Why don’t we have airport helpers?

By | Category: Travel news
Heathrow  poor signage and not many information points

Heathrow poor signage and not many information points

By the end of the year, there will be 11 European airports providing airport helpers. But not one in the UK or Ireland.

Why not?

The idea of airport helpers, conceived nearly nine years ago at Lyon Airport in France, is laudably simple. It is to provide passengers with any information or guidance they need whilst moving through an airport. Lyon’s Quality Team brought together staff for throughout the airport to become Airport Helper’s. They are on hand to answer the sort of questions that signage might not instantly explain.

To most people, threading their way through an airport is not one of life’s pleasures. Many will not have previous experience of the airport so won’t know their way relying on signage to indicate what they should do. And if the signage is as bad as it is at most UK airports where the only language used is English, then they will get apprehensive, concerned and a little worried.

Enter the airport helper.

At Lyon there are 2,000 helpers all badged and clearly recognisable by passengers. Unlike American airports where volunteers – largely retired people – are on hand at information booths to answer any questions, at Lyon, the helpers walk around and mingle with passengers. At Rome’s two airports, there are 900 helpers and at the two in Paris – over 2,100. Munich manages to have 1,400 volunteers.

And in the UK and Ireland, not one of our airports has signed up to a scheme or operates something similar that involves so many volunteers cum helpers. Is it because they think that their airports cannot improve on the existing customer service they offer? Do they consider that there is sufficient passenger assistance? Or could it be that they don’t know of this scheme?

Whatever the reason, having airport helpers would substantially improve customer satisfaction and lower apprehension levels. Even airports that I think I know pretty well can be confusing when a small level of refurbishment takes place. Yet where do I ask? The one information desk that is gateside or the one that is just after I pass through security before or after I get swallowed up by the weaving paths of the duty free area? There is nowhere else.

And that is why all of our airports should consider similar schemes.


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