Flight Quest: a service that explores dignity at airports

Flying can be a stressful experience, especially for first-time travelers and for foreigners that must go through immigration and customs checkpoints. Some of these travelers such as international students must also present many supporting documents when entering a country. These experiences threaten the dignity of travelers, as they may face discrimination, ridicule or subpar treatment.

This service design project aims to tackle one of the many problems regarding dignity at airports and was done as part of my course in Experience Design at Northeastern University, under the mentorship of Service Designer PhD. Miso Kim and co-designed with Ying-Lo Chen.

The project followed a standard service design process which consists of five general phases that were approached with a myriad of methods:


Framing – Discovery – Invention – Synthesis – Delivery



Establishing scope and context was paramount for the project as dignity is a broad, abstract and subjective concept. When we speak about dignity at airports we could be discussing the treatment of minorities, like persons with disabilities or refugees, or we could talk about treating stranded travelers with empathy for instance. This trajectory map makes some of these variable discoverable so that they can be discussed and taken into account.



By conducting qualitative research through personal interviews and secondary sources, we established a series of models about our audience and about the issues regarding traveling to the United States as a foreigner. The following image displays an adapted user journey for our target audiences:


Other models included a stakeholders map and a perception gap analysis.


Based on these findings, brainstorming sessions were held to propose different ideas for services that might help foreign travelers feel more confident, secure and worthy of respect and dignity during immigration checkpoints.

A "cost-value" two-by-two model where cost refers to the amount of effort a user would have to put into the service to obtain a minimum amount of value

A "cost-value" two-by-two model where cost refers to the amount of effort a user would have to put into the service to obtain a minimum amount of value


This section took the chosen ideas from the previous design phase and turn them into more concrete possibilities for real services. In this case a cross-platform checklist service was proposed as a way to help travelers keep their documents and travel information up to date, and to teach them about the immigration screening process:


Different new user journeys were proposed based on the ideas of the checklist service. This one follows the "Hero's journey" paradigm:



Finally a service blueprint was created, outlining a cohesive user flow, user interactions with the system, and the supporting services and technologies that may be required. The blueprint was modeled using gaming jargon: for instance, the sections have names like "training" and "boss" (making a reference to boss fights in games) and external actors were dubbed NPCs (non-playable characters). This approach sets the tone for the service we would like to develop.


Overall, this project provided great insights into the nuanced situations that occur at ports of entry, and allowed the team to carry a well rounded, balanced and incremental service design process.

Many of these models were constructed through collaborative design sessions using boards to encourage shared understanding: