Essential airport services | A traveler's perspective
Thoughts of my experience traveling within Africa necessitated this article and it’s more of a call to action than a travel story. Hopefully, someone in authority (or their associates) will read this and take action.
Travel experience for air passengers starts from the point the traveler enters the airport, whether on arrival or at departure. For a traveler arriving at his/her destination, the airport is the ‘first impression’ about the country while a traveler departing the country expects some level of comfort and time optimization as they wait to board their flights. This is called the ‘the airport experience’ which is huge in countries like Singapore, Japan and more enlightened countries.
It is important to state that an airport is both a representative of a destination and a reflection of the leadership of a country but more importantly, an airport is part of the travel experience. Hence, the importance of creating a customer-centric airport that helps to create a better end-to-end travel experience.
The greatest source of a travelers dissatisfaction is not the shopping experience or the price paid for ancillary services. It is the airport experience at departure and arrival. This could be anything from cleanliness, orderliness, quick information clarity, calmness and even beauty
This article is not exactly directed at the Muritala International Airport Nigeria alone as I wasn’t entirely pleased with the Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport Sengeal either. Talking about airports in Africa that deliver customer service experience and satisfaction, West Africa airports come last. By the way, I was fairly impressed with Lomé International Airport, Togo.
As travelers or operators, I can guess that we have heard of the phase “getting there is half the fun”? There is no gainsaying that an airport can complement a great travel experience. So before paying the next contractor(s) a huge amount of taxpayers/investors money, consider the following as essential services which real travelers would love to have in an airport.
State-of-the-art design and adaptive architecture
Stunning indigenous decorations and carvings
Connected and orderly rail or transport infrastructure
Functional amenities and perhaps free trolleys (where possible)
Kids play area
All round kindness of airport staff (Yes, Human Infrastructure)
Proper digital labeling of baggage areas
Free Internet (WiFi) facility
Transit hotel / pay per use lounges to freshen up or get some snooze
Genuine duty free shops
Premium (comfortable) airport waiting chairs
Functional air conditioners
Functional security cameras
Functional Jet bridges
High and low end restaurants
Data gathering machines and functional cameras
Tech-savvy service and proper bag handling procedures
If we Africans want to be globally competitive and boost regional and international trade, perhaps we should start with our airports. This is a great opportunity for private investors.
While some of the above are longer term goals, some can almost immediately be done. It is important that we remember though that to maximize an airport’s revenue potential, it has to elevate passengers experience. For these reasons, we can’t afford to loose sight of both the longer term goals e.g transit facilities, utilities etc and short term goals.
As foreigners continue to influx Africa either for business or tourism purposes, there is a broader need to deliver new solutions that are directed at improving efficiency, eliminating the traveler’s stress and significantly revamping the customer experience.
Unfortunately, development of airport infrastructure in many Africa countries has lagged behind travel growth.We should desire to build a world-class facility with heaps of options to help passengers feed well, rest well and get entertained.