What are the best airports in the world doing differently?

ACI World by ACI World | Jul 5, 2021

Highlights from this year’s ASQ Award winners

ACI’s annual Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards recognize and reward the best airports in the world across an array of categories. All of the award winners have something in common — no matter the size or location of airport, volume of passengers, or number of employees — their exceptional commitment to continuously improving the passenger experience.

The remarkable 2020 Award winners rose to new and unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a dramatic impact on global passenger traffic as well as changing customer perceptions and expectations. They also sought to improve their core operations over the past year.

Below we highlight some of the innovative solutions and customer-delighting programs seen around the world, as told by representatives at the award-winning airports. 

London City Airport, Airport staff disinfecting surfaces

London City Airport

“From 2014, London City Airport started to attract more airlines, more destinations and in so doing, began a journey from around 3M to 5.1M passengers in 2019. And one that welcomed families and holidaymakers throughout the day, alongside our core business audience.

It’s certainly a challenge operationally, to continue to offer a gold standard service when you are as space constrained as we are, [so] that’s why we built a technology and transformation team, more or less from scratch, so we could gather data, scrutinize it, and develop solutions informed by it. So, we could continue to offer our USP of getting a passenger from our front door to the aircraft gate inside 20 minutes.

Time is what matters most to our customers and we’ve been unwavering in focusing on it. And it has perhaps been the most crucial factor in our growth story, as it has attracted leisure passengers and more airlines that increasingly view London City Airport as a mainstream, capital city airport.”

-Alison FitzGerald, Chief Operations Officer

Krakow Airport, Relax Zone for travellers

Krakow Airport

“We are happy to see that our analysis of passengers’ suggestions and the consistent implementation of improvements has translated into a growth in positive feedback from travellers. Kraków Airport is taking steps to improve the quality of passenger service, which sometimes involves reaching for unconventional solutions such as relaxation exercise sessions run by personal coaches, or the hiring of Zen, a border collie, to help all those with a fear of flying to reduce stress – a measure widely covered by the media. Our nap zones and entertainment areas have also been very popular with travellers.

We also have wall-mounted touch panels in place in the passenger terminal for real-time measurement of customer satisfaction. ‘Happy or Not’ consoles are located throughout the terminal, in key areas that determine the quality of passenger service, e.g. toilet cleanliness, waiting time for security check and the time of baggage delivery upon arrival.”

-Natalia Vince, Press Officer

Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, Information screens

Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport

“Our commitment to fulfill travellers’ needs and to offer the best customer service made it possible for the airport to receive this year’s ‘Voice of the Customer’ award, being the only one in Central America to obtain it. This global recognition acknowledges the airport’s commitment for listening to passengers and adapting processes and procedures to meet changing expectations of customer experience in response to COVID-19.

Our airport complies with a robust sanitary protocol to ensure a safety environment, including:

  • Hand washing stations at the terminal access gates
  • A modern thermographic camera system to monitor all passengers and staff temperature
  • Mandatory use of face masks
  • Several hands sanitizing stations available throughout the terminal”

-César Jaramillo, CORIPORT, CEO

Helsinki Airport, Travellers wearing masks

Helsinki Airport

“One of our most recognized [innovative services] is the Helsinki Airport COVID-19 sniffer dogs, which received attention worldwide. The dogs arrived at the airport in September and they were an instant success among the passengers, employees, and media. The sniffer dogs can identify the COVID-19 virus earlier than laboratory tests.

Another example of an emerging technology is the pilot to upgrade the cleaning process of security control trays with the help of UVC technology.  UVC light kills bacteria and viruses and is used in the health care and food industry. With this new technology, the empty security control trays can now be disinfected quickly after each use.”

-Ulla Lettijeff, Helsinki Airport Director and SVP, Finavia Corporation

Tallinn Airport, Check-in counter

Tallinn Airport

“Tallinn Airport considers the convenience of travelers important and one of the cornerstones of the team’s mission is the principle: we have the coziest airport in the world (#cosiESTairport). This means that each stage of the passenger journey, the airport seeks to compensate the travel anxiety that could be caused by the regulations and procedures established for the sake of security.

A cozy atmosphere is created with well-considered interior design, marking the route for the passengers in a clear manner, and using several smart solutions. For example, the announcement of security check, heard from all airport speakers, has been recorded using a child’s voice; this unexpected solution makes the passengers smile and relieves anxiety, but also makes sure that the important message is noticed. In addition to all customary airport services, a passenger can also, as per regulatory hygiene measures, play the piano and table tennis, watch 3D videos introducing Estonia, and read books at the self-service library and borrow them for your trip.

In addition, today’s and tomorrow’s plans of the Tallinn Airport focus on environmental protection and the sustainability principles. ‘Tallinn Airport already has a small solar park and, additionally, the solar panels have been installed in other regional airports throughout Estonia. The goal is to increase the capacity of our solar parks, so that we are able to produce altogether 20% of our energy need with our own production units by the end of the next year,’ notes CEO Riivo Tuvike.

Also, the airport parking station has charging places for electric vehicles and a specially designed parking lot for bicycles, as the Tallinn Airport is one of the few airports in the world that is located just a short bike ride from the center of the capital.

-Jane Kallaste, Communication Specialist

Malta International Airport, Survey screens

Malta International Airport

“The following [are a few of] the top concerns which emerged from a Travel Perception Survey, and the actions taken by the airport to address them directly:

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.”

-Malta International Airport spokesperson

Social distancing seating

Alicante-Elche Airport

“Since March 2020 and as part of the Operational Recovery Plan put in place by Aena, Alicante-Elche Airport and the rest of the company’s airports have brought in numerous measures to deal with COVID-19 following the recommendations of the European Commission, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Spanish health authorities.To cite just a few figures, Alicante-Elche Airport has placed more than 4,400 stickers to indicate social distancing, more than 1,300 tape markings to indicate the separation between seats, set up about 300 hand sanitizer dispensers scattered throughout the terminal, installed more than 180 contactless taps and soap dispensers in toilets and put up 275 protective screens at customer service counters.

Likewise, thermal imaging cameras and health checks have been put in place in the arrivals’ hall following the guidelines of the Spanish Government’s Border Health service coupled with significant additions to support staff and healthcare personnel.”

-Alicante-Elche Airport spokesperson

Cheers to their dedication and superior service

In all, over the past year-plus, it has been amazing to see the quick, smart thinking and impressive dedication to excellence of these airport teams and others around the globe. We applaud their efforts and congratulate them again on their Awards!



ACI World
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