Here's how Jacksonville airport is going more international
Jan 27, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

In a move to enhance service and improve the experience of any international customers, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is supplying tenants and travelers free interpreting services.

The authority is partnering with Language Line, an over-the-phone translation company that has interpreters for 200 languages on staff 24/7.

In the past, when a traveler would come to Jacksonville International Airport and they weren't proficient in English, the Aviation Authority would use a reference sheet that consisted of staff members and volunteers who might speak other languages. But that system was inefficient, said spokeswoman Debbie Jones, as sometimes a person on the list would not be working when needed, not to mention they couldn't represent even close to the languages a service could.

So although the airport doesn't (see) non-English speaking customers too often, Jones said they wanted to have a solution that was consistent and would enhance service.

“It's not something new we're providing,” she said, “but this is a great enhancement over what we used to have.”

Now, tenants are provided with a sheet that has hundreds of languages represented, all saying the same phrase. When a non-English speaking guest comes, the tenant can show them the sheet, which says the phrase in their native tongue: “Point to your language. An interpreter will be called. The interpreter is provided at no cost to you.”

When the guest points to their language, the tenant can then call the operations department of the airport, who will in turn call Language Line. The customer, tenant and interpreter can then speak in a three-way phone call.

While the service is free to tenants and customers, Jones said the JAA purchased 100 minutes of the service — she said there aren't enough international customers to justify a full subscription. The JAA secured a flat rate of 73 cents per minute, meaning its cost for its full 100 minutes will be just $73.

“We're making sure all our customers have accessibility,” she said. “If you're a non-English speaker, we want to make sure as an airport that we provide that, whether we use it once a year or 25 times a year. It's an enhancement to our last system, which was not reliable or feasible.”

She said over the last few years, needs for translation services have gone up slightly. That number could increase as JIA adds Air Canada to its roster. So far, tenants have been very receptive to the program, which has already been dispersed to them and is now available to guests.

“It's greater coverage, greater access and a much greater field of languages,” Jones said. “It's about accessibility. We're ensuring customers are able to communicate.”