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1 SUMMARY Passenger Level of Service and Spatial Planning for Airport Terminals The objectives of ACRP Project 03-05, "Passenger Space Allocation Guidelines for Planning and Design of North American Airport Terminals," were to develop standard space allowances for passengers in each area of the air terminal, to identify an appropriate level-of-service (LOS) framework, and to identify a dynamic or holistic measure representing a passenger's overall experience of the journey. This project presents an opportunity to complete research on North American passengers' perceptions of airport service as a function of the amount of space surrounding them as they travel through each processing element of the air terminal. For over thirty years, airport planners, designers, and operators have used research and standards developed many years ago, in other countries, and in some instances in other transportation facilities as the basis for North American airport LOS guidance. Prior to the completion of this ACRP research effort, the LOS framework predominantly used by aviation stakeholders had been the International Air Transport Association (IATA) LOS framework, derived from sim- ilar standards first promoted by John Fruin and documented in the Highway Capacity Manual and the Airport Associations Coordinating Council LOS framework. The basic premise of the LOS framework is that passengers are sensitive to the amount of space surrounding them and as that space is reduced by crowding, they perceive it as a de- terioration of service. By how much and why, however, continued to be a question. Research in the early 1990s led some aviation planners to question the validity of the tie between pas- senger perceptions of LOS and space. Some thought time was more important, and others thought perceptions of LOS were driven by other factors, some unique to individual termi- nal processors. Many planners debated the applicability of space standards derived for in- ternational passengers rather than for North American domestic passengers since cultural differences may influence passenger perceptions. Additionally, many planners believed that factors associated with passengers' trip purpose (e.g., business versus leisure) or air carrier type (e.g., domestic versus international or legacy carrier passenger versus low-cost carrier) also influenced passengers' perception of LOS. The TransSolutions team was selected to develop a space-planning guideline for each air terminal processing area as well as to develop a dynamic or holistic measure indicating the LOS for a passenger's entire journey through the air terminal. To achieve these objectives, TransSolutions conceived a data collection approach that included both quantitative data (passenger wait time and available space at each processor tied to a query about the passen- ger's perceived LOS) as well as qualitative data based rather innovatively on an ethnographic interview and in situ (in the place) observation technique. The TransSolutions team used this approach to data collection to produce passenger space guidelines that yield favorable passenger perceptions of LOS as well as to identify the drivers of passenger perception in hopes of discovering a holistic or dynamic metric for overall passenger journey satisfaction.
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2 North American airports selected for data collection sites represent the spectrum of airport design, air market service, and passenger type so that any differences in passenger perceptions tied to these differences could be identified. Approximately 4,000 wait-time or density data points tied to passenger perceptions were collected at each airport processor at seven U.S. air- ports. Additionally, 242 ethnographic interviews and in situ observations were conducted at four of the airports. The data were analyzed to identify the drivers of passenger perception. Analysis of the data produced the following findings: · No relationship was identified between a positive passenger perception of LOS and den- sity itself. · The data clearly indicate that positive passenger perception of LOS is not tied to lower density, an exciting finding that will help the aviation industry invest scarce development resources wisely. · Positive passenger perception was found to be associated with lower wait times in four areas: staffed agent check-in, kiosk check-in, security screening checkpoint, and baggage claim. Passengers are tolerant of wait times of 25 min or less, consistent with previous studies. · No difference was identified between business and leisure travelers' perception of LOS, and generally no difference was identified between passenger perceptions of LOS based on air carrier type differences. The results of the ethnographic data collection provide important clues regarding the drivers of passenger perception. A key finding is that in order to reduce passengers' stress and thus increase their perceived LOS, it is important that they feel in control of the success of their journey. The findings identifying lower wait times associated with higher perceived LOS are consistent with this driver. Additional areas affecting terminal planning include simple, intuitive wayfinding, short walk distances, and ubiquitous and reliable flight infor- mation status. The ethnographic data also indicated a need for terminal amenities that reflect a respect for passengers' time and needs. These include the desire for Wi-Fi and electrical outlets so that they can plug in their electronic devices to be productive as they wait. Passengers also need sanctuary as they wait. For some, this may be a quiet place, while others may want a place to watch sports or news. The space-related driver of passenger perception is not density but the quality of the space related to passenger needs. Some study conclusions are highlighted in the following: · While the clear objective of the study was to produce a new space-planning guideline, analysis of over 4,000 data points indicated that the IATA LOS C metric is a good basis for planning. Chapter 5 of this document provides the IATA LOS C standards from the latest (9th) edition of the IATA Airport Development Reference Manual (1) along with some important caveats about matters to consider when using the standard. This space- planning standard has been used for terminal planning for the last 35 years, and this research indicates that passengers are satisfied with the terminal densities that result. The study found few instances of passenger density worse than LOS C, with instances of passengers actively self-regulating their experience to avoid such conditions by moving to another, less crowded area. These observations support the validity of continuing to use the IATA LOS C standard. · There is no basis for allocating additional space to terminal processing areas in excess of the LOS C guideline in an attempt to produce higher passenger perceptions of LOS. The study concludes that space should be planned using the necessary numbers of processing elements to achieve acceptable wait times and the LOS C guideline for the design year of
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3 the facility. Thus, facilities may open with a space-planning factor greater than LOS C but will grow into the LOS C as demand increases and the facility nears the passenger loads expected for the design year used in facility programming. · Terminal planners should incorporate all necessary types of terminal processors in ade- quate numbers, including the space necessary to accommodate those processors and their associated queuing, for the design year so that a LOS C in those processing areas is main- tained and passenger wait times are minimized. · Terminal planners and designers should take care to consider early in the terminal design ways to improve wayfinding through intuitive building design, clear sight lines, minimal level changes, and effective signs when clear sight lines cannot be achieved. These consid- erations cannot be left to the end of the design process. · Incorporation of passenger amenities that support passengers' expectations to use their time to accomplish work or be productive while they wait, as well as areas for relaxation tailored to diverse passenger needs, is fundamentally important for terminal design to produce high passenger perception of LOS. · It is necessary that terminal planners and designers incorporate flexibility into any design, since travelers' changing needs and demands within the next 5, 10, or more years is un- known today. The TransSolutions team also recommends for further study that the industry research and identify new, less costly ways to collect passenger perception data. The TransSolutions team used a one-on-one interview survey technique, with few questions and minimal inconvenience to passengers--a standard industry approach to passenger behavior surveys. However, even the best passenger intercept survey techniques introduce the potential for some bias. Many passengers will not respond or participate, based on their perception that they will be delayed. The authors have identified promising new approaches that include questionnaires adminis- tered via mobile technology and passive monitoring of passenger wait time using GPS and blue-tooth technology. Identification of more effective data collection techniques is essential for further study of passenger attitudes regarding LOS.