Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards and the continued efforts of gateways across the globe to raise the bar on customer service and create unique airport experiences.
Because it was and still is one of my dad’s favourite songs and I probably heard it played a thousand times when I was a kid, I have always had a soft spot for ‘Unforgettable’, the song made famous years ago by the dulcet tones of Nat King Cole.
Unfortunately, back when I was a kid and arguably until the last 15 to 20 years, ‘unforgettable’ wasn’t a word you would commonly use in a good way to describe the world’s airports.
In those days the ‘passenger experience’ was far from the top priority and, let’s be honest, people were far more likely to put up with mediocrity ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago than they are now.
Things are very different today, of course, and with many passengers having a greater choice of airports to fly out of than ever before and airlines now prepared to up sticks and move their entire operations to another gateway if they don’t get want they want, the pressure really is on airports to deliver something special.
Some, like perennial Airport Service Quality (ASQ) winners Incheon, Indianapolis, Seoul-Gimpo, Delhi–Indira Gandhi and Moscow Sheremetyevo clearly excel at this, as does Singapore Changi – which finished joint top with Incheon in the highly prized global category for airports handling Over 40mppa – and most of the other 2015 winners.
Indeed, they have been responsible for many of the most pioneering customer service initiatives ranging from the opening of cinemas, ice rinks, theatres and golf courses to the only airside transit hotel in the world with its own outdoor swimming pool.
We salute them all and, in this ‘customer service’ themed issue, you can read about some of their latest initiatives as well as a host of others by airports across the globe.
In addition to reviewing the ASQ results, which includes pictures from the awards ceremony at ACI Asia-Pacific’s Regional Conference and Exhibition in Australia, we also have customer service focused features on airport security; embracing the passenger experience; passenger innovation; airport car parking; and health and wellbeing. The latter is particularly poignant for me as about ten years ago I was journeying through an airport in Asia when on a travellator, in the middle of nowhere, an elderly man sadly collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack right in front of me.
It was, naturally, quite upsetting. The situation arguably made worse by the fact that ‘help’ didn’t arrive for about five minutes and when it did, those involved were powerless to do anything about it because they didn’t have the technology/tools to try and save the man’s life.
Thankfully, things are much improved these days with airports better equipped than ever before to deal with medical emergencies. You will be able to read about Swedavia’s investment and deployment of potentially life saving defibrillators throughout Stockholm Arlanda and other more R&R based initiatives in our ‘health and wellbeing’ focused customer service feature.
This issue also turns the spotlight on Vilnius Airport ahead of ACI Europe’s Regional Airports Conference & Exhibition in Vilnius, and takes a closer look at the relatively new phenomenon of remote ATC towers.
We also look back at the recent Airport Economics & Finance Conference and Exhibition in London where high finance, PPP deals, route development and economic regulation were just a few of the topics up for debate.
Elsewhere you can read about the retail revamp at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport; big baggage handling projects at Keflavík, Moscow Sheremetyevo and Bahrain; and the creation of a new Terminal 2 at Saõ Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport.
The airport in the spotlight is Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Airport Authority’s CEO, Christina Cassotis, tells us more about her ambitious route development plans and the way forward for PIT as a fast, efficient and customer friendly O&D gateway.
I hope you agree that it is another cracking issue that covers a wide variety of topics and airports from across the planet.