15 minutes with Heathrow Express

Posted on in Events News

1207INTERVIEW: One of the pioneers of a dedicated airport express train service, Heathrow Express is still leading the market after 15 years of operations. Today we speak with Fraser Brown, Commercial Director of Heathrow Express about the challenges and opportunities for one of the most well-known airport expresses in the world.

  • There aren't many airport expresses around the world, just over 20 airports in the world can say they have a dedicated airport train service. Why is it important to keep this distinction between an airport rail service and a commuter service that stops at the airport?

  • fraserAirport passengers and regular rail commuters are two very different groups of travellers with very different needs. Commuter rail passengers don't need luggage space, they don't need help with their travel, but they need a stopping service. Air passengers, on the other hand, need more time to board the train, store their luggage on train, understand their travel options, where to purchase tickets - they need reassurance and assistance during the journey. Trying to mix those two passenger groups affects both of them negatively.

  • Last year HEX carried 5.84 million passengers, your market share of people travelling to and from Heathrow Airport by Heathrow Express is over 11% and 30% of central London market. What is your strategy to get more passengers on board and to capture bigger market share?

  • Our main market geography is domestic and short haul business commuters coming for a to London. But not all of these passengers know about Heathrow Express. Our Rugby campaign is part of raising awareness activities in a different way. Advertising at the origin airport is very expensive and not very targeted way to get your message out. Rugby fans are in the same demographics as our customers, so this is a great match for us.

Another way is to work with airlines. Because Heathrow Express is fully owned by the airport, we are in a great position to work closer with airlines in terms of driving sales. For example, our partnership with Aer Lingus allows for a very clear and simple HEX ticket sale through the airline's online shopping basket. In my view, one of the key ways to drive up sales for airport rail operators is to work with airlines.

Passengers plan their flight and hotel stay but very often leave the airport transfer decision for when they land at the airport. We want them to pre-purchase Heathrow Express journey before they travel.
For some time now you are operating a pop-up office at HEX station at Heathrow T5 to better engage with your customers. What are the main takeaways from your conversations with your passengers?

Pleasantly for us, we found that our passengers associate closely with Heathrow Express brand and feel passionate about the service. We are discussing many things with our customers, from volume of the Heathrow Express on-board TV, to how can we improve our ticket selection and value, for example for travelling families or leisure passengers.

Thank you for talking with airrail NEWS!

Heathrow Express is hosting the UK AirRail 2014, taking place on 27 November at London Hilton Paddington Hotel.