Airport International Group CEO, Kjeld Binger, talks to Joe Bates about the customer service philosphy of Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport.

Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) is fast gaining a reputation for delivering quality customer service to match the best in the business.

Indeed, Queen Alia’s customer-focused philosophy –  which Kjeld Binger, CEO of operator Airport International Group (AIG), believes together with the airport’s “fast and efficient transfer process” helps set it apart from other gateways – was recognised by the two awards it won in ACI’s 2014 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) survey.

The airport was ranked Best in the Middle East and Best Improvement: Middle East in ACI’s annual customer satisfaction survey.

Binger proudly reveals that Queen Alia was the top Middle Eastern airport in all 36 different categories measured in the 2014 ASQ programme, a magnificent achievement he attributes to AIG’s customer service focused philosophy.

“Our focus is on the provision of high-quality facilities and services and this is reflected in our mission statement, which is for Queen Alia to contribute towards the prosperity and pride of Jordan and our stakeholders by being among the world’s top 20 airports in each ASQ category,” he says.

“Ongoing training programmes, wellness sessions, always looking to make improvements by analysing the survey results and having quality on the agenda of everything we do has created a passenger-focused corporate culture across the airport.”

He is particularly proud of  AIG’s efforts to make the security process more customer-friendly, which started by simply persuading army staff on security duty to ditch their military uniforms for less intimidating blazers and trousers.

Binger is also among the first to admit that the airport’s impressive new 100,000sqm terminal – phase one opened in 2013 – has played a major part in the airport’s ASQ success.

A host of new retail and F&B outlets, which have included a number of local brands and concepts to help create a sense of place, and a huge duty free walkthrough store operated by World Duty Free have also helped contribute towards its popularity.

Retail and F&B operations currently account for 20% of the airport’s non-aeronautical revenues.

“Passenger satisfaction levels have soared since the new terminal opened,” enthuses Binger. “All I really need to say is that before it opened the old terminal ranked 186 in the world in ACI’s ASQ survey. Today it ranks 34 in the world and this needs to be seen in context as we currently bus 40% of our departing passengers to aircraft parked at remote gates. Its impact has been truly remarkable.”

New terminal

When AIG was awarded a 25-year concession to operate QAIA it pledged to build the new terminal to better equip the gateway to handle rising demand, and it has been as good as its word.

However, the need to continue to use the old terminal while the new one was being built meant that it had to be constructed in phases, with the main terminal building – opened in 2013 – initially being followed by two piers built on the site of the old terminal.

With the old terminal now demolished, work is underway on the new $200 million pier extensions that will effectively complete the first phase of the new terminal and equip QAIA to handle 12mppa.

When they open in 2016, the 46,500sqm piers will boast 13 fixed link bridges – four of which will be capable of simultaneously accommodating either two narrowbody or one widebody aircraft and, if required, both arriving and departing flights at the same time – and 17 contact gates.

The additional gates will also ensure that AIG no longer has to bus 40% of QAIA’s departing passengers to aircraft parked at remote gates.

“We are currently gate constrained because we only have the capacity to serve around 60% of our departing passengers from contact gates. We don’t like this as it is a challenge and it is not the best customer service,” remarks Binger.

“Thankfully, it will be a thing of the past from 2016 and when it is and we are able to provide all our passengers with top quality services from the moment they step inside the building until the moment they leave, I expect our terminal to be ranked as one of the best in the world in the ASQ survey.”

Completion of the expansion programme will take AIG’s investment in Queen Alia past the $1 billion mark since it took over responsibility for operating the gateway on January 1, 2008.

Source: http://www.airport-world.com/features/passenger-services/5024-putting-people-first.html

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