Such is the popularity of shopping and dining at airports that gateways such as London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol have been referred to as ‘shopping malls with runways” for over a quarter of a century.
Dubai International Airport has long been known for its duty free offerings and, in recent years, airports across the globe have become increasingly innovative in terms of their retail and F&B offerings in a bid to boost their passenger appeal and revenues.
One of these, Frankfurt, lays claim to operating the biggest shopping mall in Germany while Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (MSP) has a direct light rail link to the Mall of America, which continues to be a huge attraction for visitors.
MSP incidentally has its own highly successful concessions offering, which regularly wins ACI-NA’s award for the best concessions programme in North America and brings in revenues of around $175 million per annum.
In some cases airports have actually turned to shopping mall operators like Westfield to manage and operate their concessions programmes.
Indeed, Westfield has retail/F&B concessions at Boston Logan (Terminals A and C), Chicago O’Hare (Terminal 5), Los Angeles International Airport (Terminals 1,2,3,6 and Tom Bradley International Terminal), Miami, Orlando (Main terminal), New York JFK (Terminal 8) and Newark Liberty (Terminals A and B) airports in the US and is currently investing hundreds of millions of dollars on revamping its offerings at LAX.
At the last count all of this added up to more than 480 retailers encompassing 450,000 square feet of retail and F&B services that generates around $750 million in annual sales.
Meanwhile, Fraport-owned retail specialist AIRMALL operates the concessions offerings at four US airports – Baltimore/Washington, Boston Logan (Terminals B and E), Cleveland and Pittsburgh. It also signed a contract with JetBlue last summer to manage the concessions programme in Terminal 5 at New York’s JFK International Airport.
So what is the appeal of airports to Westfield and AIRMALL? “Westfield has been in the airport business for more than two decades, and it’s exciting to see the transformation that’s taking place,” says Dominic Lowe, executive vice president of Westfield Airports.
“According to recent data, US airports have over $100 billion in infrastructure needs over the next decade, so there’s an opportunity right now to completely transform the travel experience.
“We’re working with great partners across the country who share a vision to enhance the experience and provide a more holistic journey. A great experience means greater customer satisfaction, improved competition and higher revenue for our partners.”
While AIRMALL’s new president and CEO, Ben Zandi, says: “Airports have tremendous appeal to AIRMALL. It’s all we do!
“As a division of Fraport, one of the largest airport operators worldwide, we understand passenger and airline needs and are committed to continuously improving the customer experience at airports.
“Airports are the first and last vision of the region. We take great pride in delivering an authentic ‘sense of place’ through our innovative offerings that deliver on our promise to travellers and our airport partners.
“We are incredibly excited for the future of air travel and the innovations that are transforming the industry.”
For its part AIRMALL continues to add new concepts to its airport concessions programmes and recently appointed Zandi with the remit to grow the business and enhance the customer experience.
Zandi feels that he has been given a unique opportunity to help create better airports and better communities in terms of AIRMALL’s relationship with local business partners.
“I am passionately committed to positioning the Airmall brand for the 21st Century as best in class by creating breakthrough services, products and experiences to serve the shifting customer base. It’s an exciting time,” he enthuses.
Some of the new concepts and innovations introduced by AIRMALL across its airport portfolio in the last few months have included Steak ‘n Shake by Biglari, Popsations Gourmet Popcorn, a ROAM fitness gym and Be Relax Spa at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and the unveiling of a second Martini bar/restaurant at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Something a little different is its Random Acts of Kindness Week, the latest of which was held in February this year, where it encourages restaurant/shop staff to surprise customers with special treats and kindness tips to “bring a smile to their faces”.
How important is sense of place and the “wow” factor in terms of appealing to airports/passengers?
“The days of cookie-cutter airport design and cramped spaces are over,” says Westfield’s Lowe. “Every airport is its own adventure, and travellers want to see and explore something new every time they head to the airport.
“We strive to create distinct physical districts with commercial and experiential hubs that encourage exploration and connect travellers to the city. For example, we’re working with Los Angeles World Airports to bring LA into LAX.
“As a result, the new Terminal 6, which was unveiled in October, mirrors the journey along Sunset Boulevard. That sense of place helps connect travellers to Los Angeles and brings the airport to life.”
As we reported last year, Westfield is investing millions of dollars on upgrading its retail/F&B offering across Los Angeles International Airport, Terminal 6 being the latest passenger complex to open modernised and enhanced shopping and dining facilities.
More than 22,000 square feet has been transformed in Terminal 6, delivering what operator Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) believes is a unique traveller journey.
The redevelopment includes the new retail and dining collection and nearly 5,300 square feet of improvements to common areas, including the new terrazzo floor and ribbon ceiling, three sets of bathrooms, new electrical and IT infrastructure as well as tenant office spaces.
“We’re raising the bar for what’s possible at an airport,” enthuses Deborah Flint, LAWA’s chief executive officer.
“LAWA and Westfield are providing passengers with a special
experience that allows them to sample the best of LA, food and drink, unique shops and modern amenities. Now they can find all that and
more in Terminal 6.”
Talking about the importance of sense of place and the wow factor, AIRMALL’s Zandi says: “The resurgence of air travel over the last few years has seen a marked increase in passenger spending and demand.
“Passengers expect more from their airports, ranging from the latest technology and elevated dining options to a greater sense of place.
“AIRMALL strives to enhance the travel experience through our ‘best in class’ retail and dining options and ‘high touch’ services that add to the ‘wow’ factor for passengers.
“We will continue to advance breakthrough opportunities to meet the demands of travellers in the 21st century.”
What’s next for Westfield in terms of developing its existing airport concessions or expanding its US portfolio?
“We are always looking for long-term partners who share our vision to transform the travel experience,” admits Lowe.
“The retail and dining programme has a role in that transformation just as design, customer service, technology and so many other parts of the overall experience do.
“Together with our partners, we can help create the best experience and raise customer satisfaction with a holistic approach that addresses every part of the journey.”