Flight Plan

There’s a helping hand at the airport for those who need it

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on: Apr 16, 2019

May I help you? DigiBuddies assist passengers in Bengaluru airport

Young, trained volunteers guide fliers who feel overwhelmed by technology or the whole boarding process

Some airports in India are changing…for the better. If you are a first-time flier and travelling through Hyderabad, Delhi and Bengaluru airports, then help is at hand to guide you through the airport. These three airports account for a significant number of the passengers using airports in the country.

In Delhi, you have trained students standing at critical points to guide passengers through the airport and the various processes that need to be followed before boarding a flight.

In Hyderabad, there are Passenger Service Associates who focus on passengers in distress and elderly passengers, among others, and in Bengaluru airport, DigiBuddies help passengers who are overwhelmed by technology. All these helping hands are young, trained and enthusiastic.

The first off the block was Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which started the SEVA or Student Engagement as Volunteers for Assistance programme in 2016 to help fliers using the airport.

Students from various aviation academies and universities were trained to provide them real-time airport and customer experience. The 8-to-12 week programme helped students understand the real-time customer service experience and customer behaviour.

Once the students learnt about these aspects, they were deployed with the operations team and placed at critical touch points, like entry gates, check-in, the security hold area and boarding gates, under the supervision of DIAL’s Airport Duty Manager.

Besides assisting fliers, the SEVA programme also helps raise the students’ confidence and improve productivity through proper skill development, says a spokesperson for DIAL.

In April 2017, the GMR Hyderabad International Airport (GHIAL) launched the ‘passenger is prime’ (PIP) programme by introducing Passenger Service Associates (PSAs) at the airport. These are a group of young ‘passenger evangelists’ with special focus on passengers in distress, elderly passengers, female passengers with kids, and passengers with reduced mobility. About 70 PSAs are deployed at various passenger touch points, such as the check-in area, security check area, transfer area and the security hold/boarding area.

Those working as PSAs have been provided with special training under the aegis of Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, on service orientation to help them better understand the needs of passengers and pro-actively provide immediate assistance when required.

The PSAs can be identified by their green t-shirts and black trousers.

According to GHIAL, depending on the feedback from flyers, the initiative may be scaled up to cover more areas in the airport, with more PSAs being deployed.

Technology no barrier

Since 2018, over 30 DigiBuddies are at hand at Bengaluru International Airport Ltd (BIAL) to help passengers navigate through the airport using technology to increase its throughput.

The idea behind recruiting them was to acclimatise passengers for whom the technology at the airport can be overwhelming, says an airport spokesperson, adding that initially the DigiBuddies were brought in to assist passengers in the self-baggage-drop area.

“While the focus area remains the same, during lean periods, they are utilised in other areas of terminal management as well so that they learn more about the job/airport and their confidence level increases,” says the spokesperson.

The DigiBuddies went through a detailed induction programme, which consisted of aviation, airline processes and airport information.

They were shadow-trained with the Terminal Team members to better understand the processes and what they were expected to do.

DigiBuddies were selected after a test, followed by a group discussion and a personal interview. The airport prefers graduates or diploma-holders from aviation and hospitality streams.

Seeing the success that the DigiBuddies have been, the airport now has plans of scaling up the programme and getting another 68 buddies at the airport in the next two months.

Published on April 16, 2019
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