Optimising airports

This December I flew to Switzerland to visit my brother and explore the famous Christmas Markets. Not the most UX oriented topic at first glance (although I could now, have previously and probably will in future, argued that UX research and design principles can and should be applied to basically anything…) but this was the first time in years that I have checked a bag at the airport, and Heathrow T5 now has a self-service bag drop. 

Why is this significant? 

Because a computer has effectively taken another job? Because the UX was under-developed? Did it lose our bags?

(Not really: it was a pretty quick easy process, we still got our stuff at the other end, and is along similar lines as self-checkouts at the supermarket in terms of digital displacement…)

It was mostly the conversations I overheard at the airport on the way home, the “old-fashioned” airport where a person still checked your bags in for you. I heard one couple, probably in their late 30s, grumbling that it was so much better and faster in heathrow. I heard an older woman remark to her partner that it was so much nicer that they got to speak to a real person here. I observed two large groups and one young family get very confused about which bag went where, which passport the lady needed next, and where they went afterwards. 

This all got me thinking, how much of the process can you, or even should you, keep the same when transitioning to self service? How do you make it less intimidating for the less “tech-savvy” users? Can you make assumptions about how familiar most users will be with the steps required? Will it look like the existing bag drop (conveyor belt etc.)? Will it be as easily accessible for users with mobility issues (as the early supermarkets often weren’t)?

To be honest I don’t know, but I think it would have been a really interesting UX challenge to tackle!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *