How to make airports cool -- and profitable
Air travelers walk in a terminal of the Ronald Reagan National Airport August 30, 2013 in Arlington, Va.
Bad weather leading up to today’s Thanksgiving holiday has been snarling travel at one of the busiest times of the year for the country’s airports, but many of them have come a long way toward making our time in the terminals a lot less stressful.
"There's more awareness of that passenger experience," says Julia Bradley Rayfield, a senior designer with Gresham Smith & partners whose specialty is airports and other "high-abuse" interiors. "There’s been a realization, I think, that there was revenue there if people spent a little more time in the airport and enjoyed themselves while they were there."
A report from the Global Gateway Alliance says 80 percent of the country’s major airports have spas and museums and about a third have nap rooms. More local restaurants are popping up in terminals to compliment other forms of local flavor, including live music at Nashville International or the putting green at the airport in Palm Beach.
One driving force is that federal funds for airport maintenance are strained, according to Chris Oswald with the Airports Council International.
"Airports themselves are finding themselves under a lot of pressure to find ways to diversify their revenue streams and make themselves as successful a business entity as they can," he explains.
Oswald's favorite new feature is usually free -- he says the airport observation deck is making a comeback.