The Passenger Experience: Is Anyone Thinking about the Passenger?

By Jean Luc Devisscher
20th May, 2021

Airports and their stakeholders around the globe are preparing for the return of many more passengers in the coming months. A number of new measures (for example, sanitary measures for passengers and employees, social distancing measures and solutions, CCTV to see how passengers are respecting old and new rules, reactivating employees that were temporarily unemployed, COVID-19 passports, etc.) have come into effect since the pandemic started together with a return to how airports functioned before the outbreak. Are we going back to old habits? Will we, in a few months’ time, have to deal with the same struggles we have had to deal with for the last few decades?

A lot of airports need to question whether the new normal means a return to the old normal or whether they really have learnt from this crisis and thought about how they want to manage their operations. At the same time, the travel industry needs to rethink how to keep passengers happy while flying. A lot more rules will continue to exist for quite some time and perhaps even forever. This brings along extra stress for passengers (we do not know many people who love the idea of wearing face masks for hours or having to constantly pay attention to what they touch and who comes to close to them) so anything that can make travel smooth and less hectic than before will guarantee a permanent return to air travel.

This means that we need to avoid going back to the old normal where delays were a normal part of our travel frustrations: waiting for delayed flights, waiting for missing luggage, waiting for a passenger boarding bridge or last-minute gate changes as the gate was still occupied or the plane was not fit for the gate. If there is one thing we need to ensure, it is that we create much more efficiency and do more with the existing infrastructure and bring back the joy of traveling. If your flight is scheduled at 9 am, you want to leave at 9 am with enough fuel, catering, all luggage and no missing passengers.

In the last five years I have flown, I can count on one hand the number of times my plane left or landed on time without air traffic control stating that the skies were too busy or that planes were blocking the runway. If airports can take full control of what is happening around the airport, this would reduce 75% of all delays. This means that - like in a classical concert - all stakeholders (or musicians) must follow the same music composition so that you do not hear anything that you should not.

The solution is simple and involves making sure that all stakeholders work closely together so that operations run smoothly and people are where they should be at the given time and location.

With a clear collaborative decision-making process and implementation, this can easily be achieved. This will result in all stakeholders becoming truly efficient (since they are not losing time figuring out what is happening) and happy passengers. Passenger experience is all about taking frustrations away and guaranteeing a smooth flight which leaves on time with luggage and the necessary comfort on board.

Smooth airport operations - thanks to processes like collaborative decision-making - can make a world of difference for all airport and airline users. Let’s make the travel experience a much more efficient and predictable one. We might not get a third chance to win passengers’ hearts back or to get all stakeholders to rethink their respective approaches.

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