The Airport Experience We Dream About

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  • 16 September 2015
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How might we make the airport experience as delightful as the destination?

Inspired by Alaska Airlines

Why Airports?

Whether you’ve traveled across the country or across the state, almost all of us have experienced the necessary evil that is the airport. From the time we enter the automatic doors, to the moment we arrive at our final destination, our experiences vary drastically. Yet we all have to go through the same check-in process, navigate security, make our way through the terminal, find a creative way to pass the time and stand in line to finally board the plane. It’s a rite of passage that unites all travelers.

We know there is a better way.

Checked Baggage

Airports bring together all walks of life. So before starting the first exercise, everyone discovered their airport persona.

> The Playful Pup

I pass the time by entertaining myself with videos, games, music and shopping.

> The Busy Bee

If I have any spare time, I’m finishing a presentation, checking email or updating a spreadsheet.

> The Cat Napper

I believe that there’s no nap too short or seat too uncomfortable for me to catch some z’s.

> The Mama Beara

Success to me is getting every member of my group to our destination safely, together.

> The Running Man

I never waste a second and love arriving at my gate just before takeoff.

With five to choose from, some related to just one persona, while others took on multiple personas based on context: who they were traveling with and whether it was for business or just fun.

When each person was presented their workbooks and initial instructions, they got right down to empathizing. And, for good reason: Airports carry a certain stigma we have all experienced on a personal level. The “simple” acts of printing boarding passes and checking bags alone can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety, setting the tone for the rest of the trip.

By empathizing, they were able to understand what pains their partner wanted to overcome. What goals and motivations they had, and what their fears were when navigating the endless moving walkways of airports.

Next, they used the “five why’s” technique to dig deeper and discover more meaningful insights into their problems and, ultimately, their psyche.

Getting Off the Ground

With insights gathered from their partner, and a total of 6 minutes, each person began forming their problem statements. Not to anyone’s surprise, we heard The Busy Bee wanted to minimize the amount of time wasted so they could be more productive. And, the Playful Pup wanted a way to trust the gate logistics to reduce stress.

Taking Flight

Now came the hard part; sketch as many ideas as possible. Going for quantity, not quality, it was quickly realized just how many variables contribute to an individuals airport experience. From the waft of coffee, to the cold chairs they sit on, to boarding the actual plane; meeting each user’s needs was extremely difficult and required some iteration. So after sharing and capturing feedback from their partners, each participant went back to the drawing board and generated new ideas and new solutions.

Once they identified the one “big idea,” they brought it to life by constructing prototypes of their solutions, allowing their partners to interact with and provide feedback on.

One of the many delightful ideas was an app for the O’Hare airpot in Chicago. It encompassed everything from valet parking to a fast pass through security and even arrival status of your flight. The goal? Make decisions easier, no matter what persona you fall under. If you’re the Running Man one day, you can see that your flight is only 30% full. Or if you’re a Busy Bee, you can quickly drop off your car to a valet so you can get back to work.

Dream Airport

By the end of the workshop, we all agreed that a dream experience is one where you feel taken care of, have a sense of calmness and balance and you arrive at your gate with the right amount of time for you.

Even though the Running Man is bound to get stuck behind the Mama Bear in the security line, or there’s simply someone who hasn’t flown in the last decade, creating a dream airport experience is much easier than we think.

What makes the Running Man’s experience better will differ drastically than the Cat Napper’s. But creating smaller, micro-experiences can ultimately give us all some sense of balance. The Cat Napper can find a more comfortable place to relax and doze off, while the Busy Bee can wrap up a few more emails with the improved airport wifi. All of these experience aim to make the part before the destination more manageable, less painful and hopefully, delightful.

Now once you’re on the plane is a completely different story… Maybe next time.

> See all the photos on Flickr

> Download the Workbook

More About FORGE Events

FORGE events unite people from across industries and disciplines to spark powerful ideas and redefine what innovation can be in the workplace and in our everyday lives. Built upon our guiding principles, this collective of change agents seek to understand, brainstorm, empathize, iterate and solution on topics that are top of mind.


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