Benet Wilson talks to a handful of airports that have used ACI’s Airport Service Quality survey to enhance the passenger experience and strengthen their brand.
The Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards, created in 2006 by Airports Council International (ACI), have become a tool that facilities around the world are using to market their excellence in the passenger experience.
The highly respected ASQ awards are handed out based on a passenger satisfaction survey on the airport service experience taken on the day of travel.
Every month, departing passengers are interviewed at the gate on more than 30 aspects of their experience at the airport that day, including satisfaction with the facilities, cleanliness and availability of toilets, staff courtesy and the efficiency of the process.
As of 2013, ASQ surveys are being done at 275 airports in more than 50 countries, with more than 350,000 passenger interviews conducted.
Halifax International Airport
Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA), which runs Halifax Stanfield International Airport, has won a whopping 28 awards – 16 first place, eight second place and four third place finishes, including Best Airport in the World handling under 5mppa for seven consecutive years.
“In addition to this recognition, Halifax Stanfield was inducted into the ACI director general’s roll of excellence, honouring airports that have ranked among the top five airports in the world for five consecutive years in the ASQ ratings,” says the airport’s Kelly Martin, manager of customer relations.
Halifax Stanfield was the first Canadian airport and the second in North America to be awarded the ASQ Assured Certification, adds Martin. “This coveted certification recognises HIAA’s commitment to maintaining this industry’s highest service standards.”
Halifax’s volunteer host programme – known as The Tartan Team because of their unique Nova Scotia tartan waistcoats – provide a warm and friendly welcome to passengers and visitors, enthuses Martin.
“They circulate throughout the airport providing information and directions, as well as, providing assistance to apprehensive travellers,” she says.
Halifax Stanfield also maintains personal care emergency supplies for those people in need, said Martin. Supplies include baby formula, baby food, diapers, bottles, cream, and other baby supplies, blankets, sleeping mats, toiletry items, bottled water, and calling cards.
“We recognise that air travel, at the best of times, is a stressful experience and that not everyone travels for pleasure. We strive to do everything we can to ease that stress levels of passengers by delivering service The Stanfield Way.”
While the ASQ awards are wonderful to win and have provided Halifax Stanfield with worldwide recognition, they are a by-product of the airport’s commitment to superior service, says Martin.
“Our passengers and visitors are our primary focus and they will be the beneficiaries of the new programmes and initiatives we undertake to serve them better.”
The airport proudly displays its ASQ awards around the terminal building to remind everyone about the commitment to superior service, says Martin.
“Our ASQ awards also serve to put Halifax Stanfield on the global airport map. They serve as a starting point for our Air Service Development team in their discussions with airlines about new routes and new destinations,” claims Martin.
“Our airline partners see our commitment to service and they know that we will serve them well as we work toward the shared goal of serving our passengers and our community to the best of our ability.”
Jacksonville International Airport
Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) has ranked fifth of all North American airports in ACI’s annual customer satisfaction survey for the last
two years. It was also fifth among airports worldwide serving 5-15 million passengers in 2008 and 2009.
The airport uses customer feedback, including data from the ASQ survey, internal comment forms, social media, and face-to-face customer interaction, to improve the passenger experience, says Bryan Long, Jacksonville’s customer service manager.
Airport improvements include: creating a standardised customer service training initiative for all employees; upgrading bathrooms; offering improved flight, gate, and baggage information screens; providing free Wi-Fi; delivering more food and beverage offerings for longer hours; creating a ‘Preferred Traveller’ lane at the security checkpoint; and building improved signage.
Long also credited its Volunteer Airport Ambassadors, 55 people from all walks of life who donated nearly 10,000 hours of their time in 2013 to help customers.
“We would not have the great reputation for customer service without our ambassadors,” he smiles. “Also, the leadership and hard work of the entire Jacksonville Aviation Authority staff is the foundation which makes us one of the best airports in the world. The success of all depends on each team member.”
The idea of ranking is central to the nature of competitive spirit, says Long. “But being ranked the best for a given period of time, is not as important as steady improvement over time. The goal should always be consistent improvement in each area,” he states.
“The ASQ programme helps us plan both short and long-term goals designed to improve the quality of our delivery and enhance the brand, making JAX a desired location to fly to. Awards will come and go, but the goal is consistent, relentless improvement.”
Jacksonville is about always striving for higher satisfaction, says Long. “Where we do use the awards are when we work with our airline partners to grow new services or get more seats,” he reveals.
“The awards are also useful for our regional economic development teams who are bringing new businesses to the area. The quality of air service plays a big factor when companies are scouting for locations.”
Moscow–Sheremetyevo International Airport
Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport was named Europe’s best airport for the first time in 2012 and successfully repeated the act last year.
Talking about the airport’s 2012 success, airport press secretary, Mark Razenkov, says: “One of the main events of 2012 was the full-scale launch of our Airport Operation Centre, acknowledged as the best innovation project in the transport industry.
“The centre was created to increase production control efficiency, improve response time to different situations and provide passengers and clients of Sheremetyevo Airport with higher safety levels and service quality.
“In 2012, the centre ensured the steady and safe activity of aviation and business partners and prevented failures in the airport’s and airlines’ performance due to internal factors.”
The growth of passenger traffic was accompanied by acknowledgement of the airport’s service quality, says Razenkov. “In 2012 we won the
‘The Best Russian Airport’ award in Condé Nast Traveller magazine,” he comments.
Sheremetyevo continues to combine high growth and traffic volumes with high-quality service for passengers, claims Razenkov.
“This is a great success of the management team and the result of a comprehensive programme for the development of infrastructure and bringing the quality of service in compliance with the best international standards,” notes Razenkov.
Guayaquil–José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport
Ecuador’s José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil, has won ASQ awards every year since 2007.
Spokesman, Mark Rade, noted that airport operator Terminal Aeroportuaria de Guayaquil SA (TAGSA) and the Airport Authority of Guayaquil (AAG) analysed specific ASQ survey findings.
This has led to continuous improvements, including: redesigning restrooms with better quality materials and illumination; adding body scanners to international security checkpoints; installing new carpets in passenger holding areas; improved communications with Customs and Immigration services for a better passenger experience; and investing $2 million for a complete remodelling of food providers in the terminal.
The objective of AAG is to provide customers with the best possible service, says Rade. “Passenger surveys provide a direct way to understanding the real passenger experience at our airport, which helps us see the airport experience as our customers see it,” he comments.
“The ASQ survey allows the airport authority and TAGSA to focus the available resources to accomplish this.”
The ASQ programme also allows Guayaquil to benchmark the airport services with other airports, admits Rade.
He says: “The results since 2007, we feel, speak for themselves. Even though we are a small airport, we compete with the very best in the world, and we feel confident that the ASQ programme will help us to continue to improve our services over the years to come.”