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3 1.1 Background Airports are continually looking for ways to provide an optimal experience to all air travelers. A crucial ingredient to seamless air travel experience is access to relevant, precise, and timely information. Travelers with cognitive and sensory disabilities, aging travelers, and travelers with limited English proficiency need alternative approaches for accessing and communicating air travel information as opposed to those provided for general travelers. Many airports are leading the way in communicating information and thus enhance passenger access and mobility. This report aims to document the current state of airport practices in the United States in providing information for flights, airport facilities and amenities, and airport services and programs to travelers with accessibility needs. Because there is a lack of data and research to determine the efficacy of these practices, this report provides an omnibus of current services and commuÂ nication tools used by one or more airports to maximize the cognitive and sensory abilities of passengers. In addition, the report intends to point to current practices and promising innovations currently in use by airports and ultimately to provide assistance to airports that would further enhance customer service for all passengers. Airlines and community groups may also find the information in this synthesis useful because airport services and programs are often in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders. Any passenger who has difficulties with obtaining information communicated visually, aurally, and/or verbally may find this report helpful for air travel. For customers, each experience with an airport is a journey that consists of multiple stages: from preÂtrip planning to curb, checkÂin, and security screening, waiting at the gate, boarding or deplaning, baggage claim, and departure to final destination. As described in ACRP Report 157: Improving the Airport Customer Experience (Boudreau et al. 2016), each of the touch points in this journey (Figure 1) offers an opportunity for the airport to wow the customer, but also presents risks of psychological stress. Successful wayfinding throughout the process is crucial, and struggles with wayfinding are a major source of stress. Thus, a seamless customer experience is the gold standard. It is not a simple task for airports to ensure seamless travel experiences, in part due to the multiple stakeholders and decision makers in the service delivery chain. Travelers often do not understand the symbiotic relationship between airport and airlines, along with other partners including concessionaires, TSA, Customs and Border Protection, and service providers. Customers may fault the airport as a whole for a service failure at any touch point in the air travel journey. Information and effective communication with customers are, therefore, crucial for creating a seamless airport customer experience. The risks of discontinuity and C H A P T E R 1 Introduction
4 Communication Strategies for Airport Passenger Access and Mobility stress are increased when travelers are not presented with information in a way that they can easily access or understand throughout the air travel journey. Information about and at each touch point can facilitate travelersâ decision making, and being informed can reduce travelersâ stress and anxiety, especially when service is disrupted by flight changes. The importance of effective communication on flights and airport services is heightened for travelers who are aging, travelers with cognitive and sensory disabilities, and travelers with limited English proficiency. With a projected increase in the number of aging travelers and travelers with disabilities, it is crucial for airports to identify and implement ways to maximize travelersâ cognitive and sensory abilities when navigating and using airport services, programs, and facilities. 1.2 Why Now? Demographic Trends in Air Travel According to the air passenger forecast released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2017 (International Air Transport Association 2017), the number of air passengers is projected to double globally in the next 20 years. Approximately 7.8 billion passengers are expected to travel by air in 2036, up from 4 billion passengers in 2017. The United States, currently the largest domestic market worldwide, is projected to add 484 million new passengers for a total of 1.1 billion by 2036. To adequately respond to rising demand, it is important for the industry to keep track of the demographic characteristics of the various markets and to address their specific needs. 1.2.1 Aging Travelers One trend that cannot be overlooked is the aging population. As reported by the United Nations, globally there were about 962 million people age 60 and older in 2017, and this number is projected to double by 2050 (United Nations 2017) (Figure 2). Figure 1. Airport service delivery chain, adopted from ACRP Report 157 (Source: Boudreau et al. 2016).
Introduction 5 This population trend is driven by the aging of the baby boomers, and the baby boomers are also reported to be more affluent, better educated, more adventurous, and âyoungerâ feeling than previous generations (Patterson et al. 2017). Thus, they are more likely to continue to travel domestically and internationally as they age. In fact, a study conducted by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) (Gelfeld 2017) found that boomer travelers were expected to take four to five leisure trips on average in 2018, and the most anticipated mode of transportation was by air, for both international and domestic trips. No fewer than 79% of boomers subscribe to airline loyalty programs. Multigenerational travel is the trend of the future (Yeoman 2011; Chen 2018). However, a study by King et al. (2013) shows that although the baby boomers have longer life expectancy than previous generations, they are also more likely to have disabling chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, dementia, and Alzheimerâs disease. In addition, as people age, they are more likely to have multiple chronic health conditions that result in functional limitations (Jindai et al. 2016). According to Multiple Chronic Condi- tions Chartbook (Gerteis et al. 2014) from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, almost half of people between ages 45 and 64, and about 80% of people 65 years and older in the United States have multiple chronic conditions (Figure 3); and research shows that the greater the number of chronic conditions, the greater the number of functional limitations (Jindai et al. 2016). The combination of diminished abilities and chronic illnesses can make it challenging for an aging person to use airport services, programs, and facilities and negatively affect their confidence level (Chang 2013). ACRP Synthesis 51: Impacts of Aging Travelers on Airports (Mein et al. 2014) explains the specific challenges of aging travelers in a complex airport environment: difficulty understanding information and directional signs, fatigue due to long wait and long walking distance, especially when walking with luggage, and difficulty underÂ standing and using airport services and amenities, such as security check, automated services, or services in crowded areas. Therefore, ACRP Synthesis 51 points out, the stress experienced by travelers during air travel can be felt âmore acutely by an older personâ (Mein et al. 2014, p. 1). Nonetheless, baby boomers are found to be likely to continue to travel even with health issues (Patterson et al. 2017). The air travel industry must be prepared to accommodate this growing demographic. Age P op ul at io n (b ill io ns ) Figure 2. Global population by broad age group, in 1980, 2017, 2030, and 2050 (Source: From World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Â© 2017, United Nations. Reprinted with the permission of the United Nations.)
6 Communication Strategies for Airport Passenger Access and Mobility 1.2.2 Travelers with Cognitive and Sensory Disabilities Although people who are 65 and older are more likely to have a severe disability than those in other age groups, they make up fewer than half of all Americans with disabilities. Disabilities are common in the U.S. population: about one in four adults have some type of disability (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018c). Slightly more than half of persons with a severe disability fall in the 18â64 age range (Kraus et al. 2018). The number of people with disabilities increases if people with mild or temporary disabilities are included. Approximately 15% of American adults (37.8 million) age 18 and over report some level of trouble hearing. and about another 10% of adults (25.5 million) are living with vision trouble (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018b). Cognitive impairments include a variety of conditions related to old age, but can also include nonÂageÂspecific disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD, which affects 1 in 59 children [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018a]), or temporary conditions, such as memory loss due to illness. People with cognitive and sensory impairments often experience functional limitations (Sharpe and HendersonÂGuenther 2013), making navigating the airport environment chalÂ lenging. For example, people with hearing impairments are unable to respond or differentiate sounds in the environment (Sharpe and HendersonÂGuenther 2013), thus, ACRP Research Report 177: Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities (Harding et al. 2017) suggests that the use of visual flight information and visual signs or audio messages presented visually on screens is essential. Noise reduction at airports for people wearing hearing aids or are hard of hearing can also assist effective communication. People with vision impairment not only have difficulty reading, writing, perceiving depth/ space, and distinguishing color, but their physical functions such as walking can be restricted (Sharpe and HendersonÂGuenther 2013). In the airport environment, all important and relevant information (i.e., information about flights, airport facilities, services, and amenities) should be presented in audible format. Additionally, verbal information provided by customer service agents should be actionable (Harding et al. 2017). 6.8% 18.0% 49.1% 80.1% DATA HIGHLIGHTS The prevalence of multiple chronic conditions increases dramatically with age. Almost half of all people 45 to 64, and 80% of those 65 and over, have multiple chronic conditions. Figure 3. Percentage of all Americans with multiple chronic conditions, by age group in 2010 (Source: Gerteis et al. 2014).
Introduction 7 The group of travelers with cognitive disabilities includes people with learning and developÂ mental disabilities, people with ASD, people with dementia or Alzheimerâs disease, and people with shortÂterm memory loss. In the airport setting, they may have problems with selfÂdirection and difficulty communicating or demonstrate challenging behavior (Sharpe and HendersonÂ Guenther 2013). ACRP Report 177 (Harding et al. 2017) suggests that passengers with mild to moderate cognitive disability can still travel independently, however, and it is crucial that airÂ ports have clear and wellÂdefined paths and use clear and consistent symbols and pictograms in signs. Offering familiarization tours before travel is especially helpful for people with ASD. People with disabilities have the same desire to travel as people without disabilities (Shi et al. 2012). Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Air Carrier Access Act, travel in general is becoming more accessible to this population (Cole et al. 2019) and market research conducted by the Open Doors Organization in 2002 and 2015 shows a clear trend of increasing participation in air travel by people with disabilities. The amount of money that adults with disabilities spent on travel just for themselves has increased from $13.5 billion in 2002 (Open Doors Organization 2002) to $17.3 billion in 2015 (Open Doors Organization 2015). These studies show that people with disabilities represent a strong market for air travel. 1.2.3 Travelers with Limited English Proficiency Travelers who need accessibility also include people with limited English proficiency. The difficulty they have in understanding the information only provided in English can cause anxiety and, consequently, negatively affect the passenger travel experience. Although some local travelers have limited English proficiency, the largest group of passengers who encounter challenges during air travel due to limited English proficiency is international travelers. Air travel by international travelers is an important component of the U.S. economy (Landrum & Brown Inc. 2016). IATA projects that the largest growth in air travel markets over the next 20 years will be in the AsiaÂPacific region, and that China will supersede the United States as the largest market for air travel by 2036 (International Air Transport Association 2017). Airports must be prepared for more global connectivity, more international passengers, and a shift in the major regional markets. ACRP Research Report 161: Guidelines for Improving Airport Services for International Customers specifies the challenges facing international travelers, who are more likely to have limited English proficiency (Landrum & Brown Inc. 2016). Because of their inability to communicate effectively in English, some international travelers report anxiety around the following topics or situations: â¢ Security screening due to cultural differences. â¢ Border protection process due to uncertainty about what information customs needs or what the next step is in the process. â¢ Baggage claim, whether baggage will be delivered or lost. â¢ Flight delays and their implications for connecting flights. Travelers with limited English proficiency, along with passengers with sensory and cognitive disabilities, and aging travelers all require alternative means of communication at airports. With increasing demands for air travel, airports are striving to be innovative in ensuring access and mobility for all passengers.