Changi goes all out to please travellers
CHANGI Airport has 880 mobile phone charging stations, 23 hot water dispensers and water coolers in every gatehold room.
The amenities are there because travellers have asked for them, said Changi Airport Group's executive vice-president (airport management) Tan Lye Teck.
Meeting demands as passenger numbers rise is a challenge with more than 60,000 pieces of feedback received daily - 1.8 million a month - but the airport tries hard.
"We must be doing something right," said Mr Tan.
Last month, Changi received its 500th best airport award, from Business Traveller (China).
Airports are ranked regularly by research houses and industry publications such as magazines that survey travellers on their check-in, immigration and duty-free shopping experience, among other variables.
Mr Tan said: "It's not the trophies but the feedback from customers and users that matters and spurs the entire airport community to work even harder."
It it tough to stay on top with other Asian airports and those in the Middle East for example, stepping up their game.
Mr Tan said: "To maintain status quo is to slip. So yes, we visit other airports to see what they are doing and what they are offering.
"We also look at our target market to study consumer preferences... The competition has become more intense in the last 10 to 15 years so we have to push extra hard."
It is critical for the entire team - airport staff, airlines, ground handlers, immigration, Customs and security staff - to work as one.
"With 20,000 to 30,000 working at the airport on any given day, this is the nub of the challenge," added Mr Tan.
Training is critical and regular seminars and workshops are conducted. Staff are also rewarded and recognised when they do well.
On the flipside, penalties are imposed when airlines, for example, fail to ensure that check-in waiting times do not exceed stipulated standards, or ground handlers are not able to get bags from arriving aircraft out on time.
Mr Tan declined to give details but said: "We don't do this to get at people. At the end of the day, we're all in it together with a common purpose... But we also need a system of targets and penalties that serve to provide a bit more structure and clarity in terms of expectations.
"We do this because customers expect the highest standards.
"We are, at the core, a service company and we take feedback very seriously. We have data mining tools that allow us to analyse trends from week to week and month to month, to study the difference between a Saturday morning versus a Friday afternoon, to see which contractors are better, which check-in row is more efficient and the list goes on."
When a negative comment comes in, "and it is true that we have not kept up, then we will fix it", he said.
The next big challenge for Changi Airport is automation as a manpower shortage drives the need for self-service kiosks for check-in, baggage tagging and aircraft boarding, he added.
Travellers like businessman P. N. Ramasamy, 60, gave Changi the thumbs up for being clean and efficient, with good shopping and dining offerings, as well as facilities such as foot massage stations and a cinema.
He said: "If you have a few hours to kill, Changi is the best airport to be in."