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DFW Airport’s new executive focuses on better customer experience

DFW Airport plans to focus more on terminal cleanliness as it tries to improve the passenger experience.
DFW Airport plans to focus more on terminal cleanliness as it tries to improve the passenger experience. Star-Telegram archives

It is no longer enough to get passengers into an airport terminal and aboard their flight on time, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport’s new senior vice president of customer experience told board members Thursday.

Concessions need to be top-notch, and directional signs should be easy to read. But even then, a passenger who encounters a dirty restroom will have a negative view of the airport, said Mazhar Butt, who joined DFW this summer after stints in Dubai and London.

“The dirty toilet is their one and only impression of your airport,” Butt said. “The work is to re-look at the definition of cleanliness and what defines clean for our customer.”

DFW’s score on a terminal cleanliness survey from passengers has fallen over 5 percent in 2015, so airport staffers plan to work with janitorial contractors to tidy things up.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said construction work for terminal renovations has made it harder for passengers to find their way through the airport. But even without the construction, Rawlings said, it’s sometimes unclear which door he should enter if his flight is leaving from a certain gate.

“Our competition, and I put on my DFW hat, is Love Field,” Rawlings said. “We have to make it easier for people to fly out of DFW than Love Field.”

Butt said the airport must create a customer-centric strategy as it considers future terminal renovations and the addition of Terminal F. The airport should not build a terminal where it is a “one-experience-fits-all” facility.

“If you’re planning a terminal or a major renovation from the start, the thing you’re looking at is, How would you design the terminal from the customer perspective?” Butt said.

Separately, the airport said it served 5,857,338 passengers in June, up only 0.5 percent as American Airlines, the airport’s largest airline, carried 0.8 percent less passengers in the month.

However, international traffic was up 10 percent in June. The largest increase came with the Middle East as Persian Gulf carriers spurred passenger traffic up 152.8 percent while traffic to Europe declined by 7.5 percent.

John Ackerman, the airport’s executive vice president for global strategy and development, said fewer people are traveling to Europe and more are connecting to Africa and the Indian subcontinent through the Middle East.

Ackerman added that he expects the airport to reach its budget target of 63.2 million passengers, even as airlines have trimmed capacity. In the past eight weeks, American has changed its September schedule from an increase of 2 percent to a decrease of 1 percent compared with September 2014.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631

Twitter: @Sky_Talk