21(116) 2015
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Communication comes first

by Urszula Podraza, Kraków Airport’s spokesperson
Header urszula podraza

Kraków Airport is the leader among regional airports in Poland, constantly expanding its schedule and charter services. The airport is located seven miles (11 km) from the city centre and serves a catchment area of 11 million inhabitants within a two-hour drive.

This year we’re expecting to welcome over 4 million passengers. It will be the best year in the history of the airport.

This summer we have finished the first part of the biggest construction process in our history, including the new spacious terminal connected by means of a footbridge with a new train station located behind the multi-storey car park, and a new apron for aircraft. The whole process will be finished next year, doubling the airport’s capacity.

In the summer season of 2015, Kraków Airport offered over 60 direct scheduled services operated by 17 airlines, as well as charter connections. In 2016 Kraków Airport will be the host of Europe’s leading route development forum - Routes Europe.

We regularly engage in dialogue with all stakeholder groups: carriers, passengers, employees, the local community, authorities, media and plane spotters. We aim to engage with them transparently and regularly, and we mostly get positive feedback. We understand how important this communication is, especially in the era of social media. Aviation is a very interesting field but comes with many rules and legal regulations. This is why sometimes it’s hard to explain who’s responsible or why we can’t fulfil passengers’ expectations. We believe that communication is better than silence, even when it proves to be difficult.

Kraków Airport aims to deliver all strategic information in a consistent and open way, using our website, newsletters, social media profiles, local media and face-to-face meetings. We know our stakeholders well, we know their needs and concerns.

We listen to our stakeholders very carefully, welcoming feedback and suggestions for improvement. The most important groups are carriers, passengers and local community. We show them how important their voice is to us. We try to introduce new solutions based on their feedback whenever we can.

For larger projects, we prepare a communication manual in advance. This includes research, aim of communication, target groups, key messages, Q&A and communication tools. We’re always up to date with the evaluation and monitoring of said projects.

These days, as Poland’s leading regional airport, we’re building a CSR strategy in order to be more responsible and give the stakeholders value which they expect.

The market position of the airport is connected with the number of airlines and the number of offered connections. The carriers regard the potential catchment area of the airport as priority. Kraków and Małopolska are very attractive tourist destinations. Our region’s growing potential as a conference and exhibition destination and its huge outsourcing sector help to bring the biggest airlines in business to Kraków. We take care about communication with the carriers, organising regular meetings of the AOC (Airline Operators Committee), publishing a dedicated newsletter, giving them access to the special zone on our website, supporting their events (eg opening new routes or achieving passenger milestones) and campaigns in the media.

The most recent example of cooperation with the carriers was the test of the new part of the passenger terminal which took place on 5 September. Over 700 volunteers were evaluating every point on the passengers’ path – security points, gates, signage and information readability in departure/arrivals zone. The airlines’ representatives checked out how we were preparing for the opening of the new part of the terminal.

This event was also dedicated to our second main group of stakeholders – passengers. Every person that took part in the test could give us feedback - if they liked the terminal, if it was spacious enough etc. We prepared special polling for participants, which will help us improve the new infrastructure. This event received widespread media coverage, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. Testers posted pictures, notes, comments and short movies on our profile pages and their own profiles as well.

Social media are one of the most important way to communicate with passengers, spotters and fans. We use profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, posting facts about airport, titbits, and statistics every day. We take care to respond within the shortest time possible. We also organise contests and events connected with aviation which have always proven to be popular amongst our target audience. Our activity is highly regarded by social media users and professionals.

For the last five years Kraków Airport has supported local communities, giving NGOs grants for education and cultural projects and activities that mean to improve the overall safety of the community. Until now, they have implemented over 80 projects in Zabierzów and Liszki, two small towns located next door to the airport. This campaign called Wspieramy sąsiadów (‘We support our neighbours’) has been written about in the Polish annual CSR report.

The airport is a very interesting theme for journalists. Route development, number of passengers, building works, delayed flights, even weather (especially fog) can be ‘hot news’. As a former journalist, I understand how hard my professional colleagues’ work is, so I always pick up the phone, give every necessary information or help to take photo in the restricted area. I try to give clear answers to all queries because each worrying article or news on the radio/television has a big impact. Excited passengers call our call centre and ask a lot of questions.

I prefer active communication so I regularly organise briefings, photo sessions, press trips, and send press releases giving media the chance to write about the airport. In this way, I am able to build a good image of the airport. That activity takes a lot of time but is worth it.

Last but not least – our employees. I always say – public relations begin at home. We make sure our employees get information first, before the media; we explain to them decisions which influence their work and we present our achievements. To do this, we use intranet, newsletter and an internal magazine. In addition, we build our employees’ engagement by means of special projects and training courses.

The airport’s Public Relations Department, working without any external agency, is responsible for all communication activities (except for those directly relating to airlines).

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