Be the best airport in customer experience in both departures and arrivals

Valérie St-James by Valérie St-James | Dec 1, 2018

By Valerie St. James, Senior Manager, Market Research, ASQ, ACI World, and Sevda Fevzi, Manager, ASQ Strategic Marketing, ACI World

Are departing passengers more satisfied with an airport’s services than arriving passengers? Or vice versa? Are there any specific groups of passengers particularly influenced or less satisfied with the arrivals service at an airport?

The departure experience at an airport can mark the beginning of a trip for a passenger, whilst for others, it is the beginning of the return trip. The same logic can be applied to passengers arriving at an airport where they have either reached their destination or have returned back home. In both cases, the passenger experiences two starts and two ends to the journey through an airport, which can have an impact on the onward journey or form a lasting memory of an airport.

The Passenger journey

For an airport to get the most out of an investment to improve passenger experience, we must start by understanding the overall passenger journey. At arrivals, airports are constrained by the fact that the main objective of the passengers is to leave the airport as soon as possible. Is it even worth exploring this process? Absolutely, and even more!

An airport passenger can experience different emotions during arrivals, compared to departures, and has distinctive priorities and a different state of mind. How do airports enhance customer experience satisfaction levels for this audience?

Airport arrivals

The arrivals process is part of the entire passenger journey. There can be more or less steps to be reached depending on the context – is the passenger arriving internationally or domestically? Do they have checked luggage or carry-on only? One thing all these different types of passengers have in common is that they are anxious to complete the process. It may be that someone is waiting for them, they are on their way to a meeting or they are just tired from their trip. This feeling of being rushed puts the passenger in a certain mood with a specific set of expectations. It is even more important to explore the key dimensions that contribute in creating a positive experience for passengers.

To pinpoint those key dimensions and ensure that every passenger journey touchpoint is considered is to put yourself in your passengers’ shoes. Throughout the journey, they are discovering the airport, they experience the service and the facilities and they interact with the staff. What information do they need? What emotions are they experiencing? What messages are they receiving from the environment they are exposed to? All of these variables will have an impact on their overall appreciation of the process.

Surveying passengers for better results

When surveying the passengers at arrivals, emotions and perceptual evaluation of services must be taken into account:

  • The overall flow at each step of the process: immigration, baggage claim and customs.
  • The overall perception of security, ambiance, walking distances, wayfinding, organization of the waiting line, and availability and helpfulness of the staff.

Once the range of emotions and perceptions has been identified, measuring the level of satisfaction for each of those elements provides airports with the full picture of customer experience sentiments. It will also offer the level of details necessary to support prioritization of improvement initiatives and potentially add additional resources where necessary. Repeating measurement of customer experience satisfaction over time is an effective way to understand the return on investments (ROI) of your initiatives.

However, surveying passengers at arrivals brings its own set of challenges. Even though it would be tempting to reach out to the passengers once they are back home and more open to take the time to share their experience, real time surveys have much more value. The experience is still fresh in their minds and their moods have not been impacted by any event that may have happened after leaving the airport. Also, passengers should be intercepted close to the end of their journey to allow measurement of the entire process, but their level of promptness to participate will be reduced. To counter this, ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) has devised an App-driven survey on tablet devices, where the passenger is interviewed by a fieldwork agent to help accelerate the time it takes for the passenger to complete the survey.

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While the arriving passengers may seem to have limited opportunities to contribute to an airport’s non-aeronautical revenues, improving the passenger experience can bring an airport to the next level. Will a positive, simple and quick process have an impact on the passenger’s mood? Will it provide more time to stay in the retail area? Understanding your arriving passengers and their expectations will not only improve their perception of your airport but will pave the way to explore new sources of revenue. Through the ASQ Arrivals Survey, an airport will also understand further how the passenger intends to travel when leaving the airport, as well as capturing an in-depth passenger profile and demographic information.

To be the best in customer experience, ACI recommends airport members to be the best in both ways for their passengers, in departures and arrivals, and invites ACI member airports to implement the ASQ Departures and ASQ Arrivals Survey programmes.

Valérie St-James

Valérie St-James

Senior Manager, ASQ Programme
Valerie St-James leads the airport service quality benchmarking programme team’s efforts in market research, operations, quality assurance and new product initiatives. With more than 15 years’ experience, Valerie is known for her expertise in transforming consumer data into meaningful strategic insight. She is devoted in creating robust tools and methodologies allowing airports to emerge in their customer experience journey, while building a strong community and delivering the best passenger experience.
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