ACRP Report 161: Improving Airport Services for International Customers is aguidebook to assist airport practitioners in implementing departure and arrival processes, passenger services, and wayfinding techniques for international travelers navigating through U.S. airports. The guidelines assist with improving overall communication with international travelers and identify acceptable service and levels of service expected by international passengers. They discuss processing from origin through gateway airports to the ultimate destination. The guidelines include an identification of key elements of the international customer experience that can influence satisfaction in light of the customers’ diverse backgrounds. It defines acceptable service levels for each key element of each process that an international passenger experiences (i.e., wait times, walking distance, etc.). The guidelines also provide service metrics for passenger processing based upon internationally acceptable wait times to aid U.S. airports in coordinating staffing and delivery of services. The benefits of this report are an enhanced understanding of international customers and their needs, and strategies that airports and other stakeholders could employ to meet those needs.
The international share of passengers traveling through U.S. airports continues to increase. New air service agreements, larger and longer-range aircraft, expanding global alliances, and growing middle-classes from emerging and developing nations are just some of the factors contributing to the increase. Much of the passenger growth is occurring from non-European nations that can present formidable cultural and language challenges to the arriving passengers and to the airports serving them.
There are significant economic benefits to be generated from international air service that airports and local jurisdictions are working hard to achieve. Experience at U.S. airports has shown that many international travelers have difficulty moving around in what are generally unfamiliar environments. The United States has different processes for arriving and departing passengers than many other nations. Airport wayfinding, signage and symbols, and even levels and locations of automation vary among countries and among U.S. airports. Understanding and responding to processes is a major challenge for international passengers. For example, where and how to retrieve baggage and the need for rechecking may be significantly different from other nations’ international gateways. This research identifies ways to make passage more comfortable and information more accessible.
Under ACRP Project 03-35, research was conducted by Landrum & Brown in association with Gresham Smith and Partners, Human Factors North, Arora Engineers, John Duval, A.A.E., and Matt Farrell.
Data were collected from a variety of international airports in the United States that include, Atlanta, New York JFK, Miami, Chicago ORD, San Francisco, Dallas DFW, Boston BOS, and Los Angeles. Overseas airports include Beijing, Incheon, Munich, Amsterdam, London LHR, and Toronto. As an alternate resource, a cruise terminal at Port Everglades, FL was also included. Observations focused on the physical environment and stakeholder meetings that collected perspectives about the critical elements of delivering customer service to international passengers. The staff at these airports and cruise port provided a valuable contribution to this research effort.