Safe and smooth people flow in post-COVID-19 airport customer experience

Guest Author by Guest Author | Nov 17, 2022
By Milla Saaristenperä, New Equipment Business Director, KONE

What is people flow and why does it matter?

Now that we are finally moving towards the “new normal” after COVID-19 and that air travel for business and pleasure is picking up, it is time to pay attention to the changing requirements of people flow at airport terminals. People flow refers to the way people move in and between buildings and good people flow means people are able to move smoothly, safely, comfortably, and without waiting. The interesting thing about people flow is that when it works, we hardly notice it. But when it doesn’t, it surely is visible!

When travelling, many of us have been in the situation where we’ve needed to pick up our carry-on bags and walk up or down a stopped escalator, or when the lift is not working. In other instances, poor signage might lead us to walk around in circles trying to find our gate, or the exit to baggage claim. These types of situations leas to wasted time and irritation; and when we get annoyed by these inconveniences, it directly impacts our overall experience as well as our willingness to spend money in the retail areas or restaurants. An element of time pressure is often associated with airport travel and this is a cause of stress for many. In the absolute worst-case scenario, we can even miss our flight.

It is all about planning, but improvements can also be made along the way

Good people flow does not happen by accident. It requires careful planning, ideally, in the early stages of sketching a new terminal building, e.g., by using traffic simulations. Luckily, improvements can also be made to existing terminals throughout the building lifecycle. The best part about improving people flow at existing airports is that the traffic does not have to be based on estimates, but actual people flow patterns can instead be measured, analyzed and used in simulations, and passengers interviewed for additional feedback.

Krakow Airport

While KONE is widely known for elevators and escalators, we don’t just focus on the number or size of the equipment in our analysis and simulations. We also provide guidance on signage and lighting, and even interior design, which can all significantly improve the overall people flow and customer experience at an airport.


According to the ASQ 2022 Global Traveller Survey, COVID-19 has significantly changed passenger expectations, revealing that passengers prefer automation and touchless experiences. Interestingly, the majority of passengers claim that hygiene and sanitation remain a top priority for them when traveling even post pandemic.

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ASQ 2022 Global Traveller Survey
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Hygiene and sanitation in people flow

KONE has developed several solutions designed to help make people flow safer at busy airports. These include the KONE Handrail Sanitizer for escalators and autowalks, as well as air purifiers for elevators. One interesting piece of customer feedback we’ve received from airports and travellers is that the cleaning of the equipment itself is not sufficient; what is also needed is the communication that the cleaning has taken place. As a result, we upgraded the KONE Handrail Sanitizer, for example, to include a large screen informing passengers about the ongoing disinfecting of the handrail, simultaneously adding a stylish addition to the décor.  


Hear Calin Hera, Business Development Manager, Infrastructure, KONE, and other industry experts speak on the ASQ 2022 Global Traveller Survey two-part webinar series:


Milla Saaristenperä is the New Equipment Business Director for KONE, responsible for Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Ukraine. She is also responsible for Marketing and communications in the region. A Finnish national, she is currently based in Warsaw, Poland. She joined KONE in 2014 and has carried various roles both globally and within regions. Before current role she worked as Business Development Director and was a member of KONE Volume elevators business line global leadership team. In this role she led major product launch programs creating new value to KONE customers and end users.

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