Airports need passengers

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Incheon airport, South Korea

Incheon airport, South Korea a perennial winner for customer service and satisfaction.

For the last two days I have been listening to dozens of people connected to airports – mangers, owners, contractors and planners – all talking about procurement for airport development.

If I were to add up all the monies that each of the airports was planning to spend over the next twenty years, the amounts would run into hundreds of millions of pounds if not billions once Heathrow expansion was included.

I heard loads of twaddle about “ improving the customer experience” (why can’t we still be called passengers?) but nothing about what passengers, think, want or expect. In the building of new or improved departure and arrival areas, baggage reclaim improvements or security enhancements, never once did I hear someone say that they were consulting with the most important element in airport expansion – we passengers. How much of these millions is spent on asking passengers what they want,  how they want airports to develop and what can they suggest?

Indeed one airport boss said that he had been advised to remove a good deal of seating at his airport because passengers would spend more in the retail areas if they were forced to walk around. He did as advised; passenger complaints and the seating was returned. Perhaps for usefully for him, sales did not increase in the shops so the advisors were wrong.

On what evidence did these advisers conclude that they could remove seating? Had they asked passengers. I bet they didn’t and I’d also be prepared to bet that the advisers thought that if they asked the passengers they would say no so why ask them? Do advisers like this only respond to customers when things go wrong? How many airports consult with passengers during the development process other than perhaps with a forum they have set up so that they can say they are responding to the needs of locals?

By now, some irate airport managers will be spluttering into their extra-shot Americanos that they do consult passengers and I’m sure some do. But not all!

I’m reminded of the old quip; airports would operate perfectly but for passengers.

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