Speakers at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2013 Conference highlighted the dependence of future growth of the airport industry on meeting passenger expectations.
"The airport industry is a never ending work in progress as it has to understand and meet the ever evolving needs of passengers," Peter Spurway, VP Corporate Communications at Halifax Airport Authority (Canada) said.
Meeting today's passenger expectations and needs is far from simple, as it involves the overhaul of most components of the airport experience. Interestingly, renovating and revamping existing terminal buildings is trending over the addition of new buildings. Improving terminals' accessibility and appearance are probably the simplest step.
"The vast majority of passengers arrive at the airport in a very emotional state, stressed and fearful, Peter Spurway said.”The airport's challenge is to welcome passengers providing them a genuine sense of comfort and safety."
Two thirds of all passengers fly less than 5 times per year while 35% are regular flyers. “Frequent Flyers want to be in control of their journey," Stephan Copart, Project Manager of IATA's Fast Travel Programme said. The airlines' association study revealed that nearly 80% of all Frequent Flyers majorly appreciate and make use new technologies when traveling through airports. Self-check-in, self-luggage tagging, terminal navigation apps and real-time information feed are tools commonly used by these passengers.
"Implementation of self service solutions put the passenger in control of his journey; however, airports must never forget that percentage of passengers who are uncomfortable with new technology, and ensure enough human support is available at all times," Annegret Reinhard-Lehmann, Senior VP Customer Relations at Frankfurt Airport said.
Human interaction is crucial to help passengers overcome distress and anxiety. A large number of airport operators recently launched training programs involving all customer facing staff. These training programs reflect those commonly used by the hospitality industry and focus on basic concepts like the happy, helpful, courteous, caring, and kind approach. This element of the on-going overhaul process highlights the industry cultural shift from mere provider of infrastructure to customer oriented service provider.
However, there is a critical element that can either boost, or hamper airports' efforts. "Terminal building cleanliness is a determining factor in improving or lowering passengers' perception of the overall experience," David Ellis, Head of Research and Insight at London Heathrow Airport said.
Other essential elements of the airport experience are the key indicators of Airport Service Quality Performance used to measure service levels delivered by airports: waiting time at check-in, waiting time at security, amount of baggage carts available, waiting time at immigration.
"In today's world, acceptable service levels are not enough to satisfy passengers' needs," Giorgio Medici, Head of Customer Care at SEA Aeroporti Milano said. "Good customer experience is linked to timely delivery of services, making passengers' flow management essential to meet expectations."
Airports across the world are heavily investing in improving passengers experience by finding ways of reducing queuing times at immigration, customs and checkpoints while maintaining high levels of security.
Enhancing passengers' experience means providing better solutions, options, and services in airports' departure lounges. "Our research revealed that family groups make up 40% of all passengers transiting through Lisbon airport," Ana Luis of ANA Marketing Services said. "We have remodelled and revamped our services with this data in mind, focusing on a stress free, hands free, entertaining environment." Lisbon airport recently invested in creating family friendly solutions such as family areas, where passengers can prepare food for their children, use microwaves, bottle heaters and purchase food and hygiene products.
Delivering excellence is an enormous task that requires coordination between the airport and all its partners."Airports are like an orchestra; the airport must act as a director to make all partners, services, and vendors come together to deliver excellent customer service," Jung Mi Lim, Customer Service Manager at Incheon International Airport said.
Investing today in delivering a better airport experience is necessary to prepare for tomorrow's needs. Statistics show that the over 65's population will double over the next 20 years. Fine tuning of existing assistance services, better accessibility, better training, and growing attention in meeting passengers' needs are the key element to prepare the industry to deliver all passengers an excellent airport experience while providing outstanding support to passengers with reduced mobility and other disabilities.
Reduced Mobility Rights covered the Customer Service and Passenger Experience section of the Passenger Terminal Expo 2013 Conference held in Geneva between 9 and 11 April 2013.