Sunday, July 01, 2007
Winning the war on tourists
My 14 hour flight arrived at 6:20am on Monday morning at Sydney International airport.
I got to a taxi at 8am. It's not the time that bothers me, it's all the other little things that added up to make it a stressful, confusing, and frustrating experience for me; and I dread to think how it was for the poor folks who don't speak English.
Running the gauntlet of customs, baggage and quarantine is a horrific experience.
Here's my suggestions for how to make it a better experience for the newly arrived:
* Have "fair queues" (where there is a single queue entrance and at the end people fan out to be served) everywhere.
* At the entrance to each queue station a person who checks that people are joining the right queue and have the documents and forms required when they are served.
* If the baggage conveyer fills up (because of the backlog at immigration) have someone take bags off rather than stopping the conveyer and holding up those who are waiting.
* Put a "stand behind this line" around the baggage conveyer so people stand back until they see their bag. This works really well in Japan.
* Have one person who's job is to enhance the experience for travelers through the whole process. If there is such a role, have them contact me or sack them. (Yesterday, in the US where they are on threat level orange, we had a fairly rigorous security process but it was clearly explained, fair and queue time was being actively measured).
* Signs in more languages are required.
* Make sure the TV monitors above queues are working (one was out this morning and people were being sent away for being in that wrong queue)
I felt bad for non-english speaking travelers who waited a long time to get to the end of the wrong queue and didn't have the form filled in. They were sent away with a wave. I also felt bad for me, who is cursed with always joining the slowest queue. Other's jump from line to line, trying to judge the complexity of processing the people or the slowness of the agent by appearance.
Clearly several flights arrive at once at this time, but it's no surprise. It didn't appear to be a staffing level problem, more an organisational problem. Individual staff seemed efficient and friendly, I have no complaint there.
The ultimate irony is just how fantastically efficient the duty free store is on the way in and the taxi rank on the way out.