24.08.16

Adele and Ed Sheeran calm passengers at London City Airport

security queue in china airport

If you’ve visited London City Airport recently you may have noticed the things are a little bit livelier in the security areas. That’s because the airport is trialling playing music in busy queuing spots, and has revealed that hitmakers Adele and Ed Sheeran have been most successful at keeping passengers calm.

The airport hopes that playing songs by Adele and Ed Sheeran will stop passengers ‘thinking out loud’ about busy queues to pass through security following consultation with music psychologists at the University of Sheffield and local music consultancy c-burn.

London City Airport has “become the first UK airport to play music for passengers as they go through the airport’s main security search area.” Two playlists of songs were provided by c-burn for the airport to test out - one featuring ambient electronica music and one with upbeat acoustic music - are broadcast throughout the day, with trialled artists including Ben Howard and Jason Mraz.

“So far we’ve had a very positive reaction to the musical addition from staff and passengers alike, with Ed Sheeran currently the most popular artist,” says Melanie Burnley, director of customer experience at the airport.

The airport called upon researchers including Stephanie Bramley, honorary research fellow in the psychology of music at the University of Sheffield for the project. She said: “Music is a flexible resource which can be used to serve a number of functions commercial environments. In an airport, playing music which is subtle, fits in with the overall ambiance of the security search area, deemed to be familiar, and liked by passengers, might act as a positive distraction where passengers focus on the music instead of the time spent completing the security search process. The music may also enhance passenger experience by helping to create a pleasant environment and potentially improving their mood.”

InAVate caught up with London City Airport to find out more about the positive effect music was having on passengers and why these artists in particular were popular. A spokesperson said: “We’ve had lots of verbal feedback from passengers and staff alike, and it is the artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran which have been mentioned on a recurring basis. Because they are more familiar and upbeat, in comparison to classical music for example, we’ve seen the tracks encourage a steady and speedy flow of passengers through security. They are definitely acting as a positive distraction to passengers and helping to create a more relaxed environment.”

They added: “We’re also playing less mainstream but popular music by artists such as Brian Eno, Beirut, Bright Eyes and Four Tet.”

InAVate also spoke to music consultant Richard Lodge from c-burn to discuss their involvement.

Q. What were your selection criteria when putting the playlists together for the airport?

When we were approached by London City Airport to curate a playlist for their security search area it obviously presented a slightly different challenge in comparison to the hospitality and retail environments that we usually soundtrack. From a psychological point of view our aim was to create a soothing relaxed atmosphere to elevate any stress that can be caused through the security check experience.

Our initial take on this was to use ambient electronic music similar to that used in high end health spas and well being resorts to create a soothing relaxed atmosphere. The subtlety of the music in this environment is key, as it needs to engage on an almost subconscious level enhancing passenger's experience as they go through security and alleviate any stress they might feel.

Our second approach was to create an uplifting feel good playlist that would improve people’s mood as they move through security. For this we wanted to include a number of well known artists in order to use familiarity as a distraction technique from the task of move through security.

Management at London City Airport have been trialling both playlists and generally have found that the uplifting, feel good music has improved the moods of both the staff and passengers in the security area.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on why Adele and Ed Sheeran were the most popular artists? Is this due to the mainstream popularity, or other reasons?

The upbeat playlist that we curated actually has a wide range of artists such as Beirut, Bombay Bicycle Club, Passenger, and Lucy Rose right through to Ed Sheeran and Adele. The tracks were chosen as they have an uplifting feel good mood but aren't too over the top. It's no surprise considering the huge success of Adele and Ed Sheeran that their tunes come out as people’s favourites. From a curation point of view it's important for us to have these artists included as they give the playlists an overall feeling of familiarity that in a possibly stressful environment such as airport security can have a calming influence.