Exclusive: Heathrow on expansion and the digital revolution

International Airport review speaks exclusively to Heathrow’s Jonathan Coen about finding ways to ensure passenger satisfaction in the digital age.


How will the impact of the impending expansion to the airport impact upon Heathrow, and how will the airport ensure that passenger experience remains at a high level of quality?

The future is exciting. Expansion will offer us the platform to deliver a huge step-change in passenger service. And with plans for expansion well underway, change starts now.

We are seeking to improve the overall experience for the 650 million passengers who will travel through Heathrow before the new runway is delivered, optimising the existing infrastructure across the entire airport. Heathrow 2.0, our sustainability strategy, will help us achieve this by setting a bold direction for the end to end passenger journey, taking into consideration current & future aviation trends. By working with partners and stakeholders to deliver some innovative solutions, and by investing in and implementing breakthrough technology, we are creating a future where our business, our people, our communities, our country and our world can all thrive.

Could you describe for the purpose of our readership what the Service Workstream Manager and Service Recovery project means for the airport and its customers?

Heathrow’s mission is to give passengers the best airport service in the world. It is our commitment to continuously find new ways to make passengers feel more excited about coming to the airport, making every journey better. That’s why we’ve established the ‘Transforming Heathrow Through Service’ programme – to inspire our frontline colleagues to become more passenger-centric, by providing them the training and resources needed to handle difficult situations. This approach is known as ‘Service Recovery’. The role of the Workstream Manager is to ensure this new way of working is implemented with the safety of both our passengers and colleagues remaining the number one priority.

To achieve this, we created our ‘Frontline App’, designed to record passenger sentiments before and after an issue has been resolved. The app, which was launched in March 2017, gives us a better understanding on how passengers are feeling when they leave Heathrow and whether they may recommend travelling through Heathrow to their friends & family. Thanks to the feedback received via the app, frontline colleagues are now able to further improve the experience of our passengers. While there’s still room for improvement, this is a huge step towards improving our ability to support passengers at every stage of their journey to ensure a seamless and efficient airport experience.

Do you believe Heathrow is undergoing a successful digital transformation period?

Heathrow is building a new era of digital transformation as part of our wider business transformation goals. We know our passengers want to get through the airport as quickly and smoothly as possible and we believe that technology has a fundamental role to play in enabling that. Heathrow is currently implementing a multi-faceted digital strategy to leverage digital technologies to improve passenger experience and operational flow.

Today, we are exploring real-time interactive wayfinding technology that will improve passengers’ orientation in the Terminals by providing a more intuitive ‘step by step’ navigation and location finder. We are developing a new ‘Reserve and Collect’ portal to service our passengers’ desire to browse airport shopping ranges at home and free-up their time in terminal. We are also exploring a new a food and beverage pre-order service to speed up delivery times and meet the demand for greater take-on-board dining options.

Our colleagues are benefiting from this digital transformation too. Improved connectivity and access to tools such as the Heathrow Frontline app, are helping us work more effectively from any location. This year we will invest over £600 million in improving Heathrow Airport for our passengers – ensuring digital transformation can be delivered.

In light of the global trend that sees the exponential increase of passenger numbers, how is Heathrow ensuring that the equally rising demands of passengers are being successfully met?

We’re working to enhance passenger experience every step of the way by keeping up to date with the latest technology. Heathrow has recognised that what was seen as ‘industry leading’ a few years ago, is now being viewed as the ‘basic need of a traveller’, whether this is access to free Wi-Fi or somewhere to charge a mobile device whilst waiting to board a flight. We have undertaken extensive journey mapping exercises looking at the end to end journey across all passenger segments including families or ‘extra care travellers’ with a view not only to identify opportunities to enhance their current experience, but also to map out what their needs are now and in the future.

We’re taking a two pronged approach targeting ‘service’ and ‘infrastructure’. The service element identifies where we can deliver a better customer experience through our ‘people’. We want to ensure the right members of our team are in the right places to interact with passengers, by giving them the skills and tools to do this. The second is where we need to adapt and enhance our facilities, whether these are making small adjustments to design & flow or significant investment such as our new Flight Connections Centre in Terminal 3 or the additional e-passport gates across the airport. The key is working with the whole airport community to address the needs of each and every passenger.


Jonathan Coen became Heathrow’s Customer Relations and Service Director in January 2017 moving from the position of Heathrow’s Commercial Director. In his new role,  Jonathan is responsible for activating Heathrow’s commitment to delivering the world’s best airport service alongside key aviation partners.  He has extensive experience across airline business development, retail, baggage development, and brand & service proposition design. As Heathrow Commercial Director , Jonathan  was responsible for driving Heathrow’s revenue and commencing the company’s drive to develop a service brand and marketing proposition to help deliver the world’s best airport service.

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