Implementation of a service culture at Copenhagen Airport

Copenhagen Airport is on a mission to make the airport experience the best part of the overall journey.  Security is a vital part of the service so we asked Security Director, Johnnie Müller what makes the service culture at Copenhagen different to other airports.


Q: What prompted the implementation of a service culture at Copenhagen Airport?

A: Back in 2006, the Security checkpoint at CPH was sometimes characterized by queues, complaints and unsatisfied passengers – the government demanded a change. In order to improve, Security had to focus on not only complete modernisation and restructuring, but also a very different cultural approach.

Q: What were the key problems?

A:  The essence of the problem was that the overall approach did not focus on the passengers as customers. The Airport has to be much more than a piece of infrastructure taking people from A to B – to succeed, it has to put the travel experience at the heart of the business.  In the Security department, we worked together in order to create a secure and pleasant experience for the passengers as they make their way easily through the security checkpoint and the rest of the airport.

Q: Where did you start?

A:  The first step was a €27m investment in a new, central security checkpoint that replaced the existing decentralized security set-up at three different locations. The new checkpoint opened in 2007 and hugely improved the process.  A lot of thought went into the design and while investigating best practices at airports around Europe, we realised there was one important drawback in the process– the luggage was heavy and difficult for security personnel to handle.  There wasn’t a suitable solution on the market at this time, so we developed our own fully automated tray return system.  The result is a unique checkpoint, which the staff are happy to operate.

Q: How has this impacted waiting times?

A:  It’s our goal to ensure waiting time at the checkpoint is as low as possible. Our formal Service Level Agreement with the Airlines is for 90% of the passengers to clear security in less than 15 minutes during the peak periods of 5-9a.m. and 3-7p.m. However, we are working actively to reduce waiting times further so the majority of passengers clear security in under five minutes and can expect to wait less than 15 minutes.

Q: How did CPH Security achieve a stress free environment?

A:  The overall aim was to produce a calm atmosphere for passengers and seriously reduce the stress passengers normally experience going through security procedures.  Together with the Security staff, we created a completely new look and feel, using a Danish architectural style with lots of space and light, making it feel welcoming to passengers and a pleasant place to work for our employees.

The new design has made a noticeable difference to the passengers’ security experience and the general mood is improved by the relaxed, professional and personal approach from our Security staff.  We have received many positive comments from passengers, who enjoy the new environment.

Q: How do you instil a ‘passengers first’ ethos?

A:  In all areas of the Security department, we work dedicatedly with service design and customer journeys. This is also evident when we recruit new staff for the security checkpoint, where we focus on customer service and have developed new selection methods to show how people will interact with passengers.  We also involve staff in all the new processes, systems and designs so they can identify with the changes and take pride in the airport.  Today, we are 1.150 security personnel in total.  We have our own Security Academy and training is a continual process for everyone.

Q: Does the new culture extend throughout the whole curb-to-gate journey?

A: Absolutely!  The experience starts from the moment the passengers book their trip and increasingly stems from digital services offered before and during the journey, which meet the different passenger needs.  Some like to plan the trip to the airport; book their parking space in advance or a car wash while they are away; others make the journey simple and efficient by checking in at home or pre-order shopping for pick-up-on-return; while others want to virtually walk their way through the airport pictured in 3D or pick out the restaurant for their pre-departure lunch.

Q: How would you sum up the Copenhagen Airport experience?

A: In Copenhagen Airport we put the passengers first at all times. The airport experience is a chain of moments strung together from many different points of contact as passengers make their way through to the gate. We are responsible for some of these points of contact and others, we simply facilitate. It’s the close partnerships, which combine this chain of travel moments into a good experience and form the best part of a journey.