Pacifying The Passenger

July 31, 2012

I recently had the “opportunity” to spend 15 hours straight at LaGuardia Airport, including a luxurious overnight stay.

It was a stormy evening in New York City and Delta pushed our flight farther and farther back due to lighting, crew changes and other general chaos. This wasn’t my first time. I’ve been there before – holed up in an airport, facing that feeling of bleakness, just hoping the hours will tick by quickly (and knowing deep down they won’t).

In these situations, you usually can cut the tension with a knife. But this time is was different. My fellow delay victims and I gathered at the gate, waiting for more information and sinking into sadness each time a new delay was announced. But instead of raised voices and angry commentary, all you could hear was laughter and an odd sense of camaraderie.

So what made this experience different? A combination of a new and improved customer experience and, well, the iPad. LaGuardia recently upgraded their gate area and installed iPad stations in front of all gate areas. Each kiosk served as a respite from our misery, keeping us entertained for hours and hours. We were encouraged to challenge one another in a game of checkers or trivia, order a sandwich, plug in our laptops and more.

Inside the terminal

Imagine that: Areas DEDICATED to keeping customers happy. It’s a genius trend that seems to be sweeping the nation. This summer, Miami, Las Vegas and San Diego are all planning upgrades specifically geared toward improving the travelers’ experience. In my experience, it’s well worth the investment. With scores of wannabe flyers kept happy (or at least entertained, or at least distracted…), it certainly paid off for the gate agents who, in the past, likely would have been swarmed by complaining, angry, stranded passengers.

Now, I won’t try to convince you that sitting in a terminal for 15 hours straight suddenly can be fun. But when you’re passing the time laughing with new friends over a game of hangman and several glasses of wine, well, it’s not hard to see how companies (or in this case, LaGuardia) that pay attention to the experience they create can benefit.