As part of my research at Brisbane International Airport, I have been interviewing departing passengers. In the first field study, I interviewed 67 randomly selected passenger groups (168 passengers), asking them only one question: “How was your airport experience today?”.
The question was deliberately simple, and minimally pre-emptive. This allowed for the analysis of not just the responses, but also the words that passengers used to describe their airport experience.
Although each passenger told a unique story, a number of themes were common across all passenger types, namely:
- “Will I make my flight?” emerged as the main fear, or risk, perceived by passengers. This risk appears independent of passenger type (experienced vs novice traveller; business vs leisure traveller).
- Passengers mitigate this perceived risk by allocating time. They see time as a variable that they can control.
- Passengers also use prior knowledge about the airport environment and airport processes to mitigate the perceived risk.
As the passenger makes their way through the various processing stages, the perceived risk of not making their flight decreases. Baggage drop is seen as an emotional milestone. Once the bags are checked in, the passenger perceives a significant reduction in risk. The second major milestone occurs when the passenger clears security and customs.At this stage, the perceived risk is reduced to almost zero, and the passenger becomes ready to engage the “airport experience”.
Source: results based on data collected at Brisbane International Terminal (departures) during February and March 2012.