Getting back to speed with a new baby in the house isn’t easy, so I’m posting one more guest post today to help me catch up. (Besides, I need time to read through all the American Airlines changes as well as the FAA reauthorization bill for posts next week.) This one is from a familiar face . . .
My frenemie Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder begged me (ok, he just asked) to write a guest post for his tiny, insignificant blog. Normally, I would have just ignored Brett’s email (which I do 98.7% of the time). But he and his lovely wife delivered my baby avgeek niece or nephew, so I relented.
I had one of the best jobs in the world – airports and security editor for Aviation Week magazine. That, along with being a judge the past four years for Airports Council International-North America’s annual concessions contest and my extensive world travels going back to when I was 5, has given me a fine appreciation of what I like to see in airports when it comes to concessions.
I’m old enough to remember the days when airport concessions consisted of “Newstand,” “Restaurant,” “Snack Bar” and “Gifts.” but oh, how times have changed!! This change has come for two reasons.
One, as airlines have merged and cut routes and frequencies, they are paying airports less in landing fees and rent. Two, because of post-9/11 security changes, travelers are spending more time in airports, and they’re demanding more sophisticated food/beverage and retail options. So below are my five picks for airports doing great things with their concessions programs.
- Portland International Airport – This is a rare airport, in that they don’t contract with a big concession operator like HMS Host or Delaware North to handle their concessions. They use their own in-house team to come up with what I think is a near-perfect mix of local/regional and national brands. On the food side, they including the Laurelwood Brewing Co., Pizza Schmizza, Starbucks, and Panda Express. On the concessions side, there’s the iconic Powell’s Books, Columbia Sportswear, and The Oregonian news stand.
- San Francisco International Airport – I’ve had the chance to see my original hometown airport evolve over the years, and I love the changes. Among its treasures, this airport has a full-service medical clinic and a world-class art museum. As I write this, I haven’t been to the new Terminal 2, so nothing in there is in this post. But great food options abound: Andale Mexican Restaurant, Boudin’s Bakery and Café, Tomokazu and Peet’s Coffee. Retail options are U Threads (sells clothing and items from Bay Area universities), Aviator Books, Coach, and Ghiradelli.
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – This has always been one of my favorite airports because of features like free Wi-Fi, two pet parks, and one of the first cell phone lots in the country. Terminal 4 (home to Southwest Airlines and US Airways) has some great food choices: Blue Burrito Grille (restaurant and carry-out), Paradise Bakery and Café, Einstein Bagels and Quiznos. On the retail side, check out A to Z Kids, In Celebration of Golf, and See’s Candies.
- Chicago Midway Airport – I have actually scheduled some of my Southwest Airlines trips to go through Midway because I love the shopping options there. The main concessions area has an actual sense of place. Food choices include Harry Caray’s, Nuts on Clark (I’d kill for this popcorn), Ben & Jerry’s, and McDonalds. Available retail choices are House of Blues, Discover Chicago, and Kids Works.
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – I did an insider’s tour of this facility a few years ago and had a grand time. This is a very passenger-focused airport, with concessions including free Samsung lounges (with seats, outlets and Wi-Fi) and the giant Shop 24 vending machine that sells everything from diapers to Caesar salads. I’m also a big fan of the La Bodega Winery, Cereality Breakfast Bar, Dunkin Donuts, and Au Bon Pain. Retail options include my beloved Bijoux Terner (everything is $10!), Natalie’s Candy Jar, Official Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop, and Bose.