Heathrow Terminal 2 Check-In

The Wave 2 desk for Heathrow Terminal 2 has to satisfy multi-airline occupancy and multiple handlers including the 23 airlines of the Star Alliance. Heathrow required a desk that reduced transaction times while improving passenger experience. The design solution allows check-in staff to sit or stand while the desk can be reconfigured to suit an airline's protocols. Whether open or closed it brings staff closer to passenger and was seen as central to the relaunch of Heathrow T2 as a best-in-class service provider. View the Star Alliance film here.

The Wave 2 desk for Heathrow Terminal 2A is intended to accommodate the anticipated increase in passenger numbers as well as addressing the general travel experience. The brief, defined by Heathrow Ltd, was to develop a product that would satisfy a multi-airline occupancy and multiple handlers: the Star Alliance, consisting of 23 airlines. 
 
The ambition was to enable process times for bag drop of 90 seconds for short haul and 120 seconds for long haul. Heathrow Airport Ltd required a system that reduced transaction times, improved passenger experience while minimising costs, simplified install, improved the transaction experience and addressed any airline concerns. Importantly, this was to be achieved using existing IT equipment although future-proofing for newer technologies as they came online formed part of the brief. 
 
Both operator (airlines and check-in staff) and customers needs had to be met. The operators’ desire was for a desk that was comfortable and gave staff a feeling of security. From a customer perspective, a quick and easy process was obviously key. All airline service and process requirements were considered at the outset.
 
The design solution allows check-in staff to sit or stand. The innovation lies in its ability to be reconfigured to suit the airline’s protocols and to best reflect its brand. For example, some airlines put an emphasis on a high level of customer service while others may use proprietary software and operating systems requiring a different desk layout. 
 
In simple terms, the desk brings the staff closer to the passenger, with the option to have the desk ‘open’, ‘partially open’ or ‘fully-closed’. The desk can potentially reduce the conflict that can arise between passengers and staff by having the staff standing at the same height as the passenger and reducing the physical barrier between them. 
 
We observed the staff at check-in desks at Heathrow Airport to better understand operational issues on a day-to-day basis. We were given permission to film staff, allowing us to analyse their physical movements and interaction with passengers and baggage. Interviews were also conducted to help us understand any issues they have had in the past with desks and equipment.   
 
It was important to gain client and stakeholder buy-in to the concept so we built a 1:1 test-rig and invited a selection of staff from various operators to our studio for a working session, to test ideas and to invite them to be part of the design process. A Component Matrix was created as a way to understand the size, dimensions and functions of as necessary equipment and to coordinate the M&E requirements. 
 
Once these components were understood, interrogation of the functions began. Liaising with M&E, IT specialists, Health and Safety specialists, airline staff and managers were all taken into consideration and the ergonomics carefully assessed. Understanding technologies led to a modular approach. A utility wall was created integrate all cabling and components were raised off the working surface area to maximise this zone for the staff. 
A real-time ergonomic film was created to demonstrate to the client and stakeholders the new design concept. This clearly illustrated the revision to the component layout to create an improved working environment and was a very powerful tool. We also made easier access to passenger documents and baggage belts to improve staff working regime throughout the day. The feedback from the Star Alliance airlines was excellent and the new desks are seen as central to the launch of Heathrow T2A in 2014 as a best-in-class service provider. multi-airline occupancy and multiple handlers including the 23 airlines of the Star Alliance.