Heathrow’s visitor numbers increase, but whose complaining?

How efficient are major airports today?
Image: tracygallagher.com

Heathrow has been a gateway to Europe for as long as anyone can remember, but should it or even London be the first stop for Europe travellers today or is a shift in the London mindset in order.

According to recently released Heathrow Airport statistics, the airport welcomed just under 70million passengers in 2012, compared to 61.6million at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and 57.5million at Germany’s Frankfurt Airport.

This was an increase of 0.9 percent for Heathrow compared to last year, although the rise is mainly due to the following three factors:

  • There were more seats per aircraft,
  • Increased flights from Brazil and
  • Countries coming out of crises such as Japan recovering from the 2011 tsunami and the conflicts in Arab nations somewhat subsiding

With Heathrow getting more souls through its doors, it was interesting to see how it compared to other European gateways. Looking at comments made on Skytrax, an airline review site, there were more complaints than complements for all airports, however it is up to the traveller to decide where they would rather an airport lose some brownie points and what aspects are of utmost importance.

Here is a brief summary of the complaints for some of Europe’s busiest airports:

London Heathrow Airport (UK)

No surprises here, but the lack of a fully staffed immigration control area led to queues and the airport being rather chaotic. However an interesting trend that was found amongst the comments was passengers missing their connecting flights because the staff were chit-chatting. Moreover whilst extra bag checks are common at most airports, commentators mentioned that the staff did not perform the task efficiently and lacked consideration for persons needing make their next flight. Judging by the comments, the biggest complaints were against the staff rather than any design flaws of the airport that were evident at other places.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (France)

Rather opposite to Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle did not receive too many complaints regarding immigration queues and commentators stated that the airport was actually overstaffed, however the staff were unhelpful. Commentators did not advise this airport for transfers as the time it took to walk/ catch a bus between terminals was unpredictable and more often than not, too long. However the most common complaint for this French Airport was travellers having their baggage lost, which for some seemed to be a common occurrence when travelling through Charles de Gaulle.

Frankfurt Airport (Germany)

Frankfurt Airport received similar reviews to Charles de Gaulle, in having a labyrinth of pathways that people have to navigate through in order to reach their next destination. The lack of PA announcements and little help from security staff also made it difficult for travellers to find their way around the airport. A surprising complaint for the Germans was the lack of efficiency at immigration queues which suggested that although the queues were evident, there was potential for the problem to be fixed.

As we all know, most reviewers are complainers and those with positive comments are much less likely to seek out a site where they can praise somebody, however, with queues, lost bags and confusing airport layouts, it is becoming more necessary for travellers to seriously consider their need for transfers or to go through major airports.

London may be a gateway for most international airlines, however there are plenty of smaller airports that could serve as a starting point for travellers, who can then continue their journey up either via Europe’s fantastically fast trains or connect to smaller airports such as London’s Stansted which only had about 17.5million travellers pass through its doors.

With airlines increasing taxes seemingly every month, people using their accumulated leave time in larger chunks and more of Europe becoming accessible transport wise, this reporter thinks it’s time to revise the Sydney-London itinerary and become a bit more creative in the journey, so as to avoid having to leave a comment on a review site.

What do you find is the best way to avoid airport horror stories in Europe?

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: A.N
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