Newcastle International Airport is certainly a busy place. The rumbling of aircraft is pretty continual, the terminal building is busy with passengers – many checking-in for the ever-popular Emirates service, even hours ahead of departure – and the arrivals and departures boards highlight the frequency of flights and variety of destinations that are accessible from the region.
But amid the bustle, the whole operation seems to be seamless. Staff are welcoming and helpful; while there are many passengers, there is no chaos. Check-in goes smoothly, passengers pass quickly through security, flights are on time, and for the many holidaymakers with children in tow, their trip has got off to the best possible start.
It’s that whole customer experience, from arrival to departure, that is so important to the airport. Having seen huge growth in passenger numbers in recent years – over 4.8 million people passed through the terminal in 2016 and over 5 million are expected to use the airport in 2017 – positive customer feedback remains all-important.
At peak times, as many as 25,000 passengers a day – 1500 every hour – can pass through security – but very rarely does the airport default on its goal of queuing times of six minutes or less. Its rates for on-time flights are equally impressive – while an aircraft can land or take off as frequently as every three minutes, the airport was named the second most punctual in the world in 2016 for flights keeping to timetable.
Clearly, significant investment has been made into the airport to help it keep pace with its growth; the new impressive departure lounge being one key new addition. A whole new floor has also been put down in the check-in area of the terminal, and the long-stay car park has been extended to help accommodate the growing numbers of people using the airport.
But while the visible upgrades are noticeable, the airport has invested equally significant sums in ‘behind the scenes’ enhancements that most people will be unaware of. For example, it was the first in the UK to have a new generation of fire engines on site, should they ever be required; the airport now boasts a cutting-edge radar on its roof to help mitigate against factors like wind farms; and currently, an upgraded baggage belt is being installed to help maintain the airport’s reputation for quick and efficient luggage returns. The airport team is also planning for an expansion of the arrivals immigration area.
Richard Knight, operations director at the airport, is clearly very proud of the results of the investment.
“We are here to support and serve the people of the region, we fly to an exceptional range of destinations which are the places people want and we do it safely and on time,” says Richard, a former Wing Commander with the RAF who was awarded an OBE for his work within the forces.
“The customer journey starts at the airport and we want that to be a positive experience from the minute they arrive – even if it’s 3am you will still see friendly faces here. The two main emotions people tend to feel are anxiety and excitement – it’s our goal to maximise the excitement and limit the anxiety. We have a great team and great teamwork; we all want to do a great job and we are proud to work here.
“Our investment in the airport has been significant, and while there are things we have introduced that people may never be aware of – like our radar, which is operating at the forefront of technology; it’s really a fantastic achievement – we invest now to make sure we have these things in place for when we need them.
“We have some great endorsements of what we do, we’re really proud of it, but we are always looking at how we make these great results even better. We are a growing airport and are committed to building on that.”
Growth at the airport has been strong in recent years. Continual increases in passenger numbers, the addition of new and more frequent routes to popular destinations across mainland Europe, including Madrid, Berlin, Warsaw and Gdansk, as well as the unrelenting popularity of the daily Emirates flight to Dubai are all key features of its success.
“Our summer season started on May 1 and so far we are looking good – there is a huge amount of planning and preparation ahead of the start of our peak season, so we can continue to offer the same customer experience despite it being so much busier,” Richard says.
“That growth can only be achieved and sustained through the great job that is being done by our staff and suppliers -teamwork is really key. Our customers are the main part of our success and their positive experience can only be achieved through us all working together to get things right. You can come into contact with five or six different companies when you come to the airport, and one bad experience can have a big impact on your overall experience. It’s our teamwork and pride in our airport that will ensure we continue to offer the very high standards we aim for.”