Tourism and Transport Forum - QSM needs tangible outcomes

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As it builds towards the launch of the Aviation White Paper later this year, the federal government is now seeking to refine its position on certain key issues.  

A new discussion paper on the quality of service monitoring (QSM) at airports, following through on the government’s commitment in the Green Paper, has been released as part of this fine-tuning process.

Consistent with the themes and arguments presented in our submission on the Green Paper, TTF’s response to the paper is focused on how to sustain airport growth and development while ensuring the best possible passenger experience.

We believe that, while quality of service is clearly fundamental to airport performance, the current monitoring regime suffers from being applied too arbitrarily. The principle behind QSM is correct, in that it can provide a tool for informing and guiding performance improvement; however, its implementation could be better. At present, the system does not translate QSM results into tangible outcomes for airports, airlines – or passengers.

Each Australian airport is different, with distinct leasing arrangements resulting in a particular set of responsibilities. A uniform QSM framework will inevitably struggle to capture these differences. Equally, in focusing only on the airport operator the QSM process does not address the wide range of stakeholders in overall airport performance, including airlines, government agencies, rental car operators, transport providers, security contractors, ground handling agencies and off airport service providers such as state and local governments. It is the combination of services provided across this range of stakeholders that determines the quality of the passenger experience.

TTF is proposing the adoption of a more passenger-centric monitoring system, based on best-practice international examples.  Research commissioned by the UK’s Department for Transport found that the most important considerations in evaluating the passenger experience at airports were: end to end reliability and efficiency; information and communication; customer care; facilities and entertainment; and airport design and maintenance. 

As such, we consider the BAA Quality of Service Monitor and the Airports Council International Airport Service Quality models as good examples for an improved Australian regime.  Elements of both schemes could be borrowed to enhance the passenger contribution to service monitoring.  
In addition, we feel there is scope to include some quantitative measures, where appropriate, as a further means of monitoring, benchmarking and improving performance.  Areas where quantitative measurement could be used include queue times at check-in, security clearance, customs and quarantine and baggage and ground
handling systems.  

More broadly, there are a number of steps that could be taken to enhance the passenger experience at and around airports, outside the scope of QSM reporting.  Including ground access strategies in Master Plans, as recommended in TTF’s submission on the Green Paper, would ensure that access to and from the airport was effectively planned for and managed, in concert with state and local governments. The passenger experience begins and ends outside the airport boundaries, so it is vital that governments are held accountable against their own responsibilities to provide essential transport infrastructure and services.  

At the airport itself, there is a crucial role to be played by the government’s National Passenger Facilitation Committee in improving the quality of services provided by border control agencies. Delays in passenger processing by these agencies are a major source of frustration, and best addressed through initiatives coordinated by the committee, such as express paths, Smart Gate and in-line x-ray screening.

There would also be merit in a whole-of-airport performance metric for government agencies, to ensure effective scrutiny of their activities.

Ultimately, the greatest incentive for airports to achieve high levels of service is commercial.  Service standards are vital to attracting airlines and passengers. It is for this reason that Australia airports are
investing billions of dollars in aeronautical infrastructure to enable growth and sustain high performance standards.

National Manager,
Aviation and Transport
Tourism and Transport Forum

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