What defines a great arrivals experience at an airport?

Posted: 29 January 2020 | | No comments yet

Given that passengers are usually in transit to somewhere else, top of the arrivals desirability list is the ability to get out, fast. Whether travellers are tired, rushed for a meeting or eager to meet friends and family, they all want to complete their journey as quickly and smoothly as possible

Flow Management

In competing for customers, airlines and revenue, airports tend to focus on smoothing the departure – creating an environment where passengers can quickly move airside to shop and relax, arrive stress free at the gate and take off on time. However, a passenger’s arrival has just as much impact on an airport’s reputation as their departure. Indeed, with our memories heavily weighted towards the more intensive points of an experience and how the experience ended (the Peak-End rule), a poor arrival process will shape how a passenger recalls the entire journey.

To get a sense of how well airports were doing on the arrivals front, in 2019, Airports Council International launched the Airport Arrival Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards. Passengers are surveyed as they arrive at the airport destination and asked about their experience going through the arrivals process, immigration and baggage collection as well as walk times, information clarity and the helpfulness of the staff.

Airports eager to boost their customer experience ranking are seeking to improve their understanding of how the passenger moves throughout the arrivals terminal. Several operators are now combining passenger flow insight with flight and baggage data so they can make robust plans and predict changes early enough to improve the arrivals experience.

Here’s how they’re doing it – from one arrivals process to the next.

Immigration and customs

Passenger flow management and forecasting can also be used to improve the resource capacity planning of immigration and customs checkpoints. Understanding movement per flight helps build a picture of the show-up profiles at transfer, border and security control. Combining flow predictions with real-time flight data can help airports understand the implication of any changes to the flight schedule, and take action to mitigate the impact.  

For example, due to late departures, an airport might forecast that several long-haul flights are predicted to land at the same time. By combining flight information with flow models, operators can forecast that the immigration arrivals hall occupancy threshold will be exceeded, with long queues expected. With this look-ahead intelligence, they can take the best action to streamline operations. In this case, for example, reallocating early arrivals to more remote gates to increase walk time to immigration, or making adjustments to rostering based on forecast recommendations, well in advance of the new shift starting.


After a long flight, the last thing passengers want is to wait for their luggage. While this is a relatively straightforward step in the process, it has the potential to severely impact on the overall customer arrivals experience.

By combining gate-to-baggage-hall passenger flow insight with first-bag-last-bag data and flight information, Keflavik Airport can now collate baggage wait times by flight. This will allow them to prioritise baggage handling for more efficient ground handling and improved customer satisfaction during construction, at times when there are fewer reclaim belts. It also enables them to validate forecasting data by comparing actual data to the forecasting model.



Although the airport is not a destination as such, how transferring passengers move from arrival to connecting with their ongoing flight, has a significant impact on the overall experience. With travellers now actively choosing flights based on the transit hub, a smooth connection process is essential.

At Brussels Airport, 18 per cent of all travellers go through the transfer process. Understanding passenger flow is proving a reliable tool in improving the transfer experience. By meshing wait times at security screening and border control with flight and transfer passenger data from the airlines, Brussels Airport can accurately predict how long a transfer journey will take.

Airport staff are then able to make informed decisions about what actions are needed to ensure tight connections are made or informing airlines ahead of flight landing that a connection is unlikely to happen. 

Road transport

Finally, the traveller is ready to hail a taxi. Flow management technology can provide real-time data to identify taxi shortages and bottlenecks and even minimise traffic. In New York, for instance, airports use it to balance terminal ride-share availability, directing taxis to pick-up points when they are needed.

Take a holistic view for a winning ASQ score

Airports are keen to increase their ASQ customer experience rating in both departures and arrivals. But to do so, they must achieve a birds-eye view of all airport processes. With cohesive movement insights, from flow management technology, scores can improve for every process area, rather than tackling one process but pushing a problem to the next.

Passenger flow data layered with flight and baggage data yields the best insights for better customer service decisions – and a better ASQ arrivals score.

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