Uncommon Courage

I think we need to talk about airport customer experience

You know one of the best things about living in Singapore? It’s world-class airport – Changi Airport. It’s a beautiful, modern airport, with amazing facilities, but the best thing is check in. From the point of drop off to wandering around Changi before departure, it’s about a 20-minute experience. When landing back in Singapore, from the wheels hitting the tarmac to being in a taxi on the way home, it’s 30 minutes.
Changi has won best airport of the year for multiple years and it deserves it. It’s amazing. It makes travelling a pleasure and it should be the gold standard for airports all over the world.
I compare this to the experience I had in Mumbai last night.

Flying out of its brand spanking new terminal for the A380, I have never seen such a bigger shit storm at an airport – and let me assure you, I’ve seen some airport shit storms!

First it was ticketing – I did the online check-in (well Steve did it for me) so that went smoothly. Good.
Next up was x-ray screening, and for the first time I can remember, men and women were separated into two sections. I found this strange, but I can deal with it when I wander this world. It matters in some cultures.
The men’s section went through rapidly, the women, on the other hand, was a complete and utter shambles. Multiple lines formed, no one knew what the hell was going on, and many got in shorter lines, only to realize you needed to join the longer lines to check your bag in for x-ray.
No one directed proceedings, people were pushing in all over the place, and once you got your stuff onto the x-ray belt, you had to wait until your bags went onto the rollers, because no one in security was managing this section and bags just stayed there.
Seriously, two more people working this section would’ve made all the difference.
The security guys sat on their arses the whole time, completely ambivalent towards the chaos unfolding, the scanning was painfully slow, and after you got your bag sorted, you had to join another line to line up for body screening! One by one we were called into a private, curtained-off area to be scanned by an unsmiling security woman.
Out the other end, the bags weren’t being pushed through, which was causing more delays, so everyone was forced to wait for their bags to come through, tripping over each other to get to theirs, whereas if everyone stood back, the situation would have been more manageable. More than that, if the staff were pushing the bags through – which would have sped up the entire process start to finish – the whole shambles would’ve been averted.
And if you think the men got lucky, no they didn’t – well they didn’t if they were travelling with women. There were streams of men just hanging around, waiting for their wives, daughters, etc… It was shit for everyone.
But the fun wasn’t over yet. Next up you entered passport control and my word, the lines! It took 40 minutes to get through just this bit, and thank god for bloody Facebook or I would’ve ripped someone’s face off – especially everyone standing close to me, constantly bashing into me and breathing down my neck. I appreciate that personal space varies greatly by country, but in that moment, you are not a happy camper when distance between humans is something you value.
I finally get to my smiling, charming, immigration man – yeah, not. He stuffs around, spends far too long pretending to look at my documents, before he chops my passport and I’m free. But I’ve got to tell you, just this bit of proceedings… The lines are horrendous so speed it up people and let us through faster! Why not?
It was just all completely unnecessary and the worst bit, we’re all completely powerless to do anything about it!!! If any country believes that making its residents and visitors feel powerless is a good thing, well they’ve got some serious reflection to do.
I arrived at the airport well in time for my flight, and here I was with 10 minutes before the absolute last call. What can you do in 10 minutes? Run to the gate, that’s what you do. I was not happy.
But I also kept thinking about the shop owners in the airport. The average spend at an airport is $150/passenger. None of us had time to buy anything, and I was ready to shop and spend my remaining rupee. I also really wanted to buy the boys something to take home.
In the end, Kris Shop got my money on board the flight and the boys have Ferrari watches, which seem to be a hit. I would’ve preferred something more unique.
Now I appreciate the need for security, especially in a city like Mumbai, where security is definitely higher compared to most cities. But this is just complete bullshit and totally unnecessary.
We have the technology to track who everyone is. When you travel today, you hand over your official documents and they take photos and scan your finger prints. There is access to real information about who is and who is not a threat today, so while protocols must be followed and cautioned exercised, we also need to use the technology available to make it a better experience for passengers.
We have examples of it already successfully in play, so let’s learn and roll it out everywhere – please!
I believe it is well beyond time that airports sorted their shit out, made the experience of travelling through airports at least pleasant, because no matter which way you look at it, this leaves an impression of a country. And yesterday, my impression of Mumbai, a city I adore, was diminished by the experience. Do I really want to subject myself to that again?
Travel is hard yakka – no matter how glorious it looks – why not leave us all just a little bit delighted with our experience in your airports and then we’ll spend more money in your countries and be more inclined to come back.
We can do this.
It’s time for a complete overhaul of the customer experience at airports around the world, and I would suggest airport operators take a look at Changi as an excellent reference point. No wonder people never mind flying through Singapore. They’ve taken customer experience to a whole never level and you don’t even need to leave the airport to appreciate it.
Rant over! But boy was I pissed last night. Anyone else have a shit airport experience to share?
Yours, without the bollocks
Photo Mumbai Airport and waiting to board courtesy of Shutterstock
Thank you for reading my ramblings. My brain and heart are a work in progress, always. I’d love a comment if it stirred any thoughts or feelings and of course, please feel free to share it with anyone you know who might be interested or entertained. I sure do appreciate it when you do. If you want to connect, I’m on Twitter here, Google+ here, Instagram here, and Facebook too. I share loads of stuff, not just my own xxxxx

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