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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on August 2, 2019

The bottom line

Some of the biggest airport seating companies in the world provide their thoughts on the importance of seating, the latest trends and the challenges of changing passenger dynamics.

Paul Williams, CEO of the Zoeftig Group

Why should airports care about seating?

The passenger experience is coming more into focus and the provision of seating in the right location, quantities, cleanliness and state of repair are important. Passengers don’t want to feel they need to make a purchase of any description in order to be able to sit and wait. Many passengers now have a choice as to which hub or airport they fly through, if they do not feel cared for, then they go to somewhere that does.

 

What are the trends driving the latest developments in airport seating?

In-seat electrical power continues to be a major conversation, but comfort is a returning message. For years airports focused almost exclusively on durability, and as a consequence, many airports have great, but quite hard, seating. The needs of passengers are more at the fore today, and as a result the hospitality feel is creeping more into the equation. This, of course, presents a whole new range of issues for us and the airport to contend with.

 

What is the biggest airport contract you are working on today?

We are currently delivering the seating for the new Beijing Daxing Airport, it’s in excess of 7,500 seats. The Chinese are very efficient in their construction schedules and adhere to the dates which are very challenging at the best of times. The product is to a high specification and all seats are leather in custom colours. Thankfully, we have a great team in China that understand the local needs, it’s the benefit of having our own local people.

 

Can seating make airports money?

Helping make the airport money would be difficult to justify, it’s more about the whole passenger experience, and seating can have a direct affect in this area. When passengers feels valued, and that the airport cares about them, then this will lead to improved revenue.

 

What is the average lead time on a new seating contact?

This is very dependent on the regions of the world. Generally, we are aware of potential projects for many years ahead, but we are often one of the last suppliers, which leads to shorter delivery times than are ideal. Typically, from bid to delivery is six months, but there are many cases of periods as long as 18 months and as short as three months. We have a very flexible supply chain and can normally accommodate most demands.

 

Are your seat designs evolving to better equip airports to cope with larger travellers and passengers with reduced mobility?

We already have ranges where the seat sizes are variable, and a full range of options are available for the PRM seating. It’s part of our basic brief on any new designs.

 

Who is your oldest airport client and has your long association with them involved many contracts?

Our oldest client in airports is probably McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas), we have supplied in excess of 19,000 seats to them over the past 15 years under several contracts and our relationship remains strong to this day.

 

What has been your most unique or unusual airport seating contract to date?

I cannot go into this at the moment, but we are working on several new projects that when they come to fruition will break the mould. Within our company we have a specialist division called MtM (Made to Measure), which is allowing our customers to create their vision of the future gate and lounge areas without the limitations or constraints of existing designs. They are looking to provide the passenger experience of the future and Zoeftig is well placed to help them to achieve these ambitions.

 


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Lynn Gordon, vice president of business development, Arconas

Why should airports care about seating?

Comfortable, well-designed seating with innovative features, such as power for recharging and tablet arms, have a direct impact on the ambience and experience of an airport, an important driver of
customer satisfaction. Now, more than ever, airports are not just places to catch a flight, but rather destinations in and of themselves that compete with other airports and attractions. Making an airport more competitive is good business and being customer-centric is a way to do so. The strategic placement and choice of seating can also increase concessions and retail revenue. It also matters that it is clean and well-maintained. Just like having clean restrooms, passengers notice quickly if the seating is not up to snuff.

 

What are the trends driving the latest developments in airport seating?

A major trend of course is at-seat power and the integration of the latest technologies such as wireless and USB-Type C charging. The demand for power is huge and has become as expected as free Wi-Fi. The newest trend is wireless charging options built into tables, tablet arms, and surfaces of airport furniture now that most new phones have the technology built in. Rather than rows upon rows of uniform tandem seating, there is a shift to a hybrid mix that includes lounge and lifestyle seating where passengers can spread out and have a degree of privacy in a very public space. Facility operators are increasingly using this as a means of catering to an increasingly diverse passenger mix. Accessories such as acoustic panels, drink holders, tablet arms, and footrests are also in demand. There is also greater experimentation with colour, textures, and environmentally friendly materials such as wood and CFC-free, low-VOC components.

 

Who is your oldest airport client?

That’s going back over 20 years, but I would say our original three were JFK (Terminal One) in New York, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) with our original Landings tandem seating and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) as our first Flyaway seating client. We’ve come a long way since then with some 400 airport client installations, but we are proud to say we are still working with these airports today.

 

Are your seat designs evolving to better equip airports to cope with changing passenger dynamics?

Always! In fact, Arconas never stops innovating just like our airport customers. We were the first company to offer modular at-seat charging and the first to roll-out tablet arms instead of armrests on tandem seating. Our ‘Place’ seating features wider 3” (7.5cm) gaps between seats using tablet arms to create more personal space. More personal space equates to happier passengers and dramatically higher seat utilisation rates.

Universal design and accessibility are extremely important to Arconas which is why we work closely with such great organisations as Open Doors in Chicago. Features such as PRM seating with a raised seat position makes it easier for people with reduced mobility to get in and out of seats. Our seating lines can also be made with an arm removed on the end for lateral transfers from a wheelchair, as well as embroidered with customisable accessibility symbols. We also offer wheelchair accessible row end-mount power as well as wheelchair height charging counters.

 

What has been your most unique or unusual airport seating contract to date?

I would have to say both Boston Logan and Los Angeles International have been very innovative in their forward-thinking use of diverse seating styles and finishes and their commitment to providing power recharging for all their passengers. We also recently outfitted a beautiful quiet reading area with gorgeous, colourful wooden slat seating and trees from our partner Green Furniture Concept at Guadalajara Airport in Mexico, and a ‘hugging zone’ at a small airport in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

 


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Ingmar Krupp, head of transport division at Kusch+Co

Why should airports care about seating?

As with all other buildings, the character of a room is defined decisively by the interior arrangement. The design and aesthetics of the furniture, the colour concept, the layout planning and the comfort thus determine whether the passenger feels comfortable. And what could be more important than the feel-good factor?

 

What are the trends driving the latest developments in airport seating?

The demands placed on a modern waiting room have changed dramatically in recent years. In general, people have become more courageous when it comes to colour concepts. In addition to excellent functionality and freedom from maintenance, passengers now want almost homely levels of comfort that makes them forget the stresses and strains of a journey.

This has an impact on the variety of furniture used. Homely armchairs and seating landscapes are used just as much now as row seating for effective use of the room. Charging options for mobile devices are a must, sofa-like upholstered furniture is the choice.

 

Can seating make airports money?

In many cases, yes! By means of intelligently worked out positioning plans for seating it is possible to influence the flow of passengers and this can have a positive impact on purchasing behaviours. Our own CAD planning team has many years of experience in this field and supports our customers significantly.

 

Are your seat designs evolving to better equip airports to cope with changing passenger dynamics?

When designing and developing new furniture, we draw on our wealth of experience in the field of ergonomics. In this way, we take into account the special requirements of different passenger groups and offer flexible solutions so that the traveller feels comfortable and in good hands.

 

Who is your newest airport client?

Beijing Daxing International Airport. The new airport is currently being built in the Chinese capital and is set to open later this year. It will eventually become one of the largest airports in the world. The architectural highlight, created by star architect, Zaha Hadid, will be complemented by our innovative 8000 Studio F.A. Porsche range of seats. In co-operation with Kusch+Co, a world-class airport is currently being built here.

What has been your most unique or unusual airport seating contract to date?

It may sound like a cliché, but even after all these years in the airport sector, every new project is still interesting and unique for us. Since we tailor our furnishing solutions to each customer, we can look back on countless exciting project solutions. For example, I like to remember the Wroclaw Airport project. The planners’ task was to integrate the ventilation ducts of the heating and ventilation system attractively and unobtrusively into the furniture. The flight information displays and additional electrical sockets for mobile devices were also to be integrated into the furniture. We implemented all this on time and to the complete satisfaction of the customer. A typical Kusch project.

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