The second article in our 'Aviation - a brighter tomorrow' series focuses on the need for airlines and operators to improve the passenger experience as air travel resumes after Covid-19.
As air travel resumes and passengers start to experience the new measures put in place to keep them safe, airports and operators need to make the most of the opportunity to focus on an improved passenger experience.
One of the enduring impacts of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was a step change in airport security, at least at international airports. The security industry mushroomed. Criminal background checks on airport employees, profiling of passengers, early check-ins, identification checks, more law enforcement, the screening of checked baggage and cargo, including X-ray machines, full body scanners and hand inspections.
While most people understand that for their safety there is a need for additional security and regulations, they don't understand the need for long lines, excessive delays, cramped conditions, over-zealous airport security personnel, rough handling of people and baggage, or rudeness. Nor does it seem that many employed in airport security functions understand the impact that their actions and omissions have on travellers. When you are entering or leaving a country, your impressions and experiences at airport security and immigration really count. Incorrectly managed and you may well never be back. The experience can also impact airlines by association.
The customer experience
The Covid-19 pandemic and its handling by governments and international agencies has caused people to be more anxious, stressed and worried: there has been a significant breakdown in trust, there is the fear of contracting the virus and passing it on to families and friends, there is separation from family, isolation and quarantine measures, a fear of longer term impacts on global disruption and in some cases inappropriate behaviour and unethical actions. We are all more susceptible to losing our patience, more prone to snap, resulting in ever increasing outbreaks of violence and rage.
The new Covid-19 airport experience is unlikely to improve matters in the short term. Earlier passenger profiling and health screening, earlier check-ins, enhanced security and health processes, physical distancing, the lack of interaction, longer queues, slower transits, increased likelihood of missed connections and allegations of discrimination, poor hygiene etiquette and fear of infection. All of these are likely to try our patience.
Humans are by nature social animals. Our connections to others are key to not only our survival, but also to our happiness and wellbeing.
It is also a fact that being kind and considerate to people reduces stress and anxiety, and improves the work place and travel experience. Good mental awareness and health can also have a very positive impact on safety and minimise risks. Also a happy employee is far more likely to stay with a company and defend his/her employer and a happy passenger is more likely to travel again and far less likely to bring a claim.
So as flight operations return, both airport employees and travellers alike need to exercise self-restraint.
As the European Union's Aviation Safety Agency Covid-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol Guidance of 20th May this year states:
Be kind to each other – it is the only way we will get through this!
Annex 3 – Health Safety Promotion
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.