Airports seem a logical location for Brand Spaces – large volumes of tired, stressed passengers confined in controlled area looking for something to do, presents easy revenue opportunities for airport operators.
Why is it then that brand space concepts haven’t had a bigger take up in airports around the world? Perhaps airports have been solely focused on building revenue by developing traditional expensive retail concessions and gouging passengers for parking, which accounts for 20 per cent of airport revenues in Australia, as opposed to three per cent elsewhere in world (see Figure 1). As airport experiences go, you would struggle to find one to write home about in Australia, Adelaide Airport aside, but I digress…
Contrary to popular belief passengers do tire of shopping, and the frequency at which we travel today, means we are always looking for something new to engage us within airport spaces.
This is where brand spaces have an advantage. What is a Brand Space? Rather than selling products, trendwatching.com suggests ‘brand spaces’ are about accommodating consumers. They are a free space that offers passengers surprise, discovery and empathy while they relax before their next flight.
Brand spaces are not a new idea. Indeed many Chinese domestic airports have incorporated them for some years now. Both China Mobile and China Unicom were some of the first companies in China to offer dedicated airport lounges for their VIP customers. This subsequently expanded into lounges for passengers holding certain premium credit cards. In Amsterdam, ABN AMRO operates a dedicated lounge for its banking clients.
Aéroports de Paris, the operator of Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports, is a leader in developing airport brand spaces and is currently partnering with the Swedish company IKEA through the installation of a 220sqm‘democratic lounge’ in CDG Terminal 3. IKEA is no stranger to brand spaces, having employed the concept in bus stops and metro stations around Paris.
IKEA empathises with passengers, recognising that “holiday departures are often a source of stress and nervousness”. Consisting of 9 rooms, the lounge is all about passengers having the unusual experience of being at home in the airport. IKEA states “waiting time is on average 1 hour and 43 minutes and IKEA wanted its expertise in interior design to serve the economy class. The brand has thus installed a qualitative, well designed and comfortable area made for resting and relaxing, showing its commitment of improving the everyday life for the many”.
Airports are increasingly on the look out for new ancillary revenue streams, while developing creative solutions to reduce passenger stress and fatigue associated with the travel experience. The success of IKEA’s funky airport lounge remains to be seen (though it’s pretty much a given), but perhaps airports should be putting more time and capital into experimenting with brand spaces as a solution to both these problems.