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Guest column by Gert-Jan de Graaff, Brisbane Airport

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Gert-Jan de Graaff

Brisbane Airport Corporation / CEO


Customer experience is at the heart of everything we do at Brisbane Airport (BNE). In fact, customer experience is one of only three key components in BNE’s 2025 strategic business plan, with every area of the business tasked with considering new approaches to continuously improve the goal of being world’s best.

To truly excel in this space, we need to understand our customers holistically by knowing their needs.

BAC’s Customer Experience program in essence is about going beyond “good” customer service by making it “great” – by providing a unique, memorable and world-class customer experience in an environment that is accessible to all members of the community. For anyone who works at an airport, it’s ultimately about our customers, the airlines, passengers and our tenants. At BNE, we want to always create a situation where they don’t have to worry and just be happy. This is my philosophy, and BAC’s Customer Experience Program is about realising these expectations and doing all we can to not only meet them, but to exceed them.

To truly excel in this space, we need to understand our customers holistically by knowing their needs, and the challenges that may arise while moving through the terminals. We do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Strong engagement with universities to realise many innovative and world-first initiatives and studies;
  • Ongoing consultation with key community groups to ensure airport developments meet the needs and expectation of all travellers;
  • Removing the airline “middleman” by providing numerous digitised avenues for travellers to instantly lodge feedback and communicate with BAC directly (and placing these at various touch points throughout the terminals);
  • Encouraging BAC staff members from across all areas of the business, including the Senior Management Team, to do regular customer service shifts with the Airport Ambassadors at the terminals;
  • Holding regular meetings with the Airport Accessibility Reference Group (AARG) to discuss the needs of people living with a disability and inviting numerous disability groups to regularly test and provide feedback on our access and systems, particularly any planned retro-fitted or new infrastructure; and,
  • Providing specialised customer service training to all front-line staff, including volunteer and security staff.

Our Customer Experience Program is comprehensive and results-driven, with an emphasis on providing human interaction that is needed in an unfamiliar and bustling environment like an airport. Not only do we have a full-time resource dedicated to initiating and progressing many projects in the customer experience space, we also have a dedicated ‘BNE Care Team’ that actively manages passenger flow in peak periods and times of disruption. They complement the incredible customer service provided by our BNE Ambassadors – a team of 163 volunteers who can speak over 20 different languages between them, including 10 Chinese-speaking Ambassadors who wear a distinctive red shirt and place themselves specifically to meet inbound and outbound flights to China.  

At every touch point BAC aims to transform the customer experience, from complete terminal redevelopments (ITB 2015 and DTB underway), award winning bathroom facilities, Australian first accessibility facilities (assistance animals bathrooms, Changing Places and Dementia-Friendly certified), the introduction of crypto-currency transaction points, self-service check-in and baggage drop, bio-metric facial recognition, expanded new lounges, and unique and beautiful terminal upgrades that have transformed everything from the tiles on the floor to the food on plates within our restaurants.

Moving forward, there will be more work done in terms of digitalisation, which lends itself to a more streamlined customer experience as well as greater operational efficiency, as there is less need for physical space and infrastructure to support the staff and resources that currently exist for things such as check-in, baggage handling, travel information, navigating passengers around the terminals, information desks, personnel, etc. BAC recently partnered with SITA and two international airlines to trial facial recognition technology at check-in and the boarding gate, with the trail showing a significant reduction in processing times. We will see more of this digitalisation of the BNE ecosystem, as it eradicates the need for multiple interfaces required at multiple stages of the travel journey.



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