Minimizing Airport Wait Times to Maximize Retail Sales

Minimizing Airport Wait Times to Maximize Retail Sales and Passenger Joy

Last updated: September 15, 2015Perry Kuklin

According to a JD Edwards study, passengers who are “delighted” with their airport experiences spend an average of 45 percent more money than “disappointed” passengers. But passengers who are rushing to their gates after being caught up in a long, arduous security line won’t have the time or desire to get their wallets out in the retail areas of the airport. Queue management is important to overall airport success. While keeping passengers on a smooth and easy route to their gate should always be a goal of airport management, moving passengers to the most pleasant, retail-oriented areas of the airport should also be a key concern. A Human Recognition Systems white paper focused on this very issue, stating, “ ensuring the efficient flow of passengers through your airport, you increase the dwell time of the passengers in the retail areas increasing revenues further and make it more likely that these passengers will choose your airport for their future trips and airlines will maintain their routes at your airport.” So how can you minimize wait times and move passengers more quickly into the heart of the airport? There are two main methodologies to employ:

1. Ensure your queues are structured to facilitate customer flow and agent productivity.

Face the task of designing a queue from the perspective of a first-time passenger. Don’t assume the structure of your line is intuitive to every traveler. Use signage and the most appropriate queue materials – such as stanchions, rigid rails, or solid panels – to define a queue’s parameters and direct travelers through, around, and within the waiting line. These efforts create efficiency, limit confusion, and keep passengers moving in the right direction. Consider whether a given queue is better served by a single-line, multi-server configuration or multiple queues leading to single servers. A single-line queue has shorter average wait times, promotes fairness (first come, first served), minimizes stress, and reduces jockeying. A multiple-line queue offers flexibility and deters balking. Electronic queuing with its audible call-forward instructions or flashing lights can keep passengers moving along and allow service agents to hail the next customer with the push of a button rather than calls of “Next!” or arm waving. Digital signage can be used to inform passengers of wait times, which helps manage their expectations, or other pertinent airport information like departures, arrivals, and delays while they’re in the queue. Agent and employee productivity is also improved when you use digital signage to facilitate customer hailing and re-queuing. Ultimately, when a queue is well-structured, it facilitates agent productivity and allows passengers to move through the line more quickly.

2. Use technology to ensure your key performance indicators are on target and to address problems quickly as they arise.

Queue management technology can be a tremendous tool for airports, offering managers the ability to proactively monitor queues and handle problems before they get out of control, deploy additional staff to busy areas, and ensure that all regulations and performance indicators are being met. Operationally, intelligent queue management technology enables you to monitor passenger arrival rates, measure peak times and seasonality, count the passengers in each queue, and assess the average wait times of each passenger. This all means that you can manage passenger expectations by knowing what’s going on in real-time and anticipating changes in a queue’s behavior. You can avoid long lines by adjusting the queue before your airport gets too crowded, schedule additional service agents when you anticipate a period of heavy passenger flow, and redirect passengers from over-utilized to under-utilized lines. Up-to-the-minute queue analytics allows airport managers to react appropriately, immediately, and effectively enough to keep passenger satisfaction and regulatory requirements in check. Learn more about managing passengers and queues in the transportation industry in our latest guide, The Passenger Experience: Managing Crowds, Decreasing Wait Times, and Improving the Passenger Journey.


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