What makes a happy passenger? At airports, passengers are calm and at ease when their journey from entry to boarding is smooth, effective and leaves them with enough time to get to their gate, shop and use the bathroom. And, of course, the passenger experience is enhanced by efficient technologies for check-in and baggage drop, fast wi-fi and clean common areas.
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A calm passenger is a happy customer - and that, in turn, makes the customer more susceptible to return to the airport, to spend money at the retail and restaurant facilities housed in the terminal, etc.
Earlier this year the Airports Company South Africa’s top brass attended the World Airport Expo, hosted by Heathrow Airport. OR Tambo International Airport General Manager, Bongiwe Pityi says that "What really came out was that it is about small things that keep passengers happy. Denver Airport mentioned that in their research it consistently shows that passengers want them to pay particular attention to clean bathrooms, as well as quicker wi-fi." Denver has since embarked on a mass refurbishment of their bathroom and common area facilities.
Truly stripping it down to the bare essentials: bathrooms. Yes.
And there's some great news, especially for frequent flyers to OR Tambo International Airport. "We are also embarking on a similar project (as Denver Airport), we have 225 twin sets of bathrooms, and very soon we will be refurbishing the top 30 that are highly utilised - within this financial year. And then attend to the others later," says Pityi.
Last year, The New York Times reported that in-flight bathrooms are shrinking to make more space for economy seats. Therefore, more passengers are seeking comfort before boarding their flights, hoping for a more roomy, clean and accessible bathroom experience in the terminal.
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But how often have you stood in a queue at at airport about to burst?
How often have you avoided the bathroom because people are changing, brushing their teeth and changing their baby on the sink top, almost all at once?!
Airports more prone to long-layovers often have this kind of scenario playing itself out; and sometimes it just gets a bit messy. So much so, that you're even inclined to wait to use the loo till you're 40 000 miles high up in the air.
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Some airports around the globe are now making use of various technologies to ensure passengers encounter a clean bathroom. For example, the app Inspection Assistant will point you to the cleanest bathroom in your vicinity. Whereas several US airports have invested in a new software system called TRAX SmartRestroom, which provides real-time data that allows staff and restrooms to run more efficiently. This tech is, particularly, helpful in the world's busiest airports.
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