Welcoming 69 million passengers in 2019, Denver International Airport (DEN) is one of the top ten busiest airports in the world and the primary economic engine for the Colorado region, generating more than $33.5 billion annually in economic activity. The Great Hall Project, launched in 2018, is a massive renovation effort to enhance security, improve passenger flow, and increase airport capacity.
With multiple entrances and exits impacted by Phase 1 construction of the Great Hall, Phase 2 starting this summer, and COVID-19 still affecting the passenger experience, DEN needed a reliable, dynamic communication tool to tell passengers and employees about open walkways and detours.
DEN’s communication team used multiple tools to help employees and travelers navigate the Great Hall construction zones, such as:
- Static maps
- Decals on indoor and outdoor walkways
- Customer service and project personnel in the terminal to assist passengers
Although the onsite personnel are invaluable in assisting passengers, the customer service team had limited staffing and operated indoors, creating a less than ideal solution for people lost outside. Staffing challenges combined with constant rerouting rendered static maps, signage, and floor decals impractical. Committed to helping passengers but not knowing each passenger’s starting point or where they might get lost, it wasn’t easy deciding where to post signs or station project personnel.
DEN’s construction partners welcomed the idea of opening more sidewalks around the construction area during the holidays. But a narrow ten-day window complicated how they would notify frequent travelers and first-time airport visitors of the changes. The DEN communications team met the challenge with a responsive, user-friendly, real-time communication tool in a brainstorming session: QR codes integrated into the wayfinding feature of the existing FlyDenver.com website.
With the airport leaders on board, the DEN communications team took the first steps to implement the QR codes by literally taking the first steps. Literally. Putting themselves in the positions of frequent and new airport visitors, the staff went to drop-off and arrival points then asked themselves, “How do I get around this construction wall and end up in the right place?”
Groundwork completed, the team customized two QR codes, integrated them into their existing Personal Wayfinder implementation, printed script pads, and installed signage and posters from which passengers accessed the codes. Once scanned, the QR code displayed a map orientating the passenger to their approximate location in the airport and step-by-step directions to their end destination. With the new links installed, travelers found their best route around the construction zones in real-time.
Once again, the staff played passenger, grabbing their mobile devices to test the new program. It worked. The contactless, self-service QR codes were a great solution to helping passengers navigate construction zone changes with physical distancing and minimal face-to-face interactions.
DEN’s communication team went into the holidays with the mindset that if 100 people scanned a QR code to navigate construction changes, the project would be successful. More than 6,000 people accessed the interactive maps from before Thanksgiving through March 31, 2021. Based on this success, DEN has left these QR codes in place and added new ones to help provide other traveler information during construction impacts, including baggage carousel information.
The passenger-focused QR program was a zero-cost solution since DEN was already producing signage and script pads and merely had to print scannable QR codes on them. Additionally, because arriving and departing passengers can use the QR programs and interactive map as soon as they are on the premises, this solution solves navigation issues beyond the Great Hall construction challenges.
Ongoing construction gave rise to the solution, but the benefits are far-reaching. With planned construction for years ahead, the easy implementation and positive feedback make integrating QR codes into existing wayfinding systems an important tool in enhancing the traveler experience. The project was a very effective and low-cost way to advance the overall initiative of supporting travelers by bringing the right information to them at the appropriate time on the day of travel.