Sunday, 15 March 2015

PaxEx: what airports can learn from Frankfurt

Frankfurt airport
creativecommons image by bortescristian on Flickr
#PaxEx is shorthand for passenger experience in the aviation industry, championed by Mary Kirby (@Runwaygirl). You can find a more detailed PaxEx definition on hashtags.org.

While we are often inspired by innovative airport design and unique features, Frankfurt International Airport takes the cake, by going above and beyond what has become to be expected of world class airports.

Frankfurt International Airport's innovative services


Among the many passenger-friendly services at Frankfurt International Airport, the following strike us as definitely created with human creature comforts in mind:

Frankfurt airport
also by bortescristian
AIRail: A convenient airline check-in desk in the long-distance train station in the terminal.

Airport Car Service: This airport-operated service lets locals check their car in for a wide range of services while their car is parked on-site at the airport.

Dog Hotel: The FRA Dog Hotel is there to make life a whole lot easier for business travelers and vacationers. Removing the stress and uncertainty of finding a dog sitter, the on-site "hundepension" features 25 kennels, heated facilities, near-natural outdoor space and professional staff.

Duty Free pre-ordering: You can pre-order your duty-free shopping online, or at QR Code Walls in the airport, and your order will be ready for pick-up.

Free WiFi: As in free, unlimited WiFi, 24 hours a day, no time-limits, no ads to watch, no restrictions. A flight-delayed, stuck-in-the-airport, passenger's layover dream!

Hotline: A hotline number you can call to talk to the airport's communication centre 24-hours a day. A small fee applies, but what the heck, this is still convenient if you are in a pinch!

HP ePrint Kiosk: An innovative service that allows you to print documents from your SmartPhone for free. Very handy for boarding passes and airport maps (which you can print in colour), but open for use for Word, Excel, Outlook, PDF, text and other documents. Handy indeed on a layover!

Layover Guide: The folks at Frankfurt Airport really want visitors to have a positive layover experience, so it even publishes a guide: How to Get the Most Out of Your Layover (easy-to-download PDF).

Leisure Zones: There are 3 of these unique free relaxation areas, designed with a "cozy lounge ambience", featuring hardwood floors, comfortable seating (some with foot rests), plants, warm lighting, and lots of power outlets. These subdued zones are easy to find, but away from the busiest areas, allowing for a stress-free layover experience.

Loaner strollers: Just as it sounds. Multiple convenient pick-up and drop-off points throughout the airport.

My Airport Guide: This is a friendly human guide you can pre-book to escort you through the airport. You can book the Welcome Service Departing (a guide meets you curbside, and escorts you to check-in), Welcome Service Arriving (a guide meets you at baggage claim, and escorts you to your train or taxi), or Guide Service (a guide accompanies you through security check points all the way to/from your gate). Fees start at a modest EUR 30. All escorts are bilingual English/German, and there is the option to book a multilingual guide who speaks Arabic, Mandarin or Russian. You simply book 48 hours with an email.

Night Before Check-in: If you have an early morning flight, or are flying with children, some airlines will allow you to deal with check-in line-ups the afternoon night before. You can dispense with stressful line-ups by dropping by the airport, checking yourself and your bags in at your leisure, and picking up your boarding passes - just return in the morning with your boarding pass and carry-on bag, and head straight for security. Super handy if you have a layover that involves a flight the next day.

Showers: Yes, that's right, showers! It's a big airport, so there are 4 locations, but the fee is modest (EUR 6) and the hours pretty good (6am-10pm). Showers have the power to turn a layover ordeal into a mini-sanctuary of restoration. The only thing that would make it better would be 24 hours.

Besucherterrasse - Terminal 2 FRA AIRPORT
creativecommons image by airlines470 on Flickr

Fur coat
Not needed at the beach!
creativecommons image by
44534236@N00 on Flickr
Visitor's Terrace: Currently closed for renovations, the re-opening of this favourite airport feature is anticipated in April 2015. A nice break on a long layover.

Winter Coat Storage Service: Lock up your heavy winter duds while you take off to the sun, ready for you to don upon your return

... and more: Other services include airport tours, airport apps, downloadable airport guides, barrier free parking, a casino, drycleaning, interfaith chapels, mail services, pharmacy, play areas, spas...

We're not without criticism. For example, if you access Frankfurt Airport's website on your iPad, and want to view the full site instead, the link just keeps looping you back to the less helpful mobile version.

That mobile version links to only 1 of the airports 3 maps, and features an unfortunate icon of a plane on a deep dive to symbolize arriving passenger services.

But by and large, Frankfurt Airport nails it for passenger friendly information and services.

What does this mean for other airports?


For many airports with a focus on passenger experience, these innovations aren't entirely new. It is not unusual, for example, to find airline check-in desks in metro stations and off-site airport parking facilities.

To many travelers, however, other airports appear to pay lip service to customer service, seemingly content for their passengers' experience to be tolerable, at best.

If you are in a leadership position with an airport authority, perhaps take a step back and think about whether you are doing all you can for your passengers to make their experience as stress-free as possible, and brainstorm new enhancements inspired by innovations at award-winning airports around the globe.

Even small airports, with limited resources, can take a page out of the FRA's book (and many do). What would it take to introduce winter coat storage, loaner strollers or personal airport guides?

Not to mention free WiFi without all the silly ads, time-limits and various hoops to jump through... but that's a whole other PaxEx rant...

Related resources
Frankfurt International Airport official website
Frankfurt International Airport private transfer service from IHateTaxis
Layover City: Frankfurt
Frankfurt Layover Private Sightseeing Tour with Round-Trip Airport Transport
Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) transportation guide
Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN) transportation guide (which isn't even near Frankfurt!)

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