Since the opening of Hamad International Airport (HIA) nine months ago, the eyes of the industry have been on the $16 billion facility with many wondering whether the unique approach to its development – namely an airline playing the lead role in its design and delivery – may have set a precedent for the future.
So when FTE met with Qatar Airways’ Senior Vice President Customer Experience and FTE Asia EXPO ambassador, Rossen Dimitrov, we naturally wanted to find out if he thinks HIA is the first of many new airports that will be designed by the home carrier, or if it will remain an anomaly long into the future.
“I’m certain that other airlines will follow,” he stated. “We’ve proven how successful the project was. We’ve proven our customers are extremely happy. The experience at Hamad International Airport is very satisfying and we have seen that the creation of the entire end-to-end experience at the airport has been very successful.”
He added: “It gave us the opportunity to design the customer experience across all touch points…and we had the opportunity to be involved entirely in the creation of HIA. Most certainly we will see more of this in the future.”
Fast Travel and Smart Security
This passenger satisfaction that Dimitrov points out is seemingly the result of numerous factors. It’s worth noting that to help expedite the passenger journey, Qatar Airways has embraced IATA’s Fast Travel programme at HIA. Five of the six Fast Travel options for self-service are currently offered – Check-in, Bags Ready-To-Go, Flight Rebooking, Self-boarding and Baggage Recovery – and plans are in place for the sixth, Document Check, to be implemented. Further underlining the appetite to drive customer experience improvements, HIA and Qatar Airways have also signed up to undertake Smart Security trials as part of the joint IATA/ACI project.
Other, more unique features have also been introduced, such as the 12-hour advance baggage check-in option for guests staying at The Airport Hotel, a new airport spa and a plethora of premium facilities, including the Al Mourjan Business Lounge, which the carrier confidently claims has “set a new benchmark in airport luxury”.
Consistent customer service across the entire journey
The design of the airport and the new technologies and facilities that have been installed are obviously central to Qatar Airways delivering what it calls its signature “five-star service” to all of its customers, but traditional customer service perhaps plays an even more important role.
Dimitrov explained: “Our training academy, which trains our cabin crew in delivering our five-star service onboard the aircraft, was involved in creating the training programmes for our hosts, for our check-in staff at the premium counters, for our Al Maha premium services and meet and greet services, at our boarding gates.” This, he said, is how the carrier guarantees consistent customer service across the entire journey. “We ensure that we provide the same service on the ground as we do in the air,” he noted.
Just last month, approval was granted for the launch of the second phase of the airport expansion by the airport’s steering committee; an important stepping stone that will see capacity increased from 30 million to in excess of 50 million passengers per year. The deadline for the completion of the design works and the award of the design contract is set for Q4 2015, so details on what phase two will involve remain vague. However, given Dimitrov’s assessment of Qatar Airways’ approach to the passenger experience, travellers can surely expect more standout features.
While airline-designed airports may become a trend in the future, Dimitrov explained that Qatar Airways is keen to keep breaking new ground. “We’re different,” he said, “we don’t just follow a trend. At Qatar Airways everything that we create and do is exclusive. We look at what our customers want, we look at what our product proposition is, and it’s not about what everybody else offers. We look at offering class and we look at offering a five-star service that we’re known for. Everything is tailored around the Qatar Airways customer.”