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125 8.1 Customer Experience Many of the challenges experienced pre-flight are also experienced postflight, such as way- finding and long distances to walk. While navigating to baggage claim or the next gate can be a challenge, travelers also encounter problems with finding restrooms that meet their needs and with getting through the baggage claim area independently (Mein et al. 2014). Lack of immediate availability of a SARA is another problem, especially after a long international flight. Accord- ing to the U.S. DOT, there is no requirement for airports to install a SARA in the Customs and Border Protection secure area. However, it would seem a logical place to add one. On the way to baggage claim or a connecting gate, the restroom is the amenity visited by most travelers. All restrooms are required to have accessible stalls, but survey respondents identified the need for larger restroom stalls and companion restrooms. As mobility devices have become larger, the previous ADA standards for wheelchair footprint and turning spaces may no longer be adequate. This issue is discussed further in Chapter 11. According to User Needs Survey responses, the challenges experienced in baggage claim are most often because of the lack of assistance when retrieving luggage from the carousel. Travelers with vision loss have difficulty locating their luggage, while travelers with physical limitations have difficulty lifting their bags, particularly when there is a high edge to maneuver bags over and when multiple bags are piled on top of each another. A lack of seating close to baggage carousels is a common complaint among older travelers (Mein et al. 2014). Another issue, mentioned in Chapter 7, is that because of delays in retrieving mobility devices and/or in assistance services, passengers may arrive long after their checked bags have arrived in baggage claim, leading to the worry that someone else may have taken their bags before they could arrive. 8.2 Access to Information Upon arrival at their destination, travelers want information about the next stop in their journey, such as which baggage carousel to go to and what transportation to use. Those connecting to another flight need to know where their gate is and how to get there, an even greater challenge if it is located in a different terminal. Both the airline and the airport have a responsibility to the traveler to provide this information. Travelers arriving at Vancouver International Airport receive useful information as soon as they enter the Canadian Border Services and Immigration area. A large digital display screen shows the status of connecting flights, a terminal map, the local time, and instructions for getting through Customs. There is also an audible welcome message played throughout this space and C H A P T E R 8 From Arrival Gate to Terminal Exit and Interterminal Connections
126 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities relayed to travelers with hearing loss through American Sign Language on the display screen (Figure 8-1). A common worry among travelers is whether their luggage made it to their destination. This is especially the case when a traveler checked their mobility device or luggage with medical and other important personal items. Some air carriers, such as American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, now communicate the status of travelersâ checked items through a mobile app with notifications of when the items were loaded at the previous airport, when they were scanned by ground handlers at the destination airport, and which baggage claim will serve their flight. Once off the plane, travelers look for directional information to baggage claim, ground trans- portation, their next gate, or the terminal exit. Airport signage is the key source of information from the moment travelers step off the jet bridge. Signage with clear directions to major airport touchpoints should be placed frequently throughout terminals so travelers can quickly see the information on leaving the gate area and determine which way to turn. The Wayfinding Accessibility Checklist from ACRP Research Report 177 includes a section on âArriving Passengersâ that can be used to conduct a self-evaluation from arrival gates to final departure from the airport on ground transportation. 8.3 Access to Assistance Travelers needing assistance are typically greeted by a service provider on the jet bridge, then assisted to the next part of their journey. The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits airlines from requiring travelers to provide advance notice of their need for assistance. Therefore, such requests may be made on the spot. The lack of advance notification presents a staffing challenge for service providers who are unable to accurately predict how many requests for assistance may come in each day above and beyond those prebooked by travelers. Service providers must also prioritize requests for travelers with connections or time-sensitive schedules, travelers who prebooked the assistance, and travelers who made ad hoc requests. Because of the growing number of ad hoc and prebooked requests, travelers often need to wait in the gate area until there is a service provider available to assist them. Then space Figure 8-1. Welcome display with signed information.
From Arrival Gate to Terminal Exit and Interterminal Connections 127 becomes an issue with other travelers waiting to board the next flight. To address this prob- lem, London Heathrow designated hold rooms where travelers waited for an available service provider to take them to their next touchpoint. As a result, travelers could not leave the airport for hours. Following complaints and a low rating by the UK CAA, London Heathrow got rid of these rooms and increased funding for service staff and equipment. Passengers are now taken straight from the gate to Customs/Immigration, baggage claim, and ground transportation. Consistent service standards are essential to providing assistance in airports. In the U.S., âfailure to provide assistanceâ routinely makes up half of the written complaints from travel- ers with disabilities. While the Air Carrier Access Act includes requirements pertaining to the type of assistance that must be provided, the regulations do not address customer experience or level of satisfaction. They also do not set level-of-service standards in terms of minutes as in European Civil Aviation Conference Doc. 30, Annex 5-C: Code of Good Conduct in Ground Handling for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility. For example, for prebooked arriving passengers, âassistance should be available at the gate-roomâaircraft side for: 80 percent of customers within 5 minutes of âon chocks,â 90 percent within 10 minutes, [and] 100 percent within 20 minutes.â Those who did not prenotify may have to wait up to 45 minutes (European Civil Aviation Conference 2018). However, it is possible for U.S. airlines and airports to set their own, more-specific standards and build them into contracts. 8.4 Customs and Border Protection Travelers arriving to the U.S. on international flights must go through Customs and Border Protection. While technology has played a major role in the efficiency of Customs operations, challenges still exist. Automated passport control kiosks allow travelers to complete the first part of the screening process themselves. Because these kiosks are touch screen, hardware has been added to allow those with vision loss to use them independently. Unfortunately, the EZ Trace pad placement is too low for a standing traveler of average height. And it is positioned vertically, which requires travelers to hold their hand in an uncomfortable position to use it. Ideally, the EZ Trace pad should be on a horizontal surface, roughly waist high. Where this placement is not possible, a Nav-Bar with the keys in one row (as opposed to in a square) should be higher on the kiosk. See Chapter 12 for details on the types of navigation pads. To improve efficiency with passenger processing in Customs and Immigration, biometric technologies have been tested and deployed around the world. In 2017, JetBlue Airways collaborated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to undergo a trial of SITA biometric exit technology, with the goal of streamlined passenger processing. Without showing a boarding pass or passport, the technology used a camera to scan the travelerâs face and match the image to passport images in a database with nearly 100 percent accuracy. Similarly, the biometric entryâexit tracking system called the Traveler Verification Service has been implemented in Customs at San Diego International Airport. Nonglobal entry trav- elers go through the primary inspection area, and a web cam captures their photo, which is then matched immediately to a passport or visa photo on file. This system has the potential to increase the number of people processed per hour by 25 percent. Other airports using this system include HartsfieldâJackson Atlanta International, Miami International, and Chicago OâHare International. U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors traveling to Miami can use the Miami International Airport app for quick processing through Customs. SITA developed and certified the technol- ogy for mobile passport control through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Travelers can
128 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities submit their travel and personal information to Customs via the app, then receive a barcode on their smartphone to present to officers. During site visits, the research team learned that a single incoming flight to Amsterdam Schiphol had more than 120 wheelchair assistance requests, while the number topped 140 at Vancouver International Airport. International flights typically receive a large number of such requests, resulting in wheelchairs and service agents rapidly overcrowding the Customs area. While there may be a legitimate need for a wheelchair due to limited mobility, other factors may cause an older traveler or non-Englishâspeaking traveler to request assistance. These fac- tors include difficulty in navigating a large, complex, and unfamiliar airport, made even more challenging for the non-Englishâspeaking traveler by the language barrier. A Proof of Concept trial at London Heathrow by British Airways and OmniServ found that most individuals requesting wheelchair assistance on high-density inbound inter- national flights would be equally or more satisfied with other types of assistance, such as âguidance in their native language, group movement to final destination, [or] assistance with hand luggageâ (Castiglioni 2019). This is an approach previously tried by several U.S. carriers but not in such a systematic way. A working committee that includes the CAA, London Heathrow, airlines, and other interested parties is now considering next steps to develop this promising solution. Some airports provide a dedicated lane for travelers with disabilities, clearly marked with the universal symbol of accessibility. Dedicated lanes at London Gatwick Airport and at Brussels Airport are wide enough for an electric cart to drive through so that travelers can remain seated while being processed. Figure 8-2 shows the separate lane for electric carts on the left and passengers with disabilities on the right in the Immigration Hall at London Gatwick. This pro- cess not only promotes efficiency in Customs, but it also minimizes the risk of traveler injuries when getting on and off the cart. Carts assist a number of travelers at one time and eliminate the long walk to Customs that passengers typically endure, usually with no seats en route. Dubai International Airport uses immigration buggies (i.e., electric carts with a mobile immigration counter onboard). An officer sits facing the traveler and processes his or her documents while en route from the gate to baggage claim (Sensalis 2014). Figure 8-2. Immigration Hall with electric cart lane and a special assistance lane at London Gatwick Airport.
From Arrival Gate to Terminal Exit and Interterminal Connections 129 8.5 Ground Handling IATA Resolution 753 went into effect in June 2018, giving airports 1 year to ensure that baggage-handling systems meet new higher standards. The goal of the resolution is to reduce the number of lost or delayed pieces of luggage by tracking them at every stage of their journey and maintaining a chain of custody as luggage transfers at various phases in the journey. To be com- pliant, airports will need to monitor luggage acquired and returned during aircraft loading, air- craft arrival and unloading, and flight transfers (International Air Transport Association 2013). As a result, costs associated with tracing and returning lost luggage to travelers will be reduced and the overall customer experience will be improved. Aside from the obvious benefits, the additional tracking requirements will also give airlines and ground handlers an opportu- nity to assess current practices and address any gaps that may affect the overall operation. The industry as a whole is working together to support this resolution, with industry organizations including IATA, Airlines for America, and ACI World now collaborating. In the United States, large domestic airlines are required to submit data on mishandled bag- gage, as well as wheelchairs and scooters transported in aircraft cargo compartments. Effective January 2019, airlines must submit a monthly report on the number of bags and of wheelchairs and scooters checked for stowage and transported in the cargo hold and, among them, how many were mishandled or damaged. Prior to this requirement, data on damaged devices was acquired only when airlines submitted the Annual Report of Disability-Related Complaints to the U.S. DOT. However, because airlines report only the number of written disability-related complaints submitted by travelers, this method is not an accurate representation of how many wheelchairs and scooters are damaged. The new reporting requirement provides a more reliable understanding of the number of wheelchairs and scooters checked for stowage and transported in the hold and the rate at which these devices are damaged. 8.6 Baggage Claim The journey from the gate to baggage claim is typically one without stops and with a sense of urgency. Therefore, the walk can be physically demanding. Seating in baggage claim and in view of luggage carousels is a convenient resting place for travelers after a long walk, for those who have difficulty standing for extended periods, and for travelers to wait while their families gather their belongings. Baggage information display screens should be at the baggage claim entrance and list the airline name, the flight number, and the carousel number associated with each flight (Harding et al. 2017). Directional signage indicating the location of each luggage carousel should be clearly visible from a distance (Figure 8-3), and each carousel should be identified by clear signage. Retrieving luggage is a common challenge among travelers with disabilities, both in locat- ing their items and in getting them off the belt. Baggage carousels tend to get crowded as many people arrive around the same time and then stand as close as possible to the belt to identify and retrieve their items. These crowds can be overwhelming and make it nearly impossible for travelers using wheelchairs to see and access their luggage. In Polandâs Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport baggage claim, travelers with disabilities can wait for and retrieve their luggage from the designated priority waiting space next to the carousel. These spaces are clearly marked with the ISA and allow for close approach to the belt. A similar designated area is also available at Spainâs Josep Tarradellas BarcelonaâEl Prat Airport. A common challenge for people with disabilities and for older travelers is lifting luggage over the raised sideguard that keeps bags on the belt (Figure 8-4). Another challenge with sloped
130 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities carousels comes from the tendency for bags to stack on each another when the belt is over- crowded. When bags begin to stack, the ones at the bottom of the carousel are weighed down and can be difficult to extract from the pile. Alternatively, those on top may be out of reach. With flat carousels, travelers can get their luggage from the belt without lifting. The flat surface extends to the edge of the carousel so luggage can be pulled from the belt rather than lifted. The location of luggage on flat belts is consistent, and bags lay in a row rather than on top of one another. Flat carousels are more common in small airports, but they are also present throughout Europe and in some larger U.S. airports, including Chicago OâHare International, Miami Inter- national, Orlando International, and Tampa International. 8.7 Concessions, Amenities, and Services A travelerâs need for a companion restroom, an adult changing facility, a SARA, something to eat or drink, or assistance from an information counter remain fairly consistent throughout their journey, with some variation possible depending on airport size or flight time. However, the needs of those traveling with mobility devices can change drastically if their device is lost or damaged. In 2017, MinneapolisâSaint Paul International opened the Scootaround Mobility Service and Repair Station for travelers with damaged mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, scooters, Figure 8-3. Baggage claim area with good lines of sight at AustinâBergstrom International Airport. Figure 8-4. Flat baggage carousel at Miami International Airport.
From Arrival Gate to Terminal Exit and Interterminal Connections 131 walkers, and rollators. In addition to on-site repair services, the service station also has mobility devices available for short-term rental and can assist with device replacement. 8.8 Moving Between Terminals Interterminal connections can be overwhelming and physically exhausting for travelers with disabilities and for older adults. Many airports offer terminal transportation for connecting travelers, and some also offer additional transit services for travelers with disabilities. At MinneapolisâSaint Paul International, the distance to the light rail service connecting Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 is extreme and the wayfinding is complicated. A free wheelchair- accessible interterminal shuttle is available for travelers with reduced mobility, older adults, and families with young children. This service is subcontracted with SuperShuttle. The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Sky Cart is a complimentary electric cart transport service for travelers needing assistance connecting between Terminals 2 and 3. At New York John F. Kennedy International, the Port Authority provides a shuttle for assisted passengers with disabilities to help them make connecting flights in other terminals more eas- ily. The shuttle also saves service agents from transporting these passengers and their bags by AirTrain. Travelers at Calgary International (YYC) can quickly connect between domestic and interna- tional terminals using the YYC LINK passenger shuttle service. The LINK is a scheduled service with 20 vehicles in operation, all of which are wheelchair accessible and provide seating for 10 passengers. The service operates airside, so travelers are not required to go through additional Security screening. The LINK stops at four stations along the route, each in a different terminal. The stations have a raised floor to allow level entry, a universal design feature that accommodates all travelers and minimizes the risk of falls (Figure 8-5). Customer Care Ambassadors trained to assist travelers throughout their airport journey drive the LINK. Figure 8-5. YYC LINK shuttle service at Calgary International Airport (Source: Calgary International Airport).