By Katherine Goudreau, Burns & McDonnell, and Rhett Workman, US Airways
The commercial airport was still a novelty in the 1940s. Washington National Airport leveraged the innovation of flight to draw consumers to an upscale restaurant where patrons could view aircraft taking off and landing. It wasn’t until later in the century, when commercial flights became more economically feasible for more passengers, that the airport concessions industry became a viable business. In fact, food and concessions have become an important part of the passenger experience in the past three decades.
Beginning in the 1980s, airport concession areas mimicked shopping mall food courts. Most commercial airports offered options for quick dining, sit-down meals, bookstores and souvenir shops. Because terminals were open to everyone, passengers, guests and community members alike had a range of options for spending time and money within the terminal.
After Sept. 11, 2001, the commercial airline industry changed dramatically. The impacts on the concessions world were equally significant. Security checkpoints now create a barrier among the traveling public, airport employees and the visiting public. Concessions are a key to traveler convenience as well as a revenue generator that keeps airport costs down for all users and offsets facility expenses. So how can the spaces before and after the security divide be maximized?
Burns & McDonnell’s long-standing partnership with US Airways has helped enhance the airport experience for the airline’s customers in a variety of ways. The team is currently working on a $117 million redesign and expansion of the US Airways’ 38-gate Express Terminal at Philadelphia International Airport. Once completed, the new Express Terminal will deliver passenger comfort and convenience at a whole new level, with a concession program that doubles current offerings.
Future airport concession areas must go beyond variety and convenience to passengers, bringing the concession experience closer to the passenger boarding area. US Airways is exploring options that bring food and beverage concessions into the boarding area with café, bar and lounge seating. Other enhancements could include taking food orders via portable tablet devices such as iPads. Travelers in the boarding area could have food delivered from anywhere within the terminal while they wait for their flight within the post-screening area.
In developing the latest concepts in airport concessions, Burns & McDonnell and US Airways are partnering with innovative companies like Marketplace Development and OTG. The key is to collaboratively create flexible concession environments that can adapt to future airline and airport business practices and passenger preferences. In the past 70 years, airport concessions have evolved from novelty to necessity. Burns & McDonnell will continue to team with airports, airlines and concessionaires to plan, design and maximize the concessions industry to the benefit of all airport users and the traveling public.