Thursday, August 05, 2010

The secret to understanding abysmal ‘customer service’ at Frankfurt International Airport.

This is my fourth fairly recent experience passing through Frankfurt Airport. None have been pleasant. For business-class transit passengers, the contrast between Frankfurt and some other international airports (Quatar and Changi for example) could not be greater. Should one want to use the spartan business class lounge, one must pass beyond security, trace a lengthy circuitous path, struggling to interpret confusing signage. The modest amenities grudgingly provided are definitely not worth the effort. An additional downside is an extra security check before boarding.

The alternative (which I chose) is to stand waiting in a sterile corridor (or if fatigued, sit on the marble floor), for about 30 minutes before entering the security check-point and gate waiting area. There one experiences US style long lines, with the scanning administered by unsmiling German personnel who speak no English (my smile and expression of thanks did evoke a modest smile from one). This wins you admission to a bleak gate-waiting area, offering seats for only about 70% of boarding passengers. Because I arrived early, I was at least able to get a seat. To return to the aircraft, where one is enveloped in attentive service that is intended not only to meet, but to anticipate ones every reasonable need, was a great relief.

What about the “efficiency” for which Germany is known in Europe as Singapore is in Asia. In past Frankfurt Airport encounters, I have puzzled over this. How could an environment be so unwelcoming. This morning I had a realization. Frankfurt Airport, like Changi and Quatar is efficient, but the criterion by which those in charge to measure efficiency must be different. Frankfurt Airport managers have created a system that is principally intended to save money and serve the needs and well being of their staff members. The needs and well being of passengers, while not completely beyond the pale, are nearly so.

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