Andy McKay

May 22, 2007

Bad design at Manchester airport

Wander into Manchester airport terminal 3 one rainy day to catch plane. You'll take a cab, or get dropped off by a shuttle bus at the front doors (if you go by train you will avoid this). And wander through the doors. There you'll find you are on the arrivals floor. Departures is upstairs, so you hop on the escalator. As you do so a recorded voice says "No luggage on this escalator". Twice.

It so happens a week or so ago I spent 30 mintues in this terminal and wanted to rip out that recorded message, since its triggered by movement and being right by the doors triggers every time someone walks by.

Standing there watching this mess I saw that:

  • Lots of people ignored it
  • The message triggered and was registered in peoples brains by the time they were
  • When people where in groups a few people would get on the escalator and be half way up and it would be the last few who then couldn't decide whether to go up.
  • A few people looked confused. I pointed them to the lift down the hall.
  • Nobody once took anything silly or outrageous on the escalator, have you ever tried taking more than one bag on an escalator?

Some simple solutions:

  • The voice message takes too long to register in people's brains, especially in a busy place like and airport where 50% of people have cell phone's glued to their ears. Signs that you see as you approach rather than down on the side (currently they are not obvious).
  • There was no clear labelling of the alternative, but a sign saying for arrivals, go up. So what do you do? A sign saying "Arrivals via lift" with an arrow would help.
  • It creates indecision. Whats luggage, is my carry on luggage? What no that's ok I can do that. A sign saying "No carts on the escalator" would clearly say to me, no big and stupid stuff.

But in the end it comes down to something like they put the escalator there and some health and safety expert found people taking luggage on it. So they put signs up (which are there). So they put up pillars (so that people can't fit carts through). Then they put up this automated audio recording. And people still take luggage up.

Manchester airport, that mesage is stupid, get rid of it. Or preferably, don't put something useful like an escalator in just the right position, and then tell people not to use it.