Airport Expectations and Usability

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 01:26 PM with 2 comments

After the end of my recent trip to the Twin Cities, my lovely wife and I headed back to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport for our flight back to the Windy City. Being the adventurous souls we are and supporters of public transportation, we decided to take the light rail train from downtown Minneapolis to the airport. After boarding the train and checking out the uniqueness of it over other cities’ service, we saw signs that the train would not take us directly to our terminal, rather we would have to get off at the first terminal and take a bus. Little did we know that in the name of honoring local patriots, we would get lost and have a lesson in usability presented to us.

Recently the airport code-named MSP added a new terminal and named it after former US senator from Minnesota, Hubert H. Humphrey. The other and original terminal is named for aviator Charles Lindbergh. Our flight was out of Humphrey, but the light rail only stopped at Lindbergh. When we got off at Lindbergh and headed to the bus to Humphrey, the signs did not completely connect the dots and we were left wandering.

When I asked people for directions, I kept saying Lindbergh instead of Humphrey, and people would tell me that I was there already. Why the confusion? Usually airport terminals are named things like A, B and C. Sometimes letters skip, like in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago O’Hare, but they are simple letters. As L comes after H, but Lindbergh was the original terminal, this did not help. It wasn’t until I recalled the chronological order of fame by each namesake (Lindbergh before Humphrey, or at least that's how I recall learning history) I realized the new terminal was Humphrey. We finally found the signs, and made the connection in time to fly home.

To add insult to injury, the recorded announcements coming over the PA system were in a British accent. In Minnesota? Now this is not a dig on Midwesterners who are still sore over the accents in the movie Fargo, but a British accent – anywhere in the US? Sure, many international tourists come to the airport to go to the Mall of America, or connect through it, but a British accent?

Build as beautiful of a terminal as the taxpayers will allow you, put up a bronze plaque or statue to a famous person, but keep it simple for those who actually have to use it.

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