How airports are using scent
to welcome back passengers in 2021


With vaccines rolling out and restrictions rolling back, people are excited to travel again.

According to a recent survey by AirBnB, 54% of people are planning to travel in 2021. Yet there is still uncertainty in the air.  People are looking for reassurance; they want to feel “relaxed” (44%), “comfortable” (34%) and “safe” (33%) during their first post-pandemic trip.

Ambient scent can help airports & airlines meet these traveler expectations.

Reassure travelers with the ‘scents’ of clean

For people to feel comfortable returning to airports, travelers must be reassured that the facility is clean and safe.

Scrubbing and disinfecting are not enough – people can’t always see ‘clean,’ but they can smell it.  89% of people believe odor is a key indicator of a space’s cleanliness, or lack thereof, and research has found that scent can reduce anxiety by more than 60%.

To reinforce the sense of clean, airports are adding ambient scent to their COVID-19 protocols.

Airport World Magazine recently published an article exploring how Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is using scent to create a comprehensively reassuring experience for their passengers.

“Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is committed to the safety and wellbeing of our passengers, and this includes a deep emphasis on cleanliness,” says Port of Seattle’s Manager for Custodial Services, Valentine Smith.  “Focusing on cleanliness and creating pleasantly scented areas is part of how we create an elevated passenger experience here at SEA.”

Raise customer satisfaction to ‘scent’sational heights

As more people get vaccinated, the ACI is predicting rapid increases in air passenger volume during 2021, according to Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira.  This poses a threat to traveler satisfaction, which saw a boost due to the lack of crowds in 2020.

Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power notes that “compared to the pre-COVID-19 environment when most airports were running significantly over capacity, the lack of crowds and long lines is actually creating a very convenient experience for travelers right now.”

Many airports are incorporating scent into their plans as they prepare for the rebound in passenger numbers.  Diffusing ambient fragrance can reduce perceived wait times, improve traveler moods, and even improve passenger evaluations of customer service.

Research by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that Ambient scenting can improve your employees’ customer service performance, and your customers’ perceptions of their service, which can go a long way to maintaining the record-high 2020 traveler satisfaction numbers and getting those sky-high scores.

Improve the ‘go’ with common scents

A stop in the restroom is a nearly inevitable part of the travel experience.  If this necessity is unpleasant for travelers, it can have a big impact on travel businesses’ bottom line.  According to the ACI’s “Airport Service Quality: Airport Cleanliness,” report, washroom cleanliness, combined with terminal cleanliness, affects overall passenger satisfaction more than any other infrastructure factor.

It can be difficult to keep airport restrooms smelling fresh due to high-traffic use.  With traveler numbers trending up, this challenge will be back, and airports have to be ready.  Prolitec’s Genie system is designed specifically to handle these high traffic environments, neutralizing even the most persistent malodors.

As Airport World Magazine shared from Valentine Smith at SEA: Ambient scent can positively impact the travel experience, which is why we diffuse freshening scents in our high-traffic areas.  SEA has partnered with Prolitec’s scenting system, Genie, since 2017 to successfully neutralize unwanted odors in restrooms and pet relief areas.  Prolitec’s proprietary technology targets malodors and odor-causing bacteria on the molecular level.”

According to traveler feedback – the system is a hit!  SEA was a finalist for Cintas’s 2019 annual America’s Best Restroom competition.

“We appreciate that people think we have some of the best seats in the house.” said SEA spokesman Perry Cooper, “That’s how we roll.”

Airports are constantly adapting to new normal, but 2021 is expected to create a new standard for travel. Airports like SEA are welcoming passengers back by using methods that make scents, while saying goodbye to 2020, plane and simple.


Check out the latest from Airport World Magazine on the subject here.

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