Navigating the maze -the Munich International Airport (Part 2)

After writing the part 1 of this adventure, I just wonder whether it’s a problem of me, or a problem of them (the Airport designers).

So I did a google search and found that I am definitely not alone in finding this airport “unnavigable” (I am so relived, to know that it’s really not me): http://www.airlinequality.com/airport-reviews/munich-airport/

Having the kind of chaotic experience with my flight to Poland, I decided to go to the airport earlier for my flight back home (I hd checked-in online). I arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours before my flight, and thought that I would have plenty of time, I was not correct.

Before, I go into details of my journey, I’d like to share what I learnt first:

  1. When putting signage, make sure that your users SEE that there are more than one option, and please make sure that they see the more immediate option.
  2. Please do not put signage at a point where people just finished a more procedure where they need to tidy up (or any procedure that is too complicated.) Put a sign where people can see, and will not be too occupied and miss it.
  3. make sure your people know the procedure and would be willing to offer timely help.

After I did my bag drop (*tip: do the online checkin, you will regret not doing it.), I was looking for the bathroom, and to found that there is no bathroom in the departure/ checkin area (at least for the C gates). So, I followed the sign to went down:

After going down, sign told you to go right (which is totally right)
Then, a sign to tell you to turn left. But then there is a bathroom 2 meters after the sign.

The sign did let you to the bathroom, but one that is 3 mins away (while there is one 3 secs away.)

After my experience with the immigration at arrival, I decided to get in the queue ASAP. When I see the relatively short queue I was kind of relieved. Obviously, I was wrong, SO wrong.

Firstly, everyone needs to queue up to use the scanning gate. There is no direction at the gate, so most people ended up scanning the wrong side and panicked a bit. There were 2 gates (as shown), but for reason unknown, everyone just waited for the same one.

There was an airport staff there, and I didn’t know what he was supposed to do apart from standing next to the gate.

(Both gates were abandoned later, maybe they are actually not working).

There was indeed 2 queues after the gate, one for EU and one for all other passport. This information was put after the gate. After passing through the gate, everyone was busy organizing their boarding pass, etc, therefore, no one noticed the sign. End up we have everyone going to the same queue:

People in the all passport queue. While there was less than 10 people in the EU queue.
Scottish Klit is definitely very fashionable and special. However, I don’t think any non-Scots men would be wearing that in a German Airport…

At the end, we waited for around 40 mins in the line. After around 15 minutes of standing in a line that DID NOT MOVE, some of the EU citizens realised that there were indeed entitled to some preferential treatment. At the end, I stood in the line for about 40 mins. What was frustrating was, a new line was opened (for no apparent reason), people who arrived much mater indeed get through the SAME counter as me 15 mins before me. Maybe there is a good reason why they could “jump the queue”, so I wouldn’t want to make any conclusion too readily.

At the end, I was happy my choice about getting there early, as I ended up spent around 1.5 hours to get in.


Something that’s not related to design, but I have had some disturbing observations. German Airport and public transports have been subjected to attacks lately. However, as long as I can see, their security hasn’t been in anyway tightened. I would even argue that it is sub-standard:

  1. I saw that a young man passed back and forth the immigration check for a few times. He does not look like a staff and didn’t appear to have any document/ badges signifying so. He just talked to the immigration officer for less than a min. and was allowed to pass through on a few times.
  2. They have a system to make people not able to pass through the scanner until their bags are scanned. which resulted in many people waiting before. At one point they just let everyone walked through the scan relatively quickly, without much thought as they needed to clear the queue. There was only ONE scan for the whole section.

To be honest, most of the issues I observed in the airport can be resolved by putting more people in, getting better signage and making their staff more helpful. My biggest take away from this trip is that, in the future, I will avoid transit in Germany at all costs.