Airport wayfinding: Easy for everyone

A broad view of the inside of an airport building with people coming and going. Airport wayfinding is good for everyone..Airlines are working to improve accessibility, but airports also need to step up. People with disability are making regular complaints, and older people are likely to just give up travelling by air. Not good for the travel industry or tourism. So a well researched guide is welcome in this space. Wayfinding is far more than just good signage – it starts with the whole building design. Airport wayfinding is about the customer experience and promoting independent travel. That’s regardless of age or ability.

Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities is a comprehensive guide for wayfinding professionals, signage designers, and interior designers. It is published by the US Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program. It comes with a checklist that emphasises community consultation as part of their universal design approach to wayfinding. The PDF is free but you need to sign in.

Make flying less miserable

Inside the cabin of an aircraft, people are queuing in the aisle to take their seatsWhat brings repeat business to an airline? Improving snack selection, smiling staff, warm welcome messages on video screens? None of these. Anyone who has travelled by air, even those who do it regularly, will know that the aircraft itself is rarely the issue. The issue is anxiety. And you can double that for anyone with a cognitive or physical condition which makes it more difficult. So what can be done to make flying less miserable?

An interesting article in FastCompany explains how the anxiety begins before leaving home. Will I miss my flight? Is my baggage under the weight limit and will it arrive safely? Will there be room for my carry-on? And in the current situation, will I catch COVID? The anxiety continues with queues for passport control, waiting for baggage and finally getting to the destination. No wonder travel is tiring.

So the answer to improving customer satisfaction and repeat business is finding ways to reduce anxiety and smooth the the travel experience. The article makes no mention of travellers who need additional supports, but the content of the article has some good points. It is basically about designing the travel experience to be more convenient and easy to use – aligning with universal design concepts. 

There are lessons here for any business selling an experience. The title of the FastCompany article is, Three shockingly obvious ways to make flying less miserable

There is a related article about the future of air travel and how problems might be solved with AI. The article covers  boarding processes, linking ground transport with air transport, and minimising poor passenger behaviour.

Airport design can improve travelling experience

Aerial view of a large airport showing seating and shops.

Whether people fly once or twenty times a year, their stress levels are similar. And familiarity with airports does not reduce stress. Many other factors add to increase tension and negative responses. Travel excitement can easily become travel stress. Long waits in security lines, and getting lost in the terminal are just two stress factors. But airport design can improve the travelling experience. 

Airport design has a major role to play in reducing stress levels for travellers. A research study looked at how stress levels are affected by different scenarios within the airport, and what conditions help alleviate this stress. More importantly, what design features create or alleviated stress.

The study found that security screening was the most stressful. Stress reducers were found to be additional seating, art, signage and access to live greenery. Ready availability of charging points for laptops and phones and more personal space also help to reduce stress.

Improving the Air Travelers Experience Through Airport Design is a thesis that has a lot more detail on airport design including security screening, wayfinding, use of colour and visual information. Most people are able to deal with the stressors of air travel, but for those who can’t, improved design elements might make air travel possible. 

See related information in the Airport travel guide for people with dementia

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