By Arab News
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
I frequently use the Riyadh and Jeddah airports. I feel that these airports test passengers’ patience due to bad services and hours of waiting. Although these airports have only witnessed simple improvements, travelers seem to be less discontent.
Until recently, these airports did not have restaurants or cafes, except for one coffee shop that served bad coffee. They did not have shops, lounges, and decent toilets, ATMs or currency-exchange booths. The flight information display systems were dysfunctional, the microphones’ sound was unbearable and employees at the passport check and security inspection made you feel afraid and guilty of some crime.
Meanwhile, a few people from society’s elite were relaxed because they had their own corner in these airports called the “executive office.” They would sit on comfortable couches and be served as much as coffee, tea and juice, as they wanted.
Today, both these airports are better despite an increase in the number of passengers and flights. Most services are now available, and the situation is even better than that of the VIP lounge. We do not get as angry as before when our flights are delayed. We pay for these new services and we do so happily.
Were these improvements difficult to achieve in the past? Not at all. This is the difference between ignorant managers and skilled ones who know their duties when it comes to serving customers. Carelessness and ignorance are the only justifications for why passengers were treated with such negligence in the past.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation’s (GACA) recent decision to privatize airports is a step for which people will thank it a lot if it succeeds. It will also yield financial profits that the Kingdom deserves. Saudi Arabia is one of the most active countries in the region with regard to traveling. This is due to the presence of millions of foreign workers, millions of visiting pilgrims, and millions of Saudi citizens who love to travel during their vacations.
It is with these people’s money, not the government’s, that the state can establish an excellent travel industry, when the civil aviation authority decides to end its monopoly on the management of airports. If it succeeds, it will serve as a model for other sectors. The government has become aware that controlling the services sector is politically wrong and a failed managerial practice.
Passport check and security inspection services have changed a lot at Saudi airports. Their developed electronic services are better than those of other government sectors — some are even better than Dubai’s, which stands as an example of good quality service.
Developing a management approach, being creative when devising solutions, having results measured by independent parties and adopting the concept of accountability will achieve the required transformation by getting rid of bureaucratic and centralized approaches and finally progressing toward a modern society.