2020 Hindsight: Navigating the ‘new normal’ by embracing change

Guest Author by Guest Author | Mar 29, 2021

Looking back on a turbulent 2020, it is safe to say that change was the only constant. The skies grew dark for the air travel industry in March, as travel bans were instituted across the globe, bringing air traffic to a standstill. In the face of a crisis of unprecedented proportions, Malta International Airport consulted with international organizations and national health authorities to chart a course for action which simultaneously safeguarded the interests of the airport, its team members, and passengers.

Guest insight at the forefront of decision making

The decisions taken by Malta Airport following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic were largely data-driven, and passengers played a primary role in determining the immediate priorities of the airport. To determine the exact factors causing consumer confidence to collapse, a Travel Perception Survey was launched among the public. The following were the topmost concerns which emerged from the survey, and the actions taken by the airport to address them directly:

  • Cleanliness concerns: Malta Airport adopted a more frequent schedule for the routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including security trays, touchscreens, and washrooms – which is aligned to the recommendations of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
  • Close contact with other persons: Partition walls were installed inside the terminal to better segregate passengers and visitors, while access to the Check-In Hall was limited to airport employees and departing passengers. The airport’s transition to touchless technologies was also fast-tracked, and in a matter of weeks, passport and boarding pass readers as well as automated border control systems were installed at Departures and Arrivals. To enforce social distancing, Malta Airport’s existing queue monitoring system was upgraded to alert frontliners in real-time when distance is not maintained by guests. The airport is helping guests maintain the required distances by transmitting information on its digital display screens and through public service announcements, while physical distancing signage, such as floor stickers and seat belt barriers, have also been installed.
  • Access to reliable and updated information: As more guests took to digital media to get in touch with the airport, improvements were made to virtual communication channels to ensure that the team continues to deliver excellent customer service online. Malta Airport launched a user-friendly webpage dedicated to information relating to travel restrictions and requirements, new health and safety measures at the airport, and changes to the operation of our retail and dining outlets. To better prepare guests for their airport journey, a step-by-step video was also created to showcase the changes implemented at the airport and was shared on all online media platforms.

Doing more with less through insourcing

Given the blow dealt to aviation as a whole by the COVID-19 pandemic, doing the utmost with the resources available became crucial to Malta Airport’s operation. Once the workload of both customer services and security teams lightened, an Airport Care Team (ACT), composed of front-liners from the aforementioned departments, was set up. All ACT members were trained to identify symptomatic COVID-19 cases and provide assistance, guidance, and reassurance to guests visiting or travelling though the terminal.

Members of the rescue and fire-fighting department, on the other hand, were professionally trained to fumigate and sterilize potentially contaminated areas inside the terminal, which enabled the team to respond more efficiently when COVID-19 positive cases were identified on the airport campus.

Throughout the year, representatives from all departments were also invited to participate in employee focus groups, aimed at continuing to evolve the passenger experience through Malta Airport by tackling specific topics related to the customer experience and any issues relating to them.

Reaping the fruit of the seeds sown in 2020

Malta International Airport’s efforts to deliver a customer experience of excellent quality have been noted by travelling passengers, who were particularly pleased with the airport’s ease of way finding, cleanliness, staff courtesy, and safety and security. The airport ended the year with an all-time high overall satisfaction score of 4.46, surpassing the European average of 4.28.

Our guests have once again spoken and, given the incredibly tough year that was 2020, their vote of confidence in our airport gains even more significance as we achieved our highest overall passenger satisfaction score yet. The achievement of top scores for cleanliness and safety and security speaks volumes about our commitment to address guests’ most pressing needs in the context of the pandemic without compromising on service excellence. This is not the end of the road; it is just the beginning of our airport’s path to recovery, but as we look forward to busier days, we remain committed to collecting feedback from our guests and adapting to their changing needs while continuing to exceed their expectations,

Alan Borg, CEO, Malta International Airport

The article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.

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