Parallel: from passengers to fans

Aviation x Premiership Football: what can we learn about experience design?

How might we think about passengers and their airport experience in the same way a premiership football club thinks about its fans?

We invited a group of aviation executives from UK and European airports to an immersive experience looking at fan engagement and how passengers might be treated as loyal supporters.

On the surface, the parallels between airports and premiership football might not seem obvious. That’s why we wanted to put this provocation forward. What can be learnt by being curious and looking at other sectors?

By digging a little deeper, challenges around capacity, experience, engagement and community all rang true for both Chelsea FC and the aviation industry.

Watch the event video below:


Airports are under unprecedented pressure due to the significant increase of air travel in recent years, and it’s no secret that Chelsea FC have hopes to add capacity of around 20,000 to their Stamford Bridge stadium. Both stadia and airports have revenue models that hinge on capacity, so it was particularly interesting to hear how CFC navigate and diversify this model, particularly in the face of the impending stadium works – a similar position many airports are in.

Engagement and Community

For both airports and stadia, engagement with the local community is an important part of outreach.

Matt Mead, Head of Education and Innovation at Chelsea FC Foundation, began the day by talking us through how the Foundation supports the square mile around Chelsea FC. From supporting children to learn how to code through to their Edge of the Box Club which incubates start-ups created by local young people with an idea.

With interesting parallels to how airports get involved with the public, one thing that stood out was the was the Chelsea FC Foundation supports adult education and start-ups. Could some of this thinking be bought to an aerotropolis concept? Could airports start building a strong local business community around the airport through local incubators, or local leadership programmes?


One of the key propositions of the day was around the loyalty of fans, year in, year out, to a club. How might airports create this type of dedicated, fierce loyalty and connection to their passengers?

Fans are loyal to a club in a similar way that passengers might be loyal to a particular airline. Incentives, membership schemes and exclusive deals help create passenger loyalty to airlines in a similar way that clubs foster loyalty through season passes. It is something that has seldom been picked up on by airports themselves.


Chelsea FC highlighted the importance of ‘obsess’ for their fans. The connection fans have to their football club or team is emotional, nostalgic even. It goes without saying that some fans are obsessed with their clubs, teams and players. So, in turn Chelsea FC create an experience that allows that obsession — they are obsessed with their fans being obsessed. They constantly look at how to improve the fan experience with the brand.

Taking this into an aviation context, the airport is full of strong emotional connections that, on the whole, aren’t overly played upon. An emotional goodbye at departures, the anticipation of collecting a special someone arriving or the excitement of going on that yearly summer holiday. Each of these touch-points presents an opportunity to surprise and delight — airports need to be obsessed with their passengers.

Match Day

A major piece of the match day experience at a Premier League venue is the theatre of the occasion sitting alongside how the club uses its heritage to reinforce the tribal values of the team.

In their desire to be efficient transport systems, have airports lost any sense of theatre that used to be there at the advent of flying?

Can they reinforce sense of place and of progress by better representing their heritage? Can they show how airports are places where ajourney starts or ends, which might be to visit loved ones or start a new adventure? How can we better capture and evoke those feelings?

About Parallel

Parallel is the inaugural event hosted by CCD Design & Ergonomics and Chelsea FC Foundation. By allowing ourselves to see experiences through parallel worlds, we open up new collaborations and ways of engaging with our target audience. We collided the worlds of premiership football and aviation to give our attendees a day of thought-starters, and drive curiosity outside of their day-to-day.


Stephanie Clarke

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