What makes a great airport?

Jun 08 2014, 01:05 IST
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SummaryDelhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has just been selected as the second-best airport in the world for its service quality

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has just been selected as the second-best airport in the world for its service quality (among airports handling 25-40 million passengers a year). The awards are given by the Airport Council International (ACI), a body of airports, which covers 1,751 airports in 174 countries. That’s quite an achievement, considering the competition and the kind of development and vision being directed at what a modern airport should be and the facilities and passenger amenities on offer. I flew in for the first time into Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 recently and while it’s obvious that a humungous amount of money has gone into its making, the signage left a lot to be desired when it came to exit points and pick-up areas. The multi-level layout is largely responsible, which is where the question of what makes for a great airport arises.

In most airports abroad, airline and airport staff have been drastically cut because of online and self-service check-in facilities. The original airline check-in counters are where you drop off your baggage, nothing more. It’s meant to speed things up, but often it slows things down because the passenger in front cannot figure out the computer commands or has entered the wrong digit/digits. In these days of falling airline revenues, if your bag is slightly over the limit, you need to retrieve the bag, go to another counter to pay the excess baggage charge and come back to rejoin the queue. Technology can be a great boon, but also a real pain if you are in a hurry to catch a flight. So what kind of features can make catching a flight a hassle-free experience?

Flying is inherently stressful. There’s the waiting, the queuing, the crowds, the luggage, the announcements and the wandering kids. While the number one priority for most passengers these days is access to free Wi-Fi services, there’s also a lot to do with design and personal likes and dislikes. For me, an airport, no matter how well designed, fails the test of a great airport if the washrooms are dirty and not regularly cleaned. The second test is the security procedures, the attitude of the security personnel and the layout of the security check area. A good airport employs enough people to get passengers through both security and passport control as quickly as possible. Some airports get overwhelmed by the number of passengers

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