Customer Service Dominates Newquay Airport Meeting

newquay airportTreatment of passengers and onward transport links dominated a public meeting about Newquay Airport on Tuesday.

The managing director, Al Titterington and operations manager Richard Thomasson of the Cornwall Council-owned airport addressed islanders at the Old Wesleyan Chapel.

The meeting was arranged as part of the debate over travel since the helicopter services ended and Land’s End flights have been rerouted through Newquay because of waterlogging.

Mr Titterington explained that the airport was a, “critical and vital piece of transport infrastructure” for Scilly and Cornwall. But passenger numbers had fallen and Ryanair’s pull-out over the airport departure tax and the end of Air South West operations had been a blow.

The airport is trying to encourage new routes and the business of Scilly passengers was valued, he said.

From March 25th that will be recognised with a dedicated Scilly transport representative at the airport who will help answer passengers’ questions.

At the Heart Community meeting last week, councillors were critical of how Newquay security staff treated passengers. Gordon Bilsborough compared his experience to the cold war “Checkpoint Charlie” and Marian Bennett felt repeated requests for photo identification were “Stasi-style.”

Similar complaints were voiced on Tuesday evening.

Al explained that Newquay fed into larger airports and the government required extra tiers of security checks. They had no control over that.

The airport operators’ professional association had lobbied for relaxation of the rules, such as restricting carry-on liquids, but many of the regulations were brought in after the 9-11 attacks.

Al warned that Scilly could be subjected to increased checks. The current exemption for smaller planes, which allow lighter-touch security checks here and at Land’s End, could be removed in the future, he said.

Star Castle Hotel owner, Robert Francis, was applauded when he suggested special consideration for Scilly passengers and loosening the security. But Newquay management was emphatic that they were just following the rules.

And Council officer Diana Mompoloki pointed out that islanders treated the airline like a bus service, which it wasn’t.

The meeting heard that some islanders with special medical needs have had bad experiences with travel including one person with a pacemaker. Al said locals should contact the airport if they need private security screening because of a condition.

Some information on passengers with special requirements had been lost though, with the rerouting of services. The airport works closely with disability groups to ensure they are compliant with current regulations but they can only deal with passengers whom the airline is happy to convey, said Mr Titterington.

A number of locals argued it was the attitude of staff, which concerned them. Mr Titterington said it was “inexcusable” if staff did not smile and say “hello.”

He welcomes constructive criticism, saying that specific complaints are taken seriously and discussed at management level. Some could be reviewed on CCTV. But there was laughter when it was revealed that complaint forms were at check in. There will be more placed around the airport and you can also complain online, he said.

There had been just six security and four general complaints from 375,000 passengers last year. Islander Bo Green has used the airport frequently and he praised recent improvements to levels of courtesy shown to passengers.

But Al said they’d heard enough comments to warrant a “revisit” of their training package.

 

 

Bo, and other locals were unhappy at the £55 fines issued to any drivers who overstayed the free five minutes car drop off waiting period. Bo’s family had been fined three times in one week, and he explained that you could easily have to wait longer while checking information about delayed Land’s End planes being routed through Newquay.

Al explained that the parking contractor used cameras to automatically issue tickets. Management can put a hold on action while they investigated mitigating circumstances and some fines have been overturned.

The free waiting will end in April anyway, when paid parking is introduced, partially in order to increase income.

Cornwall Council has slashed £750,000 from the airport’s £3.1m funding this year.

But when tackled about the controversial £5 fee that all passengers who have booked to travel through Newquay have to pay, the managers said they were forbidden to discuss it.

Dudley Mumford felt Scilly’s Council could take up this matter with Cornwall although he didn’t expect much progress.

Onward travel is an issue. It was suggested that building a terminal nearer the road would help. That was once suggested but is unlikely to happen with the current financial constraints.

And whilst Newquay staff were in talks with bus and taxi operators, including one who may be able to offer better fares to Truro, “at a non standard rate” for islanders, this wasn’t within their remit and there is, “no magic wand.”

Diana Mompoloki pointed out that onward travel was not the Council’s job to organise in Scilly either.

Management agreed to look at the availability of seating for people when check-in has opened but security has not.

Steve Kessell of Newquay tourism also presented a PR pitch for the benefits of Newquay and explained that, “it isn’t just a party town” but is “a contemporary version of a seaside town.”

He explaind that, at the height of the summer, five train services run from Newquay direct to London, while National Express and Megabus services stopped there, too.

Dudley Mumford again felt islands’ councillors could work with Cornwall on this.

Dudley felt that the meeting was valuable and proposed another session between Newquay airport management and islanders in the summer.



9 Responses to Customer Service Dominates Newquay Airport Meeting

  1. Lawrence Upton February 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Kev, It strikes me as very professional to say when a rule is daft. You can still apply it. Being a jobsworth is not professional.

    A little while ago I was trying to board a ferry to a well-known archipelago but had lost my ticket. I was not worried because I knew the code (as well as my own name and address! Moreover, it had happened once before and no one had got in a tizzy.) But now they made me walk the length of the quay and back to get a print out.

    The man who gave me the print out at the weigh bridge office made no check but reasonably assumed that I was telling the truth; so there had been nothing gained, only a waste of paper There were less than 40 of us and no supenumeries. There were no apparent security risks and none that would be uncovered by me walking a few hundred yards.

    On my return, I gave my ticket number again, this time on a piece of paper; and it was accepted. I asked what had been gained. I received no answer. So, a little miffed, I asked if they would make an infirm person walk that far in the name of security; and they turned their head away and looked at the wall of the little cabin, silent, until I went. I thought that unnecessarily rude and it made them ridiculous in my eyes. It made me angry.

    It is professional to be friendly. That is not the same as being friends. One can be as secure in a welcoming atmosphere as anywhere. (Try entering USA and then try Canada, in *my experience.) The difference is known to every teacher. If you scowl at people, they tend to scowl back and resist being helpful.

    The inexperienced or bad teacher tries to impose their will; the good teacher shows friendliness and empathy – and still imposes their will but, without the show, and also gets more cooperation.

    And once at a well-known heliport, I asked why women were allowed shoulder bags and not men. The answer? “Do you want to board or not?”

    However, Nobby, I am a little doubtful that such psychopathic behaviour is a product of neo-liberal capitalism. The other way round perhaps.

  2. Miss Makita February 20, 2013 at 11:32 am

    @ Kev yes there’s not even a need for agreeing or arguing about security measures but hand scanning a regular travelling islander for 10 minutes and delaying flights that are already tight with extra diverted flights is questionable. Also I gather your use of the word “friendly” is sitting with the likes of what employees at Disney Land are expected to express. I am talking about basic customer service for any business whether public or private. I personally felt uncomfortable for the first time at an airport after being shouted at for merely walking up to the body scanner and stopping there. One or two of the staff at the airport could do with a bit of customer relations training and blaming the customers for treating the Skybus service like a bus service isn’t good customer relations either. Needless to say, the airport is a functional one, and the flight itself was great.

  3. kev February 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    But the ‘complaint’ here is with regard to the security measures for people travelling to Scilly. And the point surely is that Newquay airport is simply doing what it is required by law, so why should airport management ‘admit rules are daft or inappropriate’? That would hardly be professional now would it. And I don’t think airport security staff are supposed to be ‘friendly’ are they? The security staff at Newquay are angels compared to large airports. I too have had my fair share of bad service from the likes of…well the list would be long and boring, but my own personal experience of Newquay is very positive.

  4. Miss Makita February 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

    It was my first time flying to The Isles Of Scilly, very exciting and it was a lovely day to travel. My original flight was Land’s End. I was travelling with three other friends and the security checks were so long winded that our flight was delayed by it. I watched one of my friends being hand scanned for nearly 10 minutes. There really is no excuse. I have been through all sorts of airports in my travels and I have never seen anything like it. Anyway, I’m quite happy being patient and so were my friends but some of the security staff were pretty grumpy. I was practically growled at as I walked to the body scanner ready and waiting to walk through. Funds and systems aside… it doesn’t cost anything to smile and be pleasant.

  5. Nobby Nobbs February 19, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I think you will find that most if not all companies these days have the social profiling of a psychopath, in that they never admit mistakes and, as far as they are concerned they are never wrong.
    They also don’t mind bending the rules and treating staff and customers alike, as poorly as they can get away with, it’s called neo-liberal capitalism.

    Most of the companies you list have a virtual monopoly, like the Steamship company; where you do get competition as in the ex-utility companies, you will find on closer inspection, that they all provide the same product for roughly the same price. All privatisation has done is drive down prices by outsourcing staff to India, which is hardly of benefit to the UK economy as the Indian staff don’t spend their wages in the UK or pay tax in the UK and, the staff that were employed in the UK are now all claiming unemployment benefit. The only people to benefit from this arrangement are the shareholders, the majority of which are hedge funds and other large corporations.

    I personally am a great complainer and have pestered many a large organisation in my time, because I feel that as a citizen it is my duty to complain when companies don’t act as well as they should do, however most pay lip service and then ignore me because they can.
    Local government is a great example of such practice, forgetting that the administration is in place to serve the people, not control or ignore them.
    Getting back to the point, complain all you like about Newquay airport, security is part of modern life now and I doubt it will ever return to how things used to be, as much for our safety as it is because governments like to be able to control their populations and if at all possible mug us for even more money as we pass through which ever system by dipping our pockets for a parking fine, or speeding ticket, or redevelopment fee etc etc.

    All this has happen by stealth over time and we as citizens have submitted to it mainly through apathy partly through stupidity

  6. Lawrence Upton February 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Dear Nanny Ogg

    I said “probably” because sometimes one gets a decent answer and there is no knowing when it will happen or why; but it is very rare. I am sorry that you feel I gave the impression of having no experience, as they would say in Customer Relations. Funny you should say that…

    The small businesses with which I deal on Scilly, particularly Troytown Farm, are always open to improvement. I don’t think I have ever had to complain; but they welcome suggestions and tend to act before one has asked. Ditto Coastguards, Turks Head, St Agnes Post Office and St Agnes Boating. It’s almost a pleasure to give these people money. Not quite, but almost.

    I would once have said the same about the Steamship Co. Twenty years ago. Forty years ago. It does tend to be true still in face to face dealings with the ordinary staff both in Penzance and St Mary’s

    Yes, organisations of any size – and some others – treat complaints seriously; they worry about their reputations. They take them so seriously that they devote considerable efforts to appear to act usefully. (I trust you do not want detailed accounts. But they are available. If so, let’s do that back channel.)

    As for us having real power, no. I think *you need to be more specific and to give examples.

    It has been said we have consumer power and you can believe it if you wish. It sounds like SugarCandy Mountain to me. We can air our grievances and they will tell us how much they value our opinion. But they won’t do anything useful unless it suits them. They may relaunch or change a procedure name. Perhaps *you’ve had a free gift. Perhaps *something changed – when it suited them.

    They evade or worse. Only this week the train companies claimed 85% satisfaction in their own survey while a consumer group put it lower than 50%. (My own local rail company once claimed an overall customer satisfaction figure that was greater than any of its elements.)

    What we get in my experience is jam tomorrow. How’s your broadband? I know how it is on St Agnes. It’s ok for email.

    Organisations upon whom I base my claim of irrelevance or evasion: my electricity supplier; my gas supplier; my local council; my building society and my local rail company, the rail company on which I travel to Cornwall, the coach company on which I travel to Cornwall and elsewhere, both the supermarkets I use in Greater London, my ISPs and the coffee shop chain I patronise. Some of my problems with these organisations are much less serious than others; but the feature they all share is that they admit nothing, like the poacher in Monty Python with a deer over his shoulder. The latest fashionable wheeze is to appear to say sorry; but if you read carefully they are expressing sorrow that we do not understand how wonderful they are: “I am sorry that you feel…”.

    I am not a great complainer. I only do enough to survive. But once I sink my teeth in, I hang on and it accumulates; and I notice patterns. My electricity company is still promising to explain a failure to fulfill an undertaking 16 months on.

    Twenty years ago I did less of it. But since then the world has learned the magic charm word “security” to justify whatever suits them; and it has acquired screens of data which are deemed to be truthful in themselves + “computer error”.

    I could add to the list a US airline which lost my bag; and the UK passport office which lost a form and blamed me. And more

    I didn’t think anyone would be interested in even this much information but you asked. Foolishly I assumed my and my colleagues’ and friends’ experiences are widespread.

    I congratulate you on your good fortune.

  7. Stuart Moore February 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I’ve passed through a number of airports in my time and recently I’ve had the pleasure of using Newquay several times, one of which was today in fact and, I have nothing but praise for the staff at Newquay, who in ‘my’ experience where friendly and helpful.
    In fact Newquay is a really nice airport that I think I might start using more often. At least they have a terminal building with a working runway.

    My only grip is the £5 regeneration fee and the car parking costs, all of which amount to fleecing the punter and are the result of decisions made by Cornwall council not the airport staff.

  8. Lawrence Upton February 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Organisations in general discourage complaints whilst appearing to welcome them.
    It takes time to make a complaint, which from the complainant’s point of view, is often good time after bad. Then the complaint is probably met with evasion and irrelevance; they may say that they see your point of view and sympathise, but they offer nothing. And they are being paid to reply.
    So people ask themselves if there is a point in complaining; and then the organisation says “Very few people complain”.
    My experience of Newquay really hasn’t been that bad, but I am not encouraged to hear “We are only obeying rules”. That has a bad history. They could, as someone said, smile; and in a meeting they might admit that the rules can be daft or inappropriate.
    Saying “security” is saying nothing. It is often used to give some sense of purpose to the bored

    • Nanny Ogg February 17, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Lawrence,

      I do not agree with your thoughts about complaint handling from organisations. Your comment of ‘the complaint is probably met with evasion and irrelevance’ was probably true about 20 years ago. I think you need to be more specific and give examples rather that say ‘probably’ because this give the impression you have no experience.

      Complaint handling is a valuable way of maintaining customer relationships and improving service. Consumer power has never been stronger and very easy for consumers to air their grievances by various media methods, which is why many organisations treat complaints very seriously.

      In relation to the article:

      Robert Francis’s comments ‘Star Castle Hotel owner, Robert Francis, was applauded when he suggested special consideration for Scilly passengers and loosening the security’.

      Newquay Airport is classified as an International Airport and therefore has to abide by the rules, regardless of whether one is flying to Scilly, London or Europe. Some of the comments about making special allowances for the Isles of Scilly are quite frankly ridiculous and naive. I agree it is important to make your feelings known or make a complaint if you feel that the service is not what you would expect. Come Scilly Man Up!