Airports make moves to satisfy passengers

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WASHINGTON -- With travelers arriving at airports earlier and spending money while they wait, it's no wonder revenue-minded and customer-conscious airports are paying so much attention these days to their selection of shops, restaurants and bars.

Baltimore/Washington Airport just awarded a 10-year contract to BAA USA to develop a retail program when the airport opens its A/B terminal complex, scheduled for 2005.

And Southwest Florida Airport, which just posted the highest December passenger traffic in its 19-year history, signed contracts for the 28-gate terminal it plans to open next year.

BWI, which is undergoing a $1.8 billion expansion, hired BAA to manage 141,000 square feet of space, which includes 50,000 square feet in new space, for specialty retailers and food services. BAA projects its own spending on capital improvements and subtenant spending on building their stores will total $40 million to $45 million.

"Now, perhaps more than ever, airports are commanding a fresh approach for their retail concessions -- not only to meet the unique and ever-changing needs of air travelers but also to improve customer satisfaction, significantly grow revenues and contribute to the state's economy," said Mark Knight, BAA USA vice president and regional director.

Regional products and foods will be included in the offerings, Knight said.

BAA manages retail space in 19 airports. In the U.S., BAA may be best known for its Airmall at Pittsburgh Airport, although it also manages retail, food and beverage at Boston and all operations at Indianapolis. In the U.K., it created the retail program at parent company BAA's seven U.K. airports, including London's Heathrow.

The Maryland Aviation Administration said it chose BAA, in part, because it is known in the industry for bringing top-name retailers into airports -- many for the first time -- such as Gap, Clinique, Brookstone and Timberland.

The authority also liked the company's "street pricing" requirement, with a money-back guarantee to consumers that they will not be charged more for goods and services at airport shops than they would at the retailer's nonairport stores.

In Fort Myers, Fla., the Lee County Port Authority contracted with Host International and Paradies-Shell Factory II -- a joint venture between the Paradies Shops and a local firm -- to bring food, beverage and retail establishments for the new Southwest Florida Airport terminal. The Paradies Shops and Host International already provide the services in the existing terminal.

The Paradies Shops, which operates more than 325 shops in 60 North American airports, plans to operate 15 newsstands, gift shops and other retail outlets in about 13,000 square feet of space at Southwest Florida, including the PGA Tour Shop, Books and the Bean of Sanibel, Brighton Collectibles and the Shell Factory.

Host International, which operates in 70 airports, will use more than 18,000 square feet of space at Southwest Florida for 15 food and beverage locations, ranging from Starbucks and Burger King to Casa Bacardi and Beaches Cafe.

To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].

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