Airport surveys have led to happier passengers, officials say
By Charlotte Libov
Service at Miami International Airport is getting higher marks from passengers these days, thanks to action taken as a result of three years of surveys, airport officials say.
Officials intend to continue surveying passengers to keep improving, albeit less frequently, they said.
The spring and fall surveys began in 2003 as part of a $350,875 three-year contract with Synovate, a global research firm. Airport officials want to continue the surveying, but now that the project is complete, it needs to go out to bid again, said spokesman Marc Henderson.
The airport had received a great deal of good information, Mr. Henderson said, so that the frequency of surveying will be reduced to once a year. The contract will probably be put out to bid in June, he said.
The surveys showed that the airport's rankings have steadily improved over the three-year period, said Irving Fourcand, Miami-Dade Aviation Department manager of customer relations.
Rankings were based on a five-point scale, ranging from poor, 1, to excellent, 5.
Most airports fall around 3 in these categories, Mr. Fourcand said. Higher ratings are usually unrealistic, he said, because travelers are inclined to rate low dramatically if their most recent encounter was unpleasant, even if the rest of the experience was good.
In overall performance, Miami-International most recently scored 3.5, up from 3.3 when the surveying started.
For parking, he said, respondents most recently gave the airport 3.1, up from 2.7 in the survey's first year. The airport scored 3.2 this year, up from 3.0 at the outset in food service, "and we are going through a major change, so the food service will get better," Mr. Fourcand said.
The survey, developed by Synovate, was given to 2,750 passengers. At random, 2,000 travelers awaiting planes were asked to complete a questionnaire. Another 500 arriving from international flights were given the chance to answer questions, as well as 250 "meeters and greeters," who are relatives and family members awaiting travelers.
"We asked about the politeness of the staff, their overall opinion about getting to and from the airport, the terminal facility, food and beverages, and security - those were the overall things," Mr. Fourcand said. In addition, respondents were queried in detail on topics ranging from the type of retail they'd like at the airport to the cleanliness of the restrooms, he added.
"We are gaining quite a lot of positive ground, which is very good news," he said. "When we started this survey, we realized there were a number of issues being brought up by the respondents."
As a result, the airport formed the Directors Passengers Improvement Task Force, made up of each department's manager. Survey results were used to implement changes, he said.
"When the users are telling you exactly where you are failing, the next course is to identify the area where we are lacking and as soon as we made changes it was obvious, from the next survey, that they were appreciated," he added.
The surveys triggered a number of changes, he said, including the way hourly parking charges are calculated, improved food concessions and even the hanging of artwork in the North Terminal, so travelers are less conscious of its length.
"We are doing great, but I can't say there aren't areas for improvement. We have millions of passengers going back and forth," said Mr. Fourcand. But, "now that we have a clearer understanding of the problems, the survey can be conducted only once a year."