Bristol, the Multilingual Airport

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In order to help international passengers to the best of their abilities, our local Bristol Airport has created a database of the languages spoken by its staff members.

More people from overseas pass through Bristol Airport than ever before: according to an article written by Carol Deacon on Nailseapeople, this development prompted the North Somerset airport to find new ways to ease communication with passengers that do not have English as their first language.

According to Deacon, the airport has made a catalogue in which all the languages the staff speaks are listed. The database includes 34 different languages, including Tagalog and even sign language!

If employees have to communicate with a traveller that doesn’t speak English, they can now turn to the list and ask one of their colleagues to join the conversation. This new implementation is likely to be used quite a lot as the number of passengers from abroad nearly trebled in the last ten years, with a million journeys made by people from overseas in 2012. Data from the Civil Aviation Authority Passenger Survey indicated that about 18 per cent of all travellers came from outside of the UK. Moreover, Deacon reveals, these travellers had their roots in 82 different countries.

According to Alison Roberts, head of Customer operations at Bristol Airport, the language database is a fast and easy way for employees to find out who can help them overcome  certain language barriers. And the development has not gone unnoticed – in 2012, the airport achieved accreditation from WorldHost, the best customer welcome programme around, Deacon says.

The language database project commenced in November 2011 and was finished in the spring of 2012. Next to the database, Deacon states, there were a number of other projects that were developed at the same time to enable the airport to handle ten million travellers per year. These other projects include an expansion of the terminal building, which will become double the size it is now, and an on-site hotel, for example.

Bristol airport has about 200 employees and a staggering 3,000 person wider employee community. She says the airport offers flights to over 100 airports across the globe – no wonder their customer base involves a lot of foreign languages! However, the new database will mean the airport’s employees can optimize their communication with all passengers.

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