Creating an Art & Culture Airport

Fresh from the ACI World Global Customer Experience Summit 2023, Sunny Yoon, Executive Director, Terminal Operations, of Incheon International Airport Corporation, speaks exclusively to International Airport Review about what passenger experience means to them.

You must be thrilled to have hosted the ACI World Customer Experience Global Summit in Incheon, what is your philosophy on customer experience at your airport? Why is it important?

It was a big honour for me and Incheon Airport to host this meaningful event and have many aviation industry leaders gathered with us at Incheon, Korea.

We firmly believe that the airport’s success hinges on the level of satisfaction our passengers’ experiences during their journey through the airport. Customer experience extends beyond mere satisfaction; it is a distinctive and intangible concept. We view the airport not simply as a location for aircraft arrivals and departures, but rather as a hub where individuals connect, a place that encapsulates a multitude of emotions, fresh starts, cultural interactions, and adventures. In this context, Incheon Airport is committed to continually striving to achieve excellence as an airport, with a strong focus on fundamental customer experience.

Incheon Airport has set a new benchmark, becoming the first in the world to achieve the highest level (Level 5) of the ACI Airport Customer Experience Accreditation programme. Congratulations! What has made this possible?

Thank you very much and it is a big honour for Incheon Airport that we are the world’s first airport with the Level 5 Customer Experience Accreditation. Ever since its opening in 2001, Incheon Airport has strived to be the world’s best airport with top-class service quality and passenger experience. I want to deliver my sincere appreciation for the effort of all the staff at IIAC and the Incheon Airport community, who always strive for the exceptional customer experience of Incheon Airport. I know this has been the key for the level 5 accreditation.

Incheon Airport seems to pride itself on providing art and cultural services for passengers to enrich their time at the airport, what cultural and art programmes are you currently running?

Our main initiatives to create a positive “Art & Culture Airport” experience are centred around exhibitions, cultural performances, and experience programmes that celebrate the rich K-Culture with abundant sense of place. All of them have the core focus on understanding and catering to our customers’ emotions. By strategically addressing areas where negative emotions might arise, we aim to transform the airport journey into a memorable and emotionally uplifting experience, leaving a lasting impression.

A lot of our readers will not have visited your airport, what other unusual attractions do you have?

Incheon Airport set forth a future plan to gradually enlarge our customer boundary and expand our reach beyond the confines of air travel. Our vision entails transforming the airport region into a vibrant and multi-faceted complex culture belt that caters to all people.

To achieve this transformation, Incheon Airport is strategically developing various amenities and facilities within its vicinity. The envisioned complex culture belt includes resorts, concert arenas, galleries and art storage facilities. By diversifying our offerings to broader interests and demographics, we aim to become a destination in itself, extending our appeal to locals and tourists.

How do you use technology to improve the passenger experience?

Inevitably, new technology will play a key role in the future evolution of air travel, both at Incheon Airport and globally. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember that technology is not the ultimate goal. We must ask ourselves what we truly desire and what our core business purpose is. By maintaining clarity and not conflating our purpose with the tools, we can ensure that customer experience remains our top priority.

When we introduced the robot technology at Incheon, we recognised that the primary function of “Air-Star” robots is to guide our passengers to their intended destinations. However, we aspired to elevate this interaction with new technology into a memorable and value-added experience. Incheon Airport passengers now have the opportunity to take photos with “Air-Star” robots, and these robots promptly send these photos to passengers via SMS or email. This blending of technology with a meaningful experience will be etched into passengers’ memories as a unique and valuable aspect of their journey, something exclusive to Incheon Airport.

How do you promote barrier-free travel?

Incheon Airport is doing its best to create a hassle‑free and accessible terminal for all, and robots play an important role. ‘AirPorter’, a cart moving robot, and ‘AirRide’, an autonomous vehicle, enable anyone to use airport services comfortably regardless of physical ability at a large and crowded airport.

In addition to robots, we plan to open the support centre dedicated to passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) this year. Also, recently we have resumed an ‘Easy-drop’ service for PRMs, through which passengers can just go straight home once they arrive at the airport, and the luggage will be picked up and delivered to their home.

Tell me a bit about the Terminal 2 expansion and the construction of your fourth runway, how will this improve the experience for your passengers?

Through the Terminal 2 expansion, Incheon Airport will have an annual capacity of more than 100 million passengers per year. Becoming a big hub airport, we will be able to offer customers comfortable and convenient ambiance with a wide variety of options for their experience. We are currently designing several unique places for customer experience, so please look forward to our Terminal 2 next year.

Sunny has led the terminal operation group at Incheon International Airport Corporation since 2022. She has put her vast experience in customer experience innovation and contributed to Incheon Airport to lead the customer experience paradigm in global airport industry. As an expert in the aviation industry with more than 20 years’ experience, she has actively engaged in branding communications and airport operational projects, including long‑term strategic airport planning, to transform Incheon Airport to be full of smart and innovative technology and art and culture values. She started off her career in 1996 at Incheon International Airport Corporation.

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