.0%)
Bureaux de change £50 in 2016, and £53 million in 2015 (up 5.7%)
Catering £49 million in 2016 and £ 45 million (up 8.9%)
Other retail income £86 million in 2016, and £75 million in 2015 (up 14.7%)
Car parking £114 million in 2016 and £107 million in 2015 (up 6.5%)
Other services £60 million in both 2016 and 2015
Total retail revenue £612 million in 2016 and £568 million in 2015 (up 7.7%)
“Retail performed strongly in 2016 following the major redevelopment of luxury stores in Terminal 5 including new brands which have strengthened Heathrow’s unrivalled airport shopping experience.
Performance in duty and tax-free stores has continued to improve following extensive store refurbishment in Terminals 4 and 5. Catering has grown in the year as a result of new and refurbished outlets and increases in passenger participation.
Car parking also performed well, with continued take-up of Heathrow’s expanded car parking product range and successful yield management. Growth in retail income accelerated in the second half of the year, particularly in areas such as duty and tax-free and airside specialist shops, driven by the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum in late June
2016. Redevelopment of luxury stores in Terminal 4 was largely completed in late 2016 and started contributing to overall retail performance.”
“The benefits of investment in Terminal 5 retail outlets and new car parking capacity continue to flow through strongly with over £200 million secured out of the £300 million incremental commercial revenue target set for the regulatory period.”