Vantage Airport Group sees innovation as a process and a key part of all operations, especially in the commercial domain. As an investor, developer and manager of airports around the world, Vantage has a comprehensive understanding of the end-to-end passenger journey.
He continued to reinvent travel amid the new realities of COVID-19. “Whether we like it or not, times of crisis create the best opportunities and for Vantage’s commercial program, we’ve had the opportunity to show strength in innovation,” said Sammy Patel, vice president of commercial, Vantage Airport Group and CEO of Midway. Partnership. “It’s important to involve all stakeholders in the travel journey, from check-in and security to dining and retail offerings. As part of our dealership program priorities for experience customer, we are constantly looking for ways to de-stress our customers.”
When the pandemic hit, Vantage immediately accelerated and expanded its contactless options, including self-service kiosks combined with mobile ordering, pickup and delivery. “A lot more information has become available to our passengers on their mobile devices, allowing them to be in control of their journey,” says Patel. “We quickly developed partnerships to develop a smooth passenger journey, drive sales and increase spend in commercial offerings.”
At Larnaka International Airport, for example, Vantage has extended its ‘Shop & Collect’ and ‘Home Delivery’ initiative. Items can be picked up before the flight or delivered to the traveller’s home on their return. The Vantage team has worked hand in hand with retail partner Cyprus Duty Free to expand the range of products available. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Midway Partnership opened one of the first airport stores to feature Amazon Just Walk Out technology.
“We all know, more than ever, that consumer behaviors and trends are changing, and the dealership program must adapt to stay relevant,” says Patel. “We had this in mind when we scheduled the concession offerings at LaGuardia Terminal B, and we plan to consider future changes to remain relevant to the customer. We have created enough space and areas to continue to keep the program new, fresh, and surprising for the high percentage of frequent travelers across LaGuardia of New York. We don’t want the concession program to become obsolete, and the partnership we have with our F&B partners and retailers has really helped to bring this to life.
LaGuardia Terminal B: “a truly innovative approach to shopping experience”
At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Vantage worked with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to lead the $5.1 billion redevelopment of Terminal B. It’s the largest infrastructure project of transportation in United States history.
“Early in the process, our team evaluated every aspect of the project, developing a bold alternative concept and taking a truly innovative approach to all facets, from design and construction to commercial experience,” comments Patel.
The new terminal is architecturally remarkable and now offers a completely redesigned passenger experience. To reinvent the shopping experience at Terminal B, Vantage doubled the space to 103,000 square feet. He studied analytics to understand the types of travelers using the terminal and their preferred choices, to build “a world-class concessions program.”
LaGuardia’s commercial offerings are centered around redefining what it’s like to travel through a North American airport. Patel explains that this project has given Vantage the opportunity to truly embed the sense of place, while focusing on how passengers feel and move through the terminal. “Ultimately, using our strength and our partnerships, we created an exceptional program and achieved what we said we would do from day one to create an airport that Americans and New Yorkers could be proud of. “
The expansive airside shopping precinct on Level 4 of Terminal B’s Arrivals and Departures Hall offers a New York-centric shopping experience with an intuitive design. “Inspired by some of the best retail concepts in the world, including New York, the stores-within-a-store concept also allows for product rotation to maximize sales, while ensuring easy access through the retail space. “, says Patel. .
Vantage has worked with business partners such as Marshall Retail Group/WHSmith, Hudson/Dufry, SSP America and HMSHost to completely transform the customer experience. A strong focus was placed on New York-inspired brands, with a balanced portfolio of internationally recognized brands. Iconic New York favorites include Shake Shack, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters and the FAO Schwarz toy store.
“The program is quite eclectic with a significant footprint,” says Patel. “The methodologies remain the same: understanding the passengers who will use the airport to and from New York and what they want to see, smell and taste to drive the dynamic components of food and shopping in our program. Part of our planning is to celebrate the vibrancy of NY, local, national and global brands, concepts and products. It was important for us to represent and reflect the local, as well as promote global representation for domestic and international passengers.
In March, the Port Authority announced the highest customer service ratings yet at its airports, including the new LaGuardia Terminal B. Indeed, Patel reports that initial sales volumes and engagement in trade areas exceeded expectations.
Contactless ordering and delivery, digital wayfinding and concierges
As customer tastes evolve, dealership options and experiences must also continually evolve. New technologies are improving the way passengers can interact with the commercial offer, and it is essential to stay at the forefront of technological innovation.
“In our experience, passengers increasingly want to use their own technology at airports,” says Patel. “Our job is to make the airport travel experience seamless when customers access our retail and dining offerings. At Vantage, we have a number of technology initiatives that we have implemented to LaGuardia with our dealer partners. We are taking a unique approach in our partnerships with a more human, customer-focused approach.”
A key part of LaGuardia’s business strategy is the use of a virtual queuing platform and the ability to pre-order and pre-book. Vantage is currently investigating pre-booking for TSA slots and additional business opportunities for revenue streams. “The more efficiently we can get passengers through check-in and security, the better, as it increases their dwell time in commercial areas. Innovative flight information display systems communicate to passengers how long they have to get to their gate, increasing waiting times in shopping areas.
The customer experience at LaGuardia Terminal B has been further enhanced with passenger-friendly technologies, including contactless ordering and door-to-door delivery from personal mobile devices, digital wayfinding, and concierges equipped with tablets to help passengers in real time find the options closest to their door for dining and shopping.
Midway’s Hudson Nonstop Store with Amazon Just Walk Out Technology Works ‘Beyond Expectations’
The Hudson Nonstop store, featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, is an example of the same innovation taking place at Chicago Midway International Airport.
“It performed beyond our expectations and Hudson was very collaborative,” says Patel. “The Hudson Nonstop is located in one of the busiest areas of the airport and offers passengers a more convenient and contactless shopping experience thanks to technology. While this is new to some customers, many travelers are already familiar with the technology and are excited to have it available to them during their travels. »
Midway Partnership, a joint venture between Vantage Airport Group, SSP America and Hudson Group, is halfway through the airport’s $75 million restaurant and retail transformation. “Our operators are really receptive to researching new technologies to support operations, including self-ordering kiosks to speed up transactions at peak times, revamp the way information is presented, and keep our concepts relevant and fresh. “, explains Patel. “We completed the first phase of the central market at the onset of COVID and we look forward to continuing this work, including a full-access airport lounge, a new food hall and a revamped retail concept, in taking into account the ever-changing retail landscape. »
FTE World Airport Retailing Summit: “driving industry growth, change and revenue”
Patel is also a member of the advisory board for FTE’s World Airport Retailing Summit. “I was thrilled to work with the FTE team and the advisory board, and to be part of the planning for this progressive conference and expo covering such an in-depth and informative range of topics from incredible leaders around the world,” adds -he. “There are so many innovative and new ways of doing business that will be shared at this summit, and by providing shared learnings, we can all ultimately grow our business practices, drive industry growth and change, and, hopefully revenue.”