Smart is good, child-friendly is better

BANGKOK, 12 December 2017:Airport customer relations were in the news when AirAsia’s founder challenged the management of  Malaysia’s airport on its decision to raise the passenger service tax at KLIA2 to be in line with other international airports in Malaysia.

KLIA2 is the low-cost airport next to KLIA and home to AirAsia. Its founder and chairman, Tony Fernandes, is known for dishing out criticism of the airport’s management on pricing and delays in introducing smart check-in solutions.

Airports tend to make arbitrary decisions on customer services and fees without seeking passenger feedback.

A recent Amadeus report, that explores how airports can harness digital transformation to create greater value for airlines and passengers, noted passengers have the final say. They are the ultimate customers and if there is a choice they will travel through airports that have a strong customer driven management.

Amadeus sings the praise of staying ahead of the curve, by building a sophisticated IT environment to create value for airport stakeholders.

Although IT solutions that make airports smarter are always welcome, there are plenty of low-tech improvements that airports should take on board. They are usually ignored by high-flying research and studies.

For example how many passengers prefer bus transfers to and from plane to arrival lounges?

At Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, passengers are gifted a  grand tour as the bus weaves around the terminal piers and then backtracks to the bus bay and a door leading to the arrivals corridor.

Do passengers enjoy the complimentary site tour? Probably not, as it adds 10 minutes to the airport transfer experience and they are in a hurry.

Do airlines and airports brainstorm how they deal with young mothers travelling with toddlers?  They are usually carrying their child and balancing hand luggage, most of it needed to care for a baby in travel mode.

A crowded bus transfer and the long walk to immigration is a hardship that can actually escalate into a nightmare if an overflowing diaper needs changing. Where are the infant rooms?

Airlines need to restructure their offer for mothers with young children. If there must be a transfer from remote parking, give them a different more comfortable version such as a commuter van where they can sit rather than be jostled like cattle on an overcrowded bus. Treat them like business-class passengers, or disabled travellers. Give them respect.

In a perfect airport environment the bus transfer is obsolete, a mother with children would be given a golf cart transfer from gate to the immigration checkpoints with a pit-stop at an infants’ changing room if required.

I have yet to see an airline that claims it is toddler friendly from a mother’s perspective.

Buses and diaper stops, caring for mother and child fails to make it in research papers. Not a smart enough topic? That leaves mothers and children to muddle through airports in near crisis mode and that’s a shame.