If you want to know how to waste the workforce and if you want to know what it means to create an awful experience, please visit an Indian airport. At every step and at every interaction with government staff, your blood pressure will hit an all-time high. If I have to describe it in one word, it is ‘awful’. But what makes it so awful? Let me explain.
Boarding Pass: In airports across the world, the boarding pass is the responsibility of the passenger. You get the boarding pass once you checked in and after that, you need to take care of it. But in Indian airports, the staff take care of you like a mother, especially when it comes to boarding passes. You don’t have to take care of it. For every 10 steps, there will be staff who will check your boarding pass. What they check and why they check it so many times is left to your imagination. My hypothesis is that we have too many people to be employed and so, they keep 5–7 people, between the entry gate and the entry of the plane, who will keep checking the same boarding pass again and again. I even asked the staff once what they check 5 times and one of them answered with a smile.
Immigration Forms: The immigration form itself is a joke. The address bar will have space to write the first line in your address and you may wonder what are they trying to achieve through these forms. We know for sure that it is impossible to discern what was written by passengers with all their varied handwriting. Imagine the volumes of passengers in Indian airports. So, my hypothesis for using this form is to slow down the queue and manage the line in front of the immigration desks. It is an utterly useless process based on my experience but I am really curious whether there was any science or design principle behind it.
Immigration Staff: The immigration staff takes the cake when it comes to creating the most miserable experiences for the passengers. First, there will be a guy who will offer immigration forms. You may wonder why one has to stand and give it to passengers. You may now understand that we have too many people. The staff at the immigration counters don’t understand words like sensitivity, privacy, and appropriateness. They ask all kinds of irrelevant questions and you may be left to wonder whether you came to renew your passport or to enter a country. After their ‘interrogation’, they will finally stamp your passport.
You may think that the misery is over. But there is one more step. There will be a guy who will stand 10 m away from the desks and his job is to check each and every passport whether it is stamped. Can you believe this? This guy is a quality controller for the immigration officer. Once you cross the guy, you will be screened again and your bags will be sent through the scanner for one final time before you encounter the next, the customs team.
Customs: I personally haven’t encountered anything bad at customs but I’ve seen how the low-income labor suffer heavily at the customs. I won’t elaborate much since I personally don’t know or experienced their special treatment.
Taxi: It is still not over if you think that you cleared the customs. You still have to encounter the last and one of the difficult ones, the transportation to the city. The directions to the taxi counter will be extremely poor. If you are a foreigner and if you are looking for directions, you will encounter some ‘friendly’ strangers who will find every possible way to trick you to use their taxi service. These guys are not part of any organized taxi service and instead, try to get as much as possible from one single trip. I wonder every time why it is so difficult to stop these guys from entering the airport and why is it so difficult to give clear directions/signboards at the airport.
To change all this takes one simple thing. A mindset shift — towards treating the passenger as a customer and how to create an experience that will enhance the time that they spend at the airport. The world’s best airports do that all the time and if India wants to get into the big league, then it is high time they start doing that by providing their staff with the right training, guidelines and most importantly, change their ‘bossy’ attitude.