Airport honored with global customer service distinction

By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | March 2017

Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport earned the title of “Best Large Airport in North America” for customer satisfaction through the Airports Council International (ACI) 2016 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program survey.

“It’s great news for the airport, most importantly it’s fantastic news for our employees and for our customers,” said Sean Donohue, CEO of DFW airport. “We’re making the right investments and obviously that’s paying off, but at the end of the day it’s the interaction that our customers have with our people, the interaction they have with the airline personnel, the vendors, anyone they come into contact with at DFW.”

The ASQ program is run by ACI through 320 airports globally. Customers are asked a set of in-depth of questions assessing 34 customer service performance areas including check-in, security, wayfinding, food and beverage options, restrooms, and more.

“It’s the same questions in all 320 global airports,” Donohue said. “That’s important, because we know that the data is comparable from a global perspective.”

Especially high marks were earned from passengers for quality of restaurants, shopping facilities, and general airport ambiance that included notes on comfortable waiting and gate areas as well as cleanliness of the terminals and washrooms. Customers also emphasized their appreciation for technological improvements.

The airport, which finished first for all airports across North America serving more than 40 million passengers yearly, began a series of investments totaling $3 billion for refurbishing airport Terminals A, B, and E through its Terminal Renewal and Improvement Program (TRIP) as well as building new parking garages, technology investments, and updated food and beverage options.

“We see ever-greater competition among airports, and with increasing pressure to optimize performance across the operation, especially when it comes to the passenger experience. Today’s airport managers must respond to passengers’ demand and expectation of superior customer service,” said Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI World. “DFW Airport’s results in the 2016 ASQ survey demonstrate its professionalism, commitment and success in delivering that high level of customer service.”

Investments in personnel both within and outside of customer service, Donohue admitted, were also a large factor to the achievement.

“The customer experience team that we’ve stood up is a brand new team,” Donohue said. “It could be our parking folks. It could be our department of public safety officers and personnel. I do need to reflect on and give credit to the airlines and all of the other vendors. It’s everybody that comes in contact with the customers, and I think everybody at this airport understands how important it is to do a really good job at taking care of our customers.”

According to Donohue, the airport would still like to see a number of changes, including improvements in customs and border patrol processing, heightened security, and using technology in places such as checkpoints to provide automated lanes and parking garages to offer parking assistance. Achieving the top status despite the continued construction from the TRIP program, however, has the airport CEO optimistic about the future.

“You know what’s amazing is we won this award for 2016,” Donohue said. “When you think of 2016, Terminal A, Terminal B, and Terminal E were still under construction and the parking garages were still under construction. The work and the investments we’re making to refurbish the terminals and build new garages, I believe the ratings this year are going to be even better than last year because of those investments.”