As flights are becoming more affordable, more people are travelling. Airports used to be just a transit point and the idea of being stuck for hours while waiting for your flight can be depressing. My first experience of an airport being more than just an airport was at the Dubai International Airport (DXB) during a 4 hour transit about six or seven years ago. As we stepped off the plane and into the main area, we were in awe. The airport was designed to look inviting with palm trees, dune patterned carpets and oh my the shops were bustling even after midnight!
Sales people were entertaining those who passed by their shops with flying or walking toys and there was just so much energy that the hours flew by so quickly.
Malaysia’s KLIA2 is also now made to feel like a shopping mall rather than an airport. Good for those who want to burn time, bad for those who are in a hurry to get to the terminal and struggle to find their way up the many floors of shops and restaurants. KLIA feels more like an airport which offers a Jungle Boardwalk.
KLIA Express Rail Link (ERL) and KL Hop-On Hop Off also offers those with at least eight hours of waiting time at KLIA or KLIA2 two hour tours which ply two routes- the Garden Route and the City Route. The Discover Kuala Lumpur package includes a KLIA Express Return Ticket and a round trip on the KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus. Passengers are allowed to get off and on the bus at any dedicated stop they choose withing 24 hours of their voucher redemption.
Singapore’s Changi Airport has made headlines lately with its Canopy Park and Canopy Bridge. Canopy Bridge with its glass bottom at the centre portion and fog emitted at both ends, lets you experience what it feels like to walk among the clouds. Canopy Park offers mazes to bouncing nets and lets you stroll along creative garden trails, glide down giant slides or hide in bowls of gentle mist.
Not only are these popular among international tourists the locals are also flocking in droves to experience these attractions.
Private companies are also using airports as event venues. Last month, Louis Vuitton staged their Resort 2020 fashion show in New York’s JFK airport. The catwalk was in the previously abandoned Trans World Airlines terminal which has now been transformed into part of the new luxury hotel complex for TWA Hotel. Tapping into an appropriately air travel aesthetic, the collection was a celebration of New York City featuring the city’s skyline and the Chrysler building across pieces. Focusing on the location and its history, a star-studded audience witnessed the rebirth of JFK as a destination for luxury travel once again.
At the Saanen airport in Gstaad Switzerland, an exhibition by German artist Andreas Gursky, the Tarmak 22 gallery creates a space for visitors and locals of the luxury ski resort town to view contemporary art shows and other cultural conferences and performances. The gallery is a permanent addition to the airport. Open to the public rather than just travellers, they are “aiming to get people to just stop by,” according to Tatiana de Pahlen, who cofounded Tarmak 22 with Antonia Crespi.
By elevating airports into cultural spaces where both travellers and the public can go to be inspired, people will begin to look forward to the journey and treat it as a destination itself.
Need to elevate your airport? Check out how Best Events can design Experiences for you.