There is something unsettling about navigating through airports that makes them rife for wayfaring challenges. Perhaps their large footprints and passengers being stressed intensify confusion at airports. Travelers are rushing to get to their gates or from theirs planes to claim luggage and then leave the airport. Airports are filled with passengers who don’t know the airport well. To add the confusion airports frequently face new construction, airlines gaining or losing gates and the opening of new restaurants and shops. Road construction on and near many airports add to the chaos. The hassles of traveling amplify the frustration one feels when navigating through airports and not feeling comfortable getting to where one needs to go.
Where Is Our Rental Car?
Selwyn Josset, ASI’s VP Affiliate Services, and I recently traveled through Florida’s Ft. Lauderdale Airport. We took a shuttle van to the car rental facility that houses car rental agencies serving the airport. Our reservation enabled us to go directly to the car without stopping at the rental counter. Upon getting off the shuttle and entering the lobby we saw several rental company counters in the distance but we had no idea where to go to find our car. Out of frustration we walked over to one rental company’s counter and barely saw a small sign on a nearby wall with the word “Cars” and a small arrow. One wouldn’t notice the sign from further away.
We walked through the door a few feet away and into the garage. We couldn’t figure out where the cars from our rental company were located in the garage. We took a chance and got on an elevator. Fortunately, it had rental companies listed by floor. We got off the elevator onto the correct floor and couldn’t find signage to direct us to our car even though we knew the space number in which it was parked. Eventually we found our car, loaded the luggage and got in the car to head out.
Finally, our difficulties in renting a car were over and we could get on our way; or so we thought. Not so fast travel optimist!
Exit Signs Pointed in Different Directions
Our instructions read that the rental company representative would check us out at the exit. Okay, so where is the exit? No matter where we drove there was a sign labeled “Exit” with an arrow pointing in a completely different direction. We ended up driving around in circles for a good five minutes feeling as if we were rats trying to find cheese at the end of a maze. At last we found the exit purely by accident, checked out the car and were on our way.
Wayfinding Is On-Going Process
Airports would do well to engage the services of wayfinding experts to ease passenger wayfinding. Traveler friendly wayfinding could make the difference in keeping passengers who might otherwise opt to use an alternative nearby airport that is easier to navigate. Unlike most buildings where wayfinding can be set with minor updates from time to time airports frequently go through major renovations to necessitate their wayfinding be reexamined frequently and revised as needed.
When was the last time your company or organization updated its wafinding and signage? Have there been changes to your facilities since then that would suggest it is time to update update your wayfinding and signage?