Queen Alia airport: the need for technology

7/8/2003

I had the chance to do some regional traveling lately and must say that His Majesty’s King Abdullah’s criticism of quality of service at the Queen Alia International Airport is right on the spot. Jordan’s gateway is the first and last things Jordanians coming from abroad, tourists and business people encounter. The impressions made there upon arrival and departure are of extreme importance. Today, the impressions our airport leaves are mediocre.

As Jordan attempts to promote itself as a regional IT hub, the airport might be a good place to start. And no, this is not achieved by hanging big billboards all over the airport that say “Jordan is an IT hub”. Show, don’t just tell.

Putting a lot of shiny plasma screens all over the airport won’t cut it either. We don’t need more décor. We need solutions that provide real services to passengers and other users of the airport.

Technology alone will not solve the airport’s serious problems which are of physical, administrative, human resources and logistical problems (not to forget dirty WC’s to baggage trolleys that cost 1 JD to rent). But if the basic services at the airport are upgraded (and upheld) then technology-based services will an impressive plus.

So here are a few suggestions on how to make an e-Airport that leaves a good impression. 1. Fixthe information screens: while the new flat screens seem to be workingfine, the older, large flight info screens seem to be out of order. Ican’t remember the last time the information displays over the baggagebelts were working. 2. Putscanners at the border police controls: a lot of time is wasted bypolicemen typing traveler’s details into their computers. Scanners can beused to radically speed up this process. 3. Installwireless internet access points: providing fee wireless internet access totravelers is a great service for business people. The free service willnot be abused because travelers stay only for short times at the airportand there is no need to worry about other people hanging out at with theirlaptops to get a free internet ride! 4. Createan interactive web site: I found a web site for the Civil Aviation Authority(www.jcaa.gov.jo ), which links the user to rather well presented flight info schedule. Such information needs to be more prominently displayed, as site users care about that more that the “Mission and Vision’ of the CAA, currently occupying the site’s home page. The site could provide SMS alerts to users and other useful services and should be accessible under a short, memorable URL. 5. Buildan Internet café: for those of us without wireless laptops, an internetcafé or a few internet access points across the airport would be veryuseful. Such a café could be combined with an outlet for phone cards,prepaid Internet cards and other related items. 6. Makethings payable by credit card: A big sign currently hanging beside thevisa counter says (Payable in JD only). Why not make everything in theairport payable by credit card including the expensive JD 25 airport tax.

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