Manchester Airport Group
A field based research programme designed to look for ways to improve the inbound passenger experience from arrival at the immigration hall to moving on to baggage reclaim
Airports were once an exciting window to the world. But with passengers waiting for up to three hours for passport checks at major international airports, for some the romance is over.
There are whole blogs dedicated to an array of airport gripes. Common complaints include confusing signs, chaotic carousel crowding, rampant profiteering, having to remove shoes at security, no free Wi-Fi and lack of information on delays and cancellations.
When you encounter someone, you create a positive or negative judgement about them and this applies to a country too. If a lengthy passport queue is your first experience, the whole visit will be tinged with negative bias.
Driven by the Department for Transport’s vision to transform air passenger experience, Manchester Airport had invested significantly in the outbound journey experience including check-in, security and new retail provision. However, the experience for passengers moving through passport control on to baggage reclaim was left wanting and ‘waiting’.
We started our assignment by carrying out a comprehensive study of T1, T2 and T3 immigration hall passenger experience and flow during peak times, to help us understand the problems passengers faced and the impact on revenue, cost and competitive advantage. Most passengers felt ‘waiting for passport control’ was by far the worst stage of their journey, with some saying it had impacted their decision to use Manchester Airport in the future. They raised a broad range of issues relating to the process, signage, visual stimulation, reliability of E-Pass, quality of service and functional comfort.
We also measured the impact large variations in inbound flow was having on resources, decoding problems such as poor communication between multiple organisations, lack of meaningful KPI’s and planning, but most importantly inconsistencies in the way different passenger journeys (not just EU / Non-EU) were managed. Measures to respond to passenger flow, especially during peak times, were inconsistent and reactive. Different barrier layouts were deployed by different shifts and Q-busting techniques, would often add to passenger frustration and their perception of fairness rather than mitigate it.
Our research provided Manchester Airport with a robust business case to invest in the immigration hall experience, but also proved that a lot can be done without huge investment in IT, facilities or training. Airports could achieve a lot more by placing the passenger journey firmly into focus, rather than looking for ways to maximise retail opportunities at the expense of good customer service. The very act of making them like glitzy shopping centres has simply put a long run of shops and restaurants between the ‘customer’ and the departure gate.
Air travel opens horizons that previous generations can only dream of, however our dreams will be shattered if our first impression is a three hour wait at passport control.
AT A GLANCE:
- A comprehensive study of T1, T2 & T3 immigration hall passenger experience and passenger flow conducted on different days over several weeks during peak times. Key findings:
- Variation of inbound flow significantly impacted passenger satisfaction as well as utilisation of resources – “waiting for passport control” considered worst stage of entire passenger journey experience
- Measures to manage passenger flow during peak times inconsistent and reactive
- Multiple organisations involved in managing the inbound passenger experience – poor communication, no meaningful KPI’s or metrics and lack of overall ownership of passenger experience
- Study identified different passenger journeys (not just EU / Non-EU), which were poorly managed e.g. landing card passengers, large groups, students, young families, dual nationals, E-Chip passengers
- Passengers experienced issues relating to: process efficiency & effectiveness, ease of orientation, visual stimulation & information, reliability of E-Pass, quality of service and functional comfort
- Robust business case, focusing initially on simple changes, requiring minimal financial investment:
- Simple tactics during peak service times e.g. use of buffer zones; staff positioned at back of hall to signpost; proactive q-busting activity; staff at head of queue directing passengers to counters to increase speed of throughput; more effective plan to match staffing with predicted demand
- Increased manning and promotion of E-Pass facility during peak times
- New, more consistent barrier layout to optimise the flow of passengers during peak times
- Improved signage, passenger information and education – before, during and after leaving the queue
- Staff awareness and training to provide more consistent approach to managing different journeys
- Simple changes to improve functional comfort, including lighting, water facilities and better audio
- More meaningful KPI’s and metrics promoting improved communication between different parties
- Successful implementation of simple changes to the inbound passenger journey experience
- Justification to invest in more complex changes, involving new technology, layout, facilities and services
- Increased focus and commitment to improving the inbound passenger journey experience
- Better communication and planning between multiple organisations involved in passenger flow