An initiative by

An initiative by

27 Oct 2011
Mette Hansen

What is quality? Is jean brand Levi’s right?

In the hunt for quality I feel like I need to address this to optimally explore and be inspired. I believe the notion of quality is highly subjective, but that there are substantial differences in definition in relation to quality of something physical and something intangible. Please help me out here

When we speak of quality in relation to a product or something physical we often relate quality to something that is sustainable, something which quite physically and literally lasts.

I was inspired by the long lasting slogan of good old jean brand Levi’s, who promote; “Good quality never goes out of style”.

Starbucks - known for the same products and service in which ever Starbucks you enter all over the world. Is this quality?

But how do we perceive and identify quality in relation to something that is intangible like a service or an experience? – Personally, I believe quality in this category is when something is so satisfactory, or exceeding expectations, or is out of the ordinary that it creates an impression and becomes memorable.

Quality Hunters busy at work at the airport hotel. Is quality in service creating spaces which accomodate using time more effectively while waiting in airports and on board the aircraft?

In this logic, quality in service is based on expectations and satisfactory level – and the outcome is memory.

This means in order to create quality in service you have to at least meet expectations. I wonder how airlines and airports can be more successful in this…



  • 27 Oct 2011 at 7:56 pm

    What is quality. That’s a very good question. As a consultant I was confronted with this, and apparently ISO, you know, from all these standards, have a definition that goes something like meeting the expectations exactly and at the agreed time. Taking into account that quality is indeed subjective to travelers, I think for airports and airlines (or any other provider) to deliver a high quality service, it’s necessary to understand what the expectations, needs and requirements of customers are. And then, design a service that meets these.

    Six Sigma is a method that talks about quality of output of processes, and what I’ve learned from studying that, is that quality is not only subjective, but that some needs and requirements are more important to customers than others. So, my tip would be, finding those, and attend to them first.

    From other discussions on this website, I think that would mean free wifi, and spaces where people can work undisturbed, but also spaces where people can meet and talk, for example.

  • Gavinda Jayasinghe
    27 Oct 2011 at 7:58 pm

    All the airline has to do is leave a lasting impression, thereby forming an indelible memory, which will not be affected by the vestiges of time, nor the experience of new and less authentic experiences.

    An airline can truly go above and beyond in satisfying a passenger on one occasion, only to appear a bit shoddy and fall short during another flight. The key is consistency, which will indefinitely translate to fond memories,that will be assocaited with quality and comfort.

    I know it may seem excessive or impinging even, but how about analysing from an airline industry perspective, the psychological processes involved in the perception of quality onboard. I am sure it would not violate policies of any sort,as I know for a fact that advertisements,products and services try to tap into the mind of the consumer to sell.

    In this case, the objective would not solely be to sell, but to enhance the experience and to determine qualitatively what passengers want.

    The easier route would be to provide the customer with exemplary service each and every time.

  • Mette Frøkjær Hansen
    27 Oct 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Cool thoughts. Very interesting what you say about spaces. I think there could be way better use of space in airports… space which invites to activity rather than “just” waiting around…

    • Kati Lonka
      27 Oct 2011 at 9:08 pm

      Dear Mette, I totally agree with this idea of rearrange the space used at the airports for activities rather than waiting.

      What comes to quality: safety, healthy, informative, functioning, + the needed stuff to keep people satisfied. To be able to make them happy- takes a bit more then. But, why not, try to make the airport as leisure-center? I know that the arriving clients are in a hurry to go home asap- but what about those who are waiting for departure or connection? What about attracting people to come over even though they are not traveling anywhere? i used to have a dear friend who sometimes (with her little son)took a trip to Helsinki airport only to see the aircrafts. Staying there, arriving and taking off. Imagine, there would have something more to do at the airport besides that? After a day (or half-day) at the airport they would just go home and think of what a nice day they had there.

      • Hanne
        28 Oct 2011 at 4:11 am

        Once again Kati, I’m reading your comment here and thinking “she took the words straight out of my head”!

        When I was a child my dad used to take me to airport watch the aircrafts and I always wanted to go if someone needed to pick-up or taken to airport. Somehow I feel very connected to Helsinki-Vantaa airport and just love it! So yes, why not trying to create more activity-based entertainment at the airport. I always leave plenty of time to hang out at the airport before my flight and would like the option to actually do something active there. I know Kati you mentioned the zumba classes earlier and Thomas talked about scavenger hunt and this exactly what the airport needs. Especially between flights, you might want to move a bit before being crammed again to your seat for several hours.

        How about place where you could try out new things i.e. wall climbing, bowling, zumba whatever! And they could even rent the Kangoo shoes Mirva has sported during ther travels :)

        • Kati Lonka
          28 Oct 2011 at 2:00 pm

          Hanne! Thank you very much. It sure is good to know that someone else shares my ideas. Sometimes they are not the most ordinary ones- but who wants the ordinary stuff always?? Exactly, why airport should remain only as a airport?

      • Jacek Klemens
        17 Nov 2011 at 9:44 pm

        Hello Mette, hallo Kati : ) , hello everyone on this blog,

        I have the same passion of aviation and since many years I like going to the Warsaw Airport to see the airplanes. I fully agree, that such a leisure centre could be also organized in Helsinki Airport. How about organizing in the observation deck also a nice cafe and restaurant to have a great place to spend the time with friends having a view on the airplanes ?

        And coming to the quality itself. For me it is also the way the airline can surprise us with some new attractions, that we did not even think about – for exapmle a glass of welcome drink – for everyone or menu a’ la carte on some European flights also in economy class, which could take place from time time on destinations selected by the airline. That could also encourage some people to try business class in the future, who can say ?

        And the quality seems to me also as the reaction of the carrier for such situations like delays or cancellations, that sometimes are present. The attitude to the other people, help and the smile are the keys, which play a really important role and are crucial for the travellers. What do you think ?

        Have a great day !


  • 27 Oct 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Interesting question. I’d say quality is not “either, or”, it’s all of it. It’s that thing that assaults our senses. Airports and airlines, in order to truly provide quality, would need to consider all our senses, be it sight, sound, touch, taste etc… That’s when something becomes a truly memorable experience. I also have to agree with Gavinda that at the end of the day, it all boils down to consistency, so do it well the first time, then again and again and agan…

  • 27 Oct 2011 at 8:36 pm

    One more note: I think I said it before, but I firmly believe that quality is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the passengers and airport visitors. And the best way to learn what they want is to ask them. Unfortunately… it’s not always the same, and over time, it changes. So it has to be a repeating process that is never finished.

  • Saara Karhu
    27 Oct 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Mette

    I think we identify quality with something we have heard somewhere. While I believe quality is something we feel comfortable and keep on wanting it.

    Good quality jeans’ won’t brake down in the first wash or get in to a smaller size. Neighter they live color to your white sofa or to the sneakers you are wearing.

    Good quality is long lasting and you pay for it. It is never for free.

    Good quality relationships ain’t free either. You have to work hard on those.

    So; good quality airline companies should keep that in their marketing programme. It’s not free and it’s truly appreciated.

  • 27 Oct 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Quality assessment of many products is tied to context above all else.

    Starbucks purports to offer the same standard (coffee roast, drink choice, aesthetic) worldwide. The mere fact that it offers the same product in locations around the world speaks to the achievement of a standard. Whether or not this standard is quality depends on context.

    When Starbucks began to expand rapidly across the United States, it offered in many markets a standard of coffee better than what had previously been available. Today, the situation is quite different. Small-scale coffee nerds in the US have changed the game by roasting their own beans, developing new and more appealing preparation techniques, and creating exciting, bespoke environments (the opposite of the cookie-cutter standardisation offered by Starbucks) for enjoying coffee——and in many cases insisting on high ethical standards in production and harvesting. In New York, San Francisco, and countless other cities across the US, Starbucks does not connote quality. It connotes a standard, and a subpar one at that.

    Of course, there are many places where the product from Starbucks would be the best available.

    Airlines and airports do not offer a stable form of quality, so they must always be on their toes. Standards shift constantly. Any airline or airport seeking to exceed expectations has to always be engaged in research and scouting to assess how what is understood as quality is changing. This is tough stuff. The targets are always moving.

  • Daniel
    28 Oct 2011 at 7:12 am

    Mette, a BIG like for raising this question! Its a question all QHs should be raising and be involved in as well if you ask me. To what extent are the 7 of you actually interacting, sharing and exchanging during this hunt? Reading the different blogs here and there, I already noticed discussions crossing over and overlapping each other themes. For the quality of this hunt, it may be a good idea to have a team blog/ page at some point in which the hottest topics and ideas are gathered to explore the synergies between them. Something for the orginasors to think about

    • Daniel
      28 Oct 2011 at 8:16 am

      As for my view on quality:

      its about exceeding the expectation one has for his/ her specific need at the cost they’re willing to pay.

  • Susanne Metzger
    28 Oct 2011 at 10:26 am

    My idea about quality is as Gavinda said consistent performance. If you get once an outstanding performance which let you to believe that this company provides high quality it’s even worse if next time you get a really low performance.

    Nevertheless if you are already on a high standard it’s exceptionally hard to keep this level or even top it, because if you are used to this level of quality, could it be that next time it is not quality but the expected ‘normal’ level I expect receiving?

    One more thought, is quality not basically a luxury only some people can affort thinking about? If you don’t have enough food, you are not thinking about quality but quantity, if you do not have a means of transport every day (such as a bus), do you care about the quality of the seats or the space you have? You are probably happy if the bus comes at all.

    I’m afraid that quality is tightly connected with money. If you don’t invest too much, you don’t expect the highest quality and vice versa.

    Perhaps airlines should introduce their understanding of Quality with a marketing strategy which they publish such as:

    - we put most emphasis on spacy seats, even in Economy

    - we offer more than just the chicken or fish variety in food


    with this the customer can chose the airline according to his/her quality expectations.

    • 28 Oct 2011 at 11:57 am

      I like where you have taken this discussion, Susanne. So much energy has gone into upping the quality level for Business & First class passengers, while economy class passengers are neglected. Economy class passengers on many airlines are forced to pay for every last amenity as if it were a privilege–seat assignment, checking luggage, and so on. The cumulative effect of such a move is a serious drop in quality for passengers.

      You’ve got me thinking what quality would mean at a level “below” Economy. What would it take to build a high quality experience for a short-haul low-cost airline? Here are a few ideas.

      • Elimination of cattle-call boarding.

      • A free snack (something local to the flight’s origin or destination market) and a free drink (water, coffee, or tea — beverages that are very cheap to generate.) Tasty food items, also of local significance, available for purchase.

      • Appealing branding — something fresh and light, nothing garish. Low-cost travel is supposed to be simple and easy.

      • Friendly flight attendants.

      • Reasonable add-on charges for checking luggage.

      • Elimination of charges for using a particular credit card.

      The question: How deeply would some of these moves cut into potential profits?

  • Mette Frøkjær hansen
    28 Oct 2011 at 10:36 am

    Kati and Hanne: awesome that you bring up The topic of airports as a leisure place. For many passengers the vacation really begins in the airport so why not offer great services and activities.

    I have been thinking about conceptualising The airport more like a city, where there are services like fitness, amphitheatre, hotel rooms, parks, playgrounds, terrasses etc. in addition to all the shops.

    @Daniel yes our categories cross quite often and I very much agree that we should do more knowledge sharing to optimise

    • Kati Lonka
      28 Oct 2011 at 2:05 pm

      Dear Mette, thank you. It is always a pleasure to participate in a chance to create something good, interesting and new!

  • Mette Frøkjær hansen
    28 Oct 2011 at 10:40 am

    Our ideas. I especially feel like my category sometimes touches upon entertainment and vice versa.I will suggest a method for knowledge sharing in our private forum.

  • Mette Hansen
    28 Oct 2011 at 1:35 pm

    @Susanne: Very interesting! I have actually thought a lot about value for money vs. value for content. Like you say we tend to think in value for money and adjust our expectations to a certain price level. From a development point of view I think it’s very interesting to challenge this notion and think in value for content.


    I buy a 99cent burger at McDonald’s and I have certain expectations for this product, which might be fairly low. I eat the burger and feel satisfied with the way it manages my hunger for the moment. This satisfaction and meeting of my expectations doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with quality – it is more about receiving what I expected.

    When thinking in value for content maybe quality can be found in added value to what we expect. Maybe that’s why Hong Kong Airport is continuously voted the best airport in the world, because it adds value to the airport experience by integrating themes into the airport and making it a place of leisure (like Kati and Hanne talk about). In Hong Kong sports, flying and film are the themed services which create atmosphere and entertainment. In Hong Kong Airport you don’t have to be an air passenger to enjoy their services and entertainment. The golf course, flight simulators, 4D cinema, film production unit etc. is open for the public to experience. THAT’s cool! The airport as a themed place of leisure.

  • Kati Lonka
    28 Oct 2011 at 2:09 pm

    During the QH contest, one of the questions by the QualityHunters2 was; which would be your first destination and why? It s time to be creative.

    My proposition was; according to the benchmarking, learn from the best: HongKong, Seoul, Singapore

    btw. I have never been to any of these airports.

  • Daniel
    28 Oct 2011 at 2:19 pm

    @Mette: perhaps quality should be distinquished into RELATIVE quality (an affordable Swatch) and ABSOLUTE quality (a priceless Rolex).

    In your example of McD, the 99c burger may not be the best burger you can get, in Paris i recall a burger for 50eur (didn´t try), but for all the 99c burgers out there, McD is providing a consistent, pretty good tasting burger that fulfills my need for a quick bite. However if i were more the nutritous type, i may have preferred an apple for 99c and the burger would be considered a bad quality choice nutritionwise. Point being, quality only has meaning if it is relevant to a specific need.

    In your quest for an ABSOLUTE quality airport, you would have to be distinct about what the specifc needs are you´re trying to fulfill. For me personally, the feel and look of an airport is of secondary need, my primary need is to get to my plane as smooth and efficient as possible. Only if an airport failed in fulfilling my first need, then it can compensate that quality loss with secondary pleasers. Oeh imagine all the distractions a parent would have trying to rush to the plane with kids being enticed with all the attraction along the way.

    I hope this sheds a different angle on your quest.

    • Daniel
      28 Oct 2011 at 2:23 pm

      It should read: a ´wider´ angle on your quest for quality in airport services.

      • Daniel
        28 Oct 2011 at 2:29 pm

        So trying to convey this into practical ideas, maybe there should be Fast Lane through the whole airport for efficient travellers and a touristic route for the pleasure seekers.

  • Rosemarie
    28 Oct 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Quality -I second what Arjan and Gavinda say.

    With all the different cultures around I feel it would be worthwhile to first carryout an indepth study to fathom what everyone means by quality and deliver quality.

    Whats good for the goose may not be good for the gander!

  • 29 Oct 2011 at 6:45 am

    Mette, I’m having a voice of slightly older people. This discussion has spinned in terms of young and physically active folk, however, there are people of my age too (I’m 57). All do not have a need to climb walls. Returning back to my earlier subject; sophisticated airports could put up libraries in the transit halls. Then, a passanger could borrow a book, start to read it at the airport, and return it by the end of the flight. Either the reading should be cheap and thus not necessary to return, or monitored using a barcode, like in stores.

  • Lisa-Lila
    29 Oct 2011 at 10:26 pm


    I would love to visit the Hong King Airport. It would be really interesting to do a quality comparison to all other airports. I could probably spend a whole week there, making a documentary; noting all of the air passengers and leisure visitors experience with the airport.

    • Daniel
      29 Oct 2011 at 11:02 pm

      I´ll be getting the chance in a few weeks time when I´m transitting in HK with Cathay (Sorry Finnair!) and get to see firsthand what all the hype is about :-)

      @Mette, I do like the idea of different spaces in airports and planes, and I´m going to breed on some new ideas for you. On the other hand, as a core service to the efficient/functional traveller I do strongly believe a short-cut passed all of it should also be looked into. Its bad enough the only way to get to the gate is across a mall, next there´s also a theme park ;-)

  • Lisa-Lila
    29 Oct 2011 at 10:29 pm


    It is tricky typing with this iPhone, it is constantly changing all of the typed words.

    It is interesting to note that the airport in Hong Kong is considered the “King” of all airports.

  • Mette Hansen
    30 Oct 2011 at 2:56 am

    @Daniel: haha yes, theme parks emerge everywhere and I agree theming can sometimes be more confusing than actually value adding. It must be meaningful and support a certain navigation strategy in relatin to service.

    @Esa: I’m very happy about your comment. It’s great to be reminded of the many different groups of people who inhabit the airport space. Your library idea is brilliant. Great way to spend quality time at the airport, facilitated by the airport. It makes the passenger interact with the airport and create memories there. “Sharing” books is also a great way of story telling. You read in a book that many have read before you, and will after you in that exact same space. In this way you share the story and experience with many other passengers you don’t know, but somehow bond with. You could even have little noteboards where passengers can write little notes to each other about the books they have read.

  • Mette Hansen
    30 Oct 2011 at 3:03 am

    @Daniel: Have a great trip to Hong Kong, I’m excited for your thoughts and ideas.

    @Alex: You raise a very interesting point here about level of quality. Like I’ve said in an earlier post, I think treating the passenger with respect will take you a long way as an airline and airport. People can feel when they are being manipulated into buying and taken advantage off, and it is something the very enlightened consumer of today is very aware of. Eliminating rediculous fees and unreasonable treatment for additional $ for the airline and airport, could be a long term strategy in investing in goodwill, and having passengers spread the good word and come back.

  • Mette Hansen
    30 Oct 2011 at 3:06 am

    @Kati: I should be thanking you! Your thoughts are great and really innovative. It’s great to “meet” people who are not afraid of thinking outside the box.

    Thank you everyone for the excellent comments, I’m really overwhelmed by the constructiveness of these discussions. This is just amazing!

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  • 02 Nov 2011 at 12:01 pm

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  • 05 Nov 2011 at 6:23 pm

    “Common knowledge is not so common” Voltaire. Furthermore, common knowledge changes from country to country by cultural difference. Quality to me is quite simply exceeding the common standard. At its roots what is the common standard? it is a variable.

    e.g. On pimp my seat you mentioned the heated toilet seat that would be quality in Finnair and western europe but normal in south east asia. The sauna is probably common to finland, but is AMAZING to non europeans.

    As a designer, I seek to find that innovation to a world audience of something that is different and better for all exceeding that common standard.

    Super interest post and comments!

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