Walking into the Arrivals Hall at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2 last December was an uplifting experience. As the doors to the Hall slid open from the functional but rather soulless customs area, a wave of familiar festive tunes provided a wall of cheer for everyone, whether visiting the country or returning home for Christmas.
For the incoming passenger the warmth of the welcome was striking, the more so since the local community were taking the lead with adult choirs, choral societies, orchestras and even schools contributing to the entertainment.
There was a sense that people had turned out voluntarily in a spirited and concerted effort to make first impressions memorable.
The airport experience should be all about the joy of connecting people and places – and episodes like this remind us of that. Unfortunately, only too often all that gets remembered is the hassle of travel. Fears about personal safety, long lines at security and immigration, lost baggage, endless walks through buildings undergoing renovation – not to mention traffic to and from the airport – can all make the journey stressful and difficult for the passenger.
The human touch plays a major role in mitigating the strain and stress of travel. However, to do this well, day in and day out, is difficult to achieve. Everyone who works at an airport, whether employed by the airport itself,
by airlines, contractors, concessionaires or government authorities have some part to play in the passenger experience, either directly or indirectly.
How can airport leaders ensure the human touch gets the attention it deserves given the number of players involved?
- Walk in the passengers’ shoes and see things with their eyes. Map their journey through the airport; identify the bottlenecks and potential difficulties in interfaces with people. Seek passenger feedback, including ASQ data and complaints. Redesign where necessary to improve their experience.
- Make the time and resources available to explain to all stakeholders the customer experience vision for the airport. Ensure training is in place for all stakeholders, not just direct employees. Aim to get people enthusiastic and engaged in the passenger experience. Involve them in the process, listen to their ideas and address any issues they may have.
Leaders don’t always give stakeholder engagement the priority it deserves. It can seem much less important than pressing operational, security and technical issues.
But improvements in passenger experience depend critically on the contributions of many different groups and all stakeholders have a role to play. Investing in the resources needed to bring stakeholders on board makes good sense.
While airports connect people with places, airport leaders connect stakeholders with the customer.