Summer staff surveys
Deploying survey terminals in staff areas of airports can help ensure operations run smoothly in this year’s peak season
The northern summer is nearly here and all over the hemisphere airlines and airports are preparing for their peak season. For many travellers, even most, this year will be the first time they have been on a plane since 2019. They will take some time to get back into the swing of things.
To make things harder, airports are facing chronic staff shortages. Many people left the industry in 2020 and have moved to new jobs, so airports cannot simply bring them back. Recruiting new staff is tough too, as complex evaluations have to be completed before fresh people can be issued with access passes for security sensitive areas.
Things should be better than they were around easter. Manchester Airport, which warned of 90 minute queues in April, hired 250 new security staff to ease the pressure and they are starting this month in time for the summer rush. KLM was cancelling dozens of flights a day at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport but operations have returned to something like normal.
Summer will be the next big test.
To avoid infrastructure collapse, airports will not only need to hire more staff, they will need to use the staff they actually have as efficiently as possible.
Airports are already using established data to understand the macro-level trends in how busy they will be. Schedule and airline capacity data like that supplied by OAG, the Official Airline Guide, tells them how many seats will be arriving and departing from their airport at a given time.
Their records of passenger flows in previous years indicate how busy these flights will be. Our previous article outlined three major issues – familiarity with the airport process, languages spoken and the balance of “home” and “away” passengers at passport control.
Robust and rigorous customer surveys like those delivered by Surveyapp can help answer these questions. We would recommend that all airports add relevant questions regarding these to their customer research this summer.
But there is more that airports can do to help deploy their staff as effectively as possible.
Comparing trends against those of previous years is the key to these. It is not yet known whether the travel patterns that existed pre-COVID will return in 2022 and beyond. The pattern of flights may be the same but the flows of passengers will in many cases not be. This will be particularly relevant for airports serving countries like China that still have relatively strict COVID controls in place.
For example, European and African airports with middle-east-three airlines operating (Emirates of Dubai, Etihad of Abu Dhabi and Qatar Airways) might find that relatively more of these passengers are terminating or turning around in the middle east rather than travelling on to Asia.
There are unlikely to be as many passengers travelling to and from China as there have been in the past which will be a significant change for some airports, especially in Africa. Potentially staff with Chinese language skills might be able to spend less time interacting with passengers and more time doing other tasks.
It is also possible that the demographic composition of travellers might be different post-COVID too. If elderly travellers are anxious to see their relatives while borders remain open, this might increase demand for an airport’s wheelchair services.
The balance of international vs domestic arrivals might be different too, as travel within a country has in many cases had longer to return to normal. Some passengers may be more likely to travel internationally than domestically as a result, and it may be possible to shift staff from domestic to international terminals.
When there is pressure on staff in a tough operating environment, it is more important than ever before to check that all members of the team are motivated and able to do their jobs well. This is why Surveyapp’s iPad powered survey kiosks are not just used in passenger areas, but are helpful behind the scenes too.
When airports place kiosks in working and rest spaces for staff, they can capture raw and powerful data about exactly how things are going on the day. The first thing people passing the terminals are a selection of faces like this:
These are easy to push even when people are busy. And when real-time reports start coming in showing that members of staff are more frustrated than usual, airport managers will know immediately and can quickly decide the right course of action.
The kiosks can also be set to obtain further insights by asking staff exactly why they are in a good or bad mood, like this:
The data generated by these questions can help managers address issues in real time, before they become a threat to the daily operation or longer-term morale.
At Surveyapp we think that there are six key issues that airports will need to investigate:
1. Do staff feel they have too much to do?
2. Do staff feel that they have had sufficient training for what they are doing?
3. Do staff feel they are able to offer the right services to passengers moving through the terminal?
4. Do staff feel that anything has changed recently in respect of what is required of them?
5. Do staff feel that the airport feels “different” now to how it felt before COVID?
6. Do staff feel that passengers they encounter are happy?
By placing kiosks in different places in the airport and comparing the results, operators will be able to get an idea of where exactly issues are. Unfortunately, while it is desirable to use Surveyapp’s capability to scan passengers’ boarding passes to understand more about the people answering questions, this is not necessarily the case with staff.
Surveyapp’s survey kiosk can scan staff passes for full analysis, but this is not necessarily desirable as many staff may be reluctant to answer questions honestly if they feel their employer is ‘watching’.
Staff surveys can be compared with passenger research too. When staff are having a bad day and passengers are frustrated, the airport needs to know. Surveyapp consolidates all the data captured into an easy to use dashboard showing everything that airport managers need to know.
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We always love to talk about how airports can use data. You can get in touch with us:
oliver AT Surveyapp DOT io
savio AT Surveyapp DOT io