The CAA has reviewed the passenger experience at major UK airports.
The Secretary of State for Transport has welcomed the CAA’s advice on improving the passenger experience at major UK airports. In November 2007, the Secretary of State commissioned advice from the CAA on improving the through-airport passenger experience, especially any pinch points where there was potential for delay and where the responsibility for delivering a good service lies with a combination of bodies.
CAA looked at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester and conducted interviews with airport operators, airlines, ground handlers, trade associations and other interested parties. CAA reviewed the available survey data on airport performance and passenger satisfaction. CAA also assessed industry performance data provided by BAA and Manchester Airport Group (MAG) for July 2007 to August 2008.
In addition, the CAA commissioned its own survey from ORC International which interviewed 1600 passengers at the four airports.
Finally, the CAA reviewed the effectiveness of the existing committee structures at all four airports which brought together staff at the senior operational level where joint planning could be expected to take place.
Improving joint planning for disruption management and interfaces for routine operations
Discussions with industry, checked against the CAA’s own research, found scope for improving joint planning at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports for disruption management.
The CAA’s research found scope for improving the following routine interfaces between service providers at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted:
The CAA proposes, in the short term, to act as a catalyst to joint planning for disruption management and for improving routine interfaces. The CAA will focus the exercise initially at Heathrow. Lessons learnt could then be translated to Gatwick and Stansted airports. The CAA aims to begin work in the first quarter of 2009 and will provide a progress report in summer 2009 covering its work at Heathrow.
BAA should be encouraged to make international airport performance data more transparent to the airlines and the CAA so that areas of relative underperformance can be identified for attention.
One area that was highlighted as performing poorly against international service standards was customer service and attitude of airport staff. Concerns were also expressed about this area of service from the airlines, the passenger services sub committees and the CAA’s own passenger survey. The CAA proposes to work with BAA to identify any appropriate remedial action. This was seen as a particular problem at the central search area at Heathrow.
Industry complaint handling
An area that showed poor levels of satisfaction in the CAA’s passenger survey was industry complaint handling. The CAA is working with BAA and the airlines to improve effectiveness of complaint handling. The CAA’s ability to influence industry will increase once it gains expertise for consumer protection under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002.
Advances in technology and passenger processing
Self-service technology has been widely taken up by the airlines to improve check-in which has shown to have real benefits to the passenger experience. Other areas that could benefit from greater use of technology include boarding, bag drop, sharing information between service providers for disruption management and the use of biometrics at border control. Industry incentives to adopt this technology are significant due to the cost and efficiency savings.