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APA1 2023 NEWS

Leading by example


Sunny Yoon, executive director of Incheon International Airport Corporation’s Terminal Operation Group, talks to ACI Asia-Pacific’s Sunil Subbaiah about the South Korean hub’s commitment to delivering a world-class passenger experience.

An increasingly competitive market has pushed airports to provide a superior customer experience. As passenger needs rapidly evolve, airports must know their customers’ expectations to provide seamless and superior experience. This is where Incheon International Airport stands out.

Incheon Airport has set a new benchmark, becoming the first gateway in the world to achieve Level 5 status in ACI’s Airport Customer Experience Accreditation programme. This stands testament to the gateway’s commitment to continuously striving to improve its performance, facilities and the services it offers to passengers.

Indeed, the airport’s determination to put the passenger experience at the centre of everything it does and go the extra mile to fully understand the needs of its customers, makes it fitting that Incheon Airport will host the ACI Airport Customer Experience Global Summit on September 4-7, 2023.

What does Incheon’s pioneering status in ACI’s Airport Customer Experience Accreditation programme mean to your airport?

Ever since its opening in 2001, Incheon Airport has continued accident-free and non-stop operation, and we have strived to be the world’s best airport with top-class service quality and passenger experience. The recent achievement in ACI’s Customer Experience Accreditation programme can be interpreted as the success of Incheon Airport, however, I know that this is not the end, but a new beginning.

Ultimately, the airport’s success is determined by how much our passengers are satisfied throughout their airport journey. Customer experience is definitely more than customer satisfaction. It is unique and intangible. From time to time, our CEO, Kyung Wook Kim, asks us what we think people expect from Incheon Airport as we believe that an airport is no longer just a place where aircraft land and take off. It is a place where people meet people, a place that embodies so many emotions, new beginnings, cultural exchanges and adventures.

For these reasons, Incheon Airport will continue trying our best to become a successful airport, and keeping our eyes on the customer experience will prove fundamental to our success.

Digitalisation and innovation are driving change in the aviation industry. What kind of technologies HAVE been implemented at Incheon Airport and how are you preparing for the future?

New technology will inevitably play a key role in the future development and transformation of air travel at Incheon and across the world. However, we should keep in mind that technology cannot succeed on its own as people are vital to ensuring customer service excellence at airports.

Perhaps the best way to explain what we want to achieve, and what is our business strategy for success, would be to say that our goal is to continue to enhance the reputation of Incheon Airport as the world’s best airport. If we do not confuse the purpose with the means, customer experience will remain as our top priority for the airport’s competitiveness and sustainable growth.

When we introduced the autonomous ‘AIRSTAR’ robot technology at Incheon, we all understood that an essential function was to guide passengers to their desired destination whether that be an airport lounge, shop, F&B outlet or their boarding gate. However, we also wanted our new robotic touchpoint to provide a new experience for visitors. So, we encourage passengers to pose for photographs with AIRSTARand the robot sends copies of these photos to them by SMS or e-mail.

We hope that such experiences, combined with its essential function, will help build unforgettable memories of Incheon Airport that will encourage passengers to come back in the future and see what else we have introduced!

Another new technology driven initiative recenty introduced at the airport is our‘Incheon Airport Baggage Tracking Platform’, which allows passengers to check the whereabouts of their luggage. We hope that this prove popular with passengers by removing any worries and stress they may have about losing their bags on their travels. This is also a great example of how we are using technology to enhance the airport experience for travellers ahead of any other goal.

Can you tell us how Incheon always seems to succeed in raising the customer service bar despite ever changing passenger demands and new operational challenges?

As you say, passenger demands and needs are continuously evolving, so we can never rest on our laurels. Perhaps, the best way to summarise our strategy and philosophy for better customer experience is to understand our customers.

Our desire to be a smart airport that offers unique art and cultural experiences, for example, comes from listening to and understanding our customers. Needs and opnions change over time, of course, which is why we must maintain our focus on understanding our customers’ needs.

Initiatives such as our Passenger Journey Map and developing Passenger Personas have certainly helped us develop a comprehesive understanding of the diverse customer service needs and and desires of our visitors.

Another good example is our Passenger Behavioural Characteristics Survey, which is totally different to the Passenger Satisfaction Survey. This survey is conducted throughout the year, mainly to understand passengers’ behaviour. Questions include their purpose for travelling, number of companions, any airport shopping list they may have and even their feelings and emotions at every touchpoint.

How do you think the ACI Airport Customer Experience Accreditation programme is helping the airport industry raise its game overall?

I know that lots of airports have participated in the ACI ASQ survey, but still hesitate to join Airport CX Accreditation programme. But I strongly recommend they join this programme. ASQ is a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey that breaks down the components of satisfaction very well. And this has allowed for objective comparisons with similar-sized airports.

Indeed, the Airport Customer Experience Accreditation programme is rather well-designed and highly descriptive manual for CX enhancement. It examines an airport’s efforts and outcomes according to eight domains from customer understanding to airport community collaboration. I think the biggest thing we have gained frothem CX accreditation is that it has helped ingrain a customer service into the minds of all airport staff.

You cannot over-state the importance of good customer service, which should be a common goal of airports across the globe. For example, a dissatisfied departing passenger can decide not toç travel through that airport again, and the same logic applies to the passenger that felt angry or let down at destination airport.

I also believe that all airports utimately benefit from the customer experience excellence and innovation of each other as they learn from each other what is possible. And, at the end of the day, ACI’s Customer Experience accreditation programme is the best guideline for airports looking to enhance customer satisfaction levels. If we all join the programme and compete with each other in terms of customer experience, the entire aviation industry will develop as a whole.

What are the passenger-centric projects we can expect from Incheon Airport in the coming years?

We are currently working on new grand projects to make Incheon Airport a hassle-free and stress-free airport to ensure that our passengers feel lighter and fully enjoy the Incheon Airport experience.

Imagine this future scenario. You are planning a holiday on a beach far away and your luggage will be picked up from your doorstep. You go to the airport, and the usual processes are done with facial recognition technology ensuring that your hands are free from bags and travel documents until you board. This is the technology implementation we are working on now, and it is closely linked to our plan to make our airport a destination in its own right.

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