After going through security in the new Terminal B of LaGuardia Airport, the first thing you see is a huge fountain. Every 15 minutes, it puts on a show, where music, lights, and water rain down from the ceiling in a pattern illustrating the five boroughs. A group of travelers standing in front of him – and, of course, photographing him.
“Well, that’s what we aspire to. We want Instagram moments, we want people to really feel that the experience is a positive thing,” said Rick Cotton, CEO of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.
The fountain is said to cost a million dollars – a pretty penny that pays off. Last year, LaGuardia won the UNESCO award for best new airport in the world. This is LaGuardia we’re talking about: the airport that used to rank last in passenger satisfaction surveys. The airport that Joe Biden, when he was vice president, has controversially likened to a “third world country.”
Cotton said a big focus in the new LaGuardia is customer experience.
“You want people, first of all, to feel more relaxed, to enjoy themselves,” he said. “The more they do that, the more shopping they do. This is an added advantage from the business side of the station’s point of view.”
Airports were not traditionally inspired by spaces. You walk in, you wait in line, you get your expensive coffee and hopefully you get out on time. But a handful of major airports across the US have recently been undergoing renovations or are nearing completion — just in time for the summer travel season, which should be big this year, with more people vaccinated, more countries easing travel restrictions and plenty more. From pent-up demand.
Projects in Los Angeles, Seattle and Salt Lake City include features such as new runways and technology. But a major focus in recent years has been on new station designs.
“I think there’s more focus on design and more focus on making airports so that people, at best, or at worst, don’t mind spending time. And that’s really big money for these airports,” said David Slotnick of travel website The Points Guy.
A nice lounge may encourage passengers to arrive early or choose an airport for layover. At the very least, it can help calm anxious travelers. All of this encourages them to spend more money. According to Slotnick, about 40% of the airport’s revenue comes from passenger spending on things like food and shopping.
This makes remodeling airport terminals a no-brainer. But actually work on the details of it? “It’s complicated because there are a lot of stakeholders here,” Slotnick said.
Think of all the different entities that coexist at airports. It is owned by cities or states, but is sometimes regulated and subsidized by the federal government. There’s the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and then of course the airlines.
“There were times during the negotiations we were ready to pull out, because economically it didn’t make sense if we couldn’t find some solutions to some of the obstacles that were introduced,” said Ryan Marzolo of Delta Air Lines, who is overseeing construction of LaGuardia’s new Terminal C. , which will open in early June.
Delta covers the majority of Terminal C’s $4 billion cost. This means that it was Delta that led the project, not the port authority, which is unusual. Both sides of the equation still need each other. The Ports Authority admits that funding the project would have been difficult without Delta. And Delta needs LaGuardia to cement its presence in the country’s largest city; New York is one of the Delta’s main centers.
“At the end of the day, the aviation business is a competitive environment. And so we believe in our brand and this is not just about the aircraft and flight crew, but also in your experience on the ground,” said Marzullo.
But the airports with a market monopoly are investing in new spaces, too. Denver International Airport is the third busiest airport in the country by passenger numbers, with few other large airports in the area. They are already known for their design, with white rooftop tents that mimic the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Still, she gets a $1.5 billion turnaround.
Denver International Airport is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. And you know, we all kind of work in the Chamber of Commerce more casually, right? ‘ said Stuart Williams, senior vice president of airport expansion.
Because the impact of the airport extends beyond its walls.
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