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All Our Airports Disappoint In One Way Or
Another ... My Biggest Beef Is The Toilets

Coastweek -- I will continue this week on the subject of what travellers get to feel and see and how they interact with the information they are given, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

Last week I touched on the first phase which is when one leaves the house or place of work to head to an airport.

The observations then would apply to the start of any journey whether by air, sea or land.

This week we will look at airport in Kenya and some selected countries abroad and consider their promise and whether they deliver on the promise.

Starting with our airports in Kenya, these are the first and last point of contacts with many travellers who arrive on our fair shores.

They are also a main contact for nationals who are travelling outside or returning by air.

The vision for the Kenya Airports Authority is to provide efficient and effective airport facilities and services in a sustainable environment. 

That of my favourite airport – Schiphol in the Netherlands – is to develop the airport into Europe’s preferred airport for passengers, airlines and logistics service providers alike.

There isn’t that much difference in the vision statements. However, the reality on the ground is very different.

When one arrives at the entrance to our airports one is faced with the first experience of security.

There are cops whose duty is to inspect a vehicle and its contents to prevent dangerous weapons from being ferried into the airport.

They will pull one aside and do a perfunctory check on the vehicle and its content and then let one go forward. In Nairobi a whole new infrastructure was put into place that would allow the use of technology to improve the detail and efficiency of the scanning of vehicles.

After being in use for a year, the technology has been shut down and we are back to manual checks.

The checks being carried out in Kenya’s airports make a mockery of the intention.

One needs to travel to neighbouring Uganda and get a feel of being properly searched before arrival at the airport parking or drop off point.

The people manning the facility look and feel serious and wat they do will give one the comfort that they have been able to do a much better search than we see in our environment.

The checks we have here look good but does not achieve the level of comfort desired.

It has become a necessary evil to be checked and because of the lack of enrolment of the people being checked, it has become a tick the box activity and we look good for the international traveller as well as reciprocating airports for airlines licensed to fly to Kenya.

The ticketing experience for parking is OKish. Minimal intervention – except in Kisumu and Mombasa where the ticketing for parking is still a manual thing.

The only thing lacking is information about how one can find parking and amenities once one gets into eth airport area. 

It is necessary to not only indicate which flights leave from which terminal but also where the parking is, how many free spaces are left and also where the key facilities are such as toilets, the taxi rank and information on a load of items such as shops available and where.

There needs to be a lot more information available to the user about the facilities that have been provided.

We have in the past compared the look and feel of our terminals and the rating is that out of five Kenya Airports Authority

I have been globetrotting for a few weeks covering countries in Africa, Europe and the Americas.

For me the time spent in the air and in airports is a time to catch up on a lot of outstanding e-mails, time to read as well as a time for introspection.

There is also the time in between activities that one can spend usefully either through leisure or education about the country or city one is visiting.

Travellers each take certain things for granted and also ignore what is not on their radar at a given time.

I normally try and find out the promise that each establishment I enter offers.

Let me take you on a journey of the typical things that one will find out with this mindset.

The first is when I board the taxi or transport heading for the airport from my abode, workplace or hotel.

I am an avid and almost subconscious user of seat belts so the first thing I do when I get into a vehicle is to reach for the seat belt and secure myself.

If it doesn’t work where I am sitting I will change seats till I find one that works. If there is none that works, then I will call the taxi company and tell them to send a replacement cab.

If it is an Uber or a hailed ride, I will cancel the journey and hail another one. I will also report back to the app owner about why I cancelled the journey.

This may take time but one can always find a way of getting the message across by navigating relentlessly through the standard menu that one gets which has a set of suggested answers or queries.

I do this not because of being snobbish but recognising that the use or lack of use of a seat belt can have very different and lifelong consequences.

If one is involved in an accident and survives then the seat belt will have achieved its intended purpose.

If one does not and becomes a fatality or serious injury statistic then the non-use will send a message.

We must get present to this fact whenever we use any form of transport especially cars, boda bodas and so forth.

The safety requirements are not gimmicks. They are potentially lifesaving.

When one gets to an airport and there are many signs missing and various public facilities are not worth writing home about it creates another impression.

All our airports disappoint in one way or another.

My biggest beef is the toilets.

They have improved in cleanliness but fail in one main way.

One cannot enter them with a luggage trolley.

It doesn’t matter which airport one goes to in Kenya, the entrances are very small and also the space to manoeuvre in the actual toilet space is also very limited. 

Travelling alone and wanting to use the toilet facilities are not a good combination in Kenya.

One would have to leave their luggage trolley outside the door and at the mercy of other travellers – not a good choice.

Spaces for the public once one gets to the airside of things is wanting as well.

There are more duty free shops than one needs and most sell the same things at almost the same price so one wonders why there is that variety in the first place. 

We should reduce the number of shops, offer better quality at a lower price and in doing so increase the space available to offer quality public seating and facilities.

There has been an attempt to do so in Mombasa as well as Kisumu.

Nairobi does not impress given the passenger load it has.

Even the relatively new facilities that are dedicated to the national airline and its partners disappoints in many ways.

The toilets appear to be an afterthought and are small and not adequately appointed.

The public seating spaces are limited although the duty free shops are better than others.

All in all, the experience at the airports in Kenya leave one wondering whether the passenger is at the centre of what they do or whether the passenger is just one of those little inconveniences that come in the way of giving satisfactory service to some unknown superior being that trolls the airports.

We know that VIP travel is increasing especially with the increased number of self-important politicos.

However, service to them should be limited and service to the average traveller is really what needs attention.

It is after all the private traveller that when treated well will sell the country.

As Kachumbari says, actions will speak louder than words

 

SEE ALSO:

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