Picture your typical international air travel experience. You get to the airport, drop your bags off, head past immigration, go through security, and then find creative ways to kill time until boarding begins. This is where most of us either get astonishingly creative or painfully bored.
Airports focus on making the first few steps as easy and quick as possible, while giving you as many options as possible to spend time/money on before boarding. Airports make a good amount of money from store sales within the terminal. Food, souvenirs, books, electronics, clothes, shoes, and lifestyle services form the bulk of what gets purchased/consumed inside an airport terminal. When an airport wins an international award for the 7th year in a row, you begin to wonder what's so great about the airport. It's not the biggest airport in the world by size, not the busiest one either. So, what gives?
Here's 3 ways in which I think Changi Airport offers great CX:
About 30% of all airline passengers are frequent flyers who know their way around. By offering them self-service kiosks to check-in, print boarding passes, and print luggage tags, the actual time spent at an airline counter is only a minute or less. There are also separate counters for people who only need to drop bags off. Together, all of this makes the check-in experience a breeze. In my opinion, this comes from a good understanding of customer journeys (literally!). Customers who don't need much assistance also don't prefer to wait much. Customers who need much help and hand-holding do not mind waiting a little to receive the same. By simply not letting these segments mix with each other, the airport is able to match their respective expectations very well.
Amenities, amenities, amenities.
Many international airports have lounges, prayer rooms, family rooms for parents to take care of their infants, souvenir stores, and a number of restaurants to grab a bite. However, Changi sets itself apart in a few ways. Immediately after you enter the airport, you'll notice that it's much quieter. And that's mainly because the entire airport is carpeted. So you do don't hear the screech of trolley wheels and strollers against the floor. Some of you may not think that's a big deal, but ask any frequent flyer and they'll tell you how pleasantly it feels to not hear the constant strut of trolley wheels. I usually transit in Changi on my way to and from Australia. So I'm a big fan of the free foot massage chairs. I've met a number of other frequent flyers during these sessions and everyone seems to enjoy this service. The various gardens across the three terminals are also a good way to kill time if you're interested in that sort of thing. Finally, there's even a movie theatre inside the airport and it screens fairly recent movies. It's a great way to relax and enjoy a long layover. I've even arrived at the airport early when the theatre was screening a movie I hadn't watched already. Many people I know also have this habit! The WiFi is great (although only free for 3 hours) and you can easily find a quiet corner to catch up on some work or writing.
Security at the gate.
This is a simple change for passengers. But it's a much larger win for the airport itself. By moving security screening to the gate, the airport is able to use every gate for arrivals and departures. This means an entire floor for arrivals doesn't need to be constructed and maintained. It also means that arriving passengers receive all of the same amenities as departing passengers. Theoretically this also makes it possible for more use of every gate, thereby faster break-even on airport infrastructure.
Amidst airports that house a ton of brands that most travelers can never afford, or elaborate modern relics that most travelers aren't likely to care about, Changi simply focuses on what it can do best and does that very well. The next time you get a chance to visit Changi airport, let me know what your experience is like!