Breaking The Box

By John Murphy, Principal, Corgan Aviation

Delta Air Lines was facing a real challenge with their ATO operations at Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield International Airport. The airline had operated out of the South Terminal since it opened in 1980.

Over the next 25 years, their traffic increased to over 42 million enplanement in 2005. Not surprisingly, the increase rendered the original ticketing lobby obsolete to support current operations, much less future growth. In the past, various strategies were employed to increase capacity. Additional counters were obtained from other carriers, operational efficiencies were employed, curbside check-in was enhanced, and self-service devices were deployed. Although these efforts were effective in the short term, many days saw the facility constraints limiting Delta’s ability to provide the highest level of service to their passengers. In 2005, Delta acknowledged the strategies used in the past would not sustain expected growth, and set about finding long term solutions.

Several constraining factors were considered in establishing viable solutions. Foremost, the ticketing lobby was surrounded on three sides by facilities that could not be moved or reduced in size. These included curbside, SSCP, and Bag Claim areas. Initially, a possible solution to increase ticketing lobby space was an open roof area on the narrow east end of the lobby. This area had no curbside access, making it unsuitable for ticketing operation, but for back office ATO support space, it was definitely feasible. The move would make available 16,000 square feet of space for passenger ticketing areas.

Another benefit of moving the back office space was the ability to visually tie the back corridor with the ticketing lobby. As previously situated, the high volume space was visually limited by vertical walls. Rather than moving intuitively, passenger flow was inhibited by the need to ask questions or seek directions to the security check point. By eliminating the walls and unifying the back corridor with the lobby, usable area increased by 50%, and passenger way-finding was markedly improved. The new open design of the lobby allows passengers to see where ticketing services are located, which agents are available and where the shortest lines or quickest service can be obtained. To assist with passenger progress through the space, ticketing islands have been angled to provide both a physical and visual queue to their next step in the departure process. While “Intuitive Wayfinding” is often discussed, this “out of the box” design delivers perceptible visual clues to the passenger process flow.

With the increased interior volume, Delta wanted to reinforce a sense of personal service and comfort for their passengers. To accomplish this, a fabric canopy was designed that visually lowered the counter ceiling space. The light weight fabric lends the space a warm, airy feel, while the canopies serve the very necessary func- tions of providing task lighting, localized queuing speakers and back screen monitors that support the ticketing operations. Supported by wood clad columns or framework, the appearance suggests a tree canopy. Mounted monitors for branding or for flight information purposes are also supported by the framework.

At the beginning of the project, Delta had a combined ticketing and curbside check-in of 188 ticketing positions.

Construction phasing proceeded without reducing the number of available counters, and eventually increased the ticketing positions by 33% to a total of 250. A focus on self service kiosks for the high number of customers who now use e-tickets has also shortened passenger wait time.

Delta’s newly designed ATO has been well received by employees and passengers alike. Through the new design, capacity has increased, and customer service has improved through faster processing and more intuitive way-finding.

This article originally appeared in ACI Centerlines Magazine
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