In writing about New York’s $13 billion plan to renovate New York JFK airport I pointed out that the redesign wasn’t about serving the passenger, it’s about serving investors.
Things like first-class shopping, dining, and business amenities aren’t actually about the passenger experience.
Instead we’re going to get lots of high end retail because passengers are the product not the customers. In order to fund projects what airport authorities are doing is getting the private sector to front much of the bill, and in exchange those investors get the future revenue stream. Public-private partnerships aren’t free.
Airports aren’t being designed with passengers as the focus, they’re being designed with selling to passengers as the focus.
Wendover Productions does a nice job explaining how airports make money. They highlight the revenue generated off of retail sales, parking, and from lounges — and the strategies airports like London Heathrow use to encourage greater shopping. Did you ever wonder why some European airports don’t tell passengers what gate they’ll be departing from until close to departure? That keeps everyone in the central shopping areas.
Dallas Fort-Worth airport spent a million dollars to remove moving walkways from the D terminal. That’s so passengers wouldn’t find it as quick and convenient to get to their gates, and might shop along the way instead.
Airports want to encourage shopping and restaurant sales, and especially high-end sales — they’re usually taking revenue off the top. That’s why it’s worth a million dollars to take away the option of moving walkways from passengers.
United pushed to remove walkways from the C concourse at Chicago O’Hare. They want passengers shopping not traveling effortlessly to their gates. Moving walkways stay underground at O’Hare, where there’s no retail.