Aviation Business News

Aircraft Cabin Management June/July 2024

Recently, I was sent a press release with the slightly pompous headline: ‘Enhanced Experiences May Be the Solution to the Declining Popularity of Duty Free’. The gist of the story is that airports need to remodel themselves for a new generation of passengers for whom the idea of picking up 1,000 Marlboros or a case of strong liquor for friends and colleagues seems unethical and unattractive.

The solution to convincing holidaymakers to part with their cash before their vacation has even got underway is to provide millennials with something referred to as a ‘VIP Retail Experience’ in the terminal which results in ‘Instagram-able moments’, and this is something that they apparently desire.

Respectfully, I disagree. As a grumpy old 40-something I might be a little out of touch with what younger travellers want, but I don’t think I’m that far off. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but recently I was stuck at Heathrow Terminal 2 for an entire day and I can confidently tell you that there is not a single thing in there that I found even slightly desirous. Sure, there was an outlet for Burberry, one for Gucci and a Harrods concession that sold nothing but watches, but all I wanted was a place to sit, charge my devices and do some work – a privilege I’d gladly pay for.

I couldn’t go to the airline lounge as, although I had a membership card, the room was permanently full and had an arcane queuing system designed to keep people out. In any case, they only let you stay for a maximum of two hours and I know from experience the lounge is a windowless, joyless box in that terminal.

Instead, I sat on the public seats in the main area, where I discovered that not a single plug socket or USB outlet built into the seats worked. They had likely worn out years ago and simply been switched off.

So, I ended up spending about 10 hours leaning against a column and plugged into an outlet intended for a vacuum cleaner, while ruminating on how modern airports just can’t seem to get the basics of the passenger experience right. Hardly a good look, but perhaps I should have shared this reality on Instagram.

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