Philadelphia Airport introduces language assistance tools for international travellers

In 2023, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) welcomed 28.1 million travellers, many from around the world. It also PHL also initiated the GLOBO phone system, a tool that provides an easy way to connect industry-specialised interpreters to travellers in seconds.

To enhance the travel experience for the travellers that do not speak English as their primary language, Philadelphia International Airport is introducing two tools to assist passengers as they navigate the airport.

“Being in an unfamiliar airport, with no idea where to head to make a connecting flight, collect baggage or find transportation can be unsettling for anyone,” said Leah Douglas, PHL’s Director of Guest Experience. “Not knowing how to speak and read English, can make the situation even more stressful for travellers.”

In 2023, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) welcomed 28.1 million travellers, many from around the world.

In the same year, PHL also initiated the GLOBO phone system, a tool that provides an easy way to connect highly qualified, industry-specialized interpreters to travellers in seconds. The airport has access to GLOBO through its collaboration with the Language Access Program within the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Guests can access GLOBO in all PHL terminals at information desks, where members of the Navigator and Volunteer Navigator teams use the system to instantly connect travellers with a live agent via phone for customized translation services.

Recently, a PHL volunteer noticed a passenger who seemed to be disoriented near an information desk. The volunteer, TSA agents, and a Philadelphia Police Officer quickly realized the traveller only spoke Russian. The volunteer called GLOBO, where an agent was able to translate that the woman had been separated from her husband, who was carrying her travel documentation. The GLOBO agent was able to get the passenger’s husband’s full name and travel information, from which the PHL team determined the couple’s gate. The police officer located the husband and reunited him with his wife at the information desk.

In addition to GLOBO, the PHL Airport Operations Center (AOC) is a multilingual unit with bilingual operators available to assist travellers in languages such as Spanish, French, Arabic, Haitian Creole, and Bambara. “For all other languages, PHL’s AOC utilizes GLOBO for over-the-phone interpretation. Last year, our bilingual staff helped 731 guests, utilizing GLOBO 866 times,” said Denise Bailey, PHL’s Vice President of Business Diversity and Accessibility.

In the coming months, passengers will also see Department of Aviation and airport stakeholder employees wearing pins indicating which languages they speak, other than English. Pins will be easily identifiable and worn on employees’ lanyards.

“We have employees that know American Sign Language (ASL) and speak Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, German and Italian and are identifying more multilingual speakers all the time,” said Douglas. “PHL proudly welcomes passengers from around the world to Philadelphia and we want them to feel at home and have a great experience while they are here.”

PHL is a large hub airport serving more than 25.2 million passengers annually with 28 airlines, and 360 daily departures to 120 nonstop destinations. Located seven miles from downtown Philadelphia, the airport is easily accessible and convenient to many tourist sites, business centers and cultural hubs.