The airport at Darwin, capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, is the 10th busiest in Australia, served by a handful of domestic airlines and two international carriers, China’s Donghai Airlines and Singapore’s SilkAir. Among the world ‘s airports, it is very much small beer.
Yet, like airport mega hubs around the world — think Singapore Changi, SkyCity Hong Kong and Beijing Daxing — Darwin Airport believes it has a role to play as a ‘traveltainment’ destination for those who don’t necessarily want to board an aeroplane but want to be entertained, especially at a time when a global pandemic has crushed international air travel.
During the recent ‘dry’ season in northern Australia, Darwin Airport transformed its short-stay car park into a drive-in open-air cinema. And more recently, it has opened Australia’s largest trampoline playground, called Flip Out. Set in an indoor area at Darwin Airport Central, the facility is targeting fitness and agility classes and team-building.
Bringing the outside in
Gardens and greenery are becoming a feature of many airports. Dubai International has its Zen Garden, where misting machines create a steamy tropical retreat, and Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport is home to the Shiseido Forest Valley, an indoor landscape filled with 900 trees and 60,000 shrubs.
At Beijing Daxing, five traditional gardens have been added to the end of each departure corridor, each one inspired by Chinese history. They comprise the Silk Garden, Tea Garden, Porcelain Garden, Countryside Garden and Chinese Garden.
Even the control tower of the new Istanbul airport is in the shape of a tulip, Turkey’s national flower.
An enhanced digital journey, with QR-code food ordering, is set to streamline the airport experience. Photo Credit: Plaza Premium Group
The current preoccupation at airports is, rightly enough, concerned with passenger health with authorities introducing a range of end-to-end safety measures to counter the pandemic.
Examples include contactless food services where online orders from airport restaurants are delivered to passengers at the gate, and Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which allows travellers to enter Dallas Love Field Airport’s Hudson Nonstop retail store using their credit card, take the products they’re looking for, and then walk out of the store without having to queue up to pay.
AirAsia has also ramped up its e-commerce business through an online shop, which enables customers to purchase duty-free products and have them delivered to their doorstep within the next working day.
Amazon’s 'Just Walk Out' technology is being trialled at Dallas Love Field Airport’s Hudson Nonstop retail store, where customers can walk out without having to queue up to pay.
Soon, Kuala Lumpur International Airport will roll out the first phase of its Single Token Journey initiative which utilises facial recognition technology to provide passengers with one single-token biometric identification authentication that will take them through the entire airport journey without having to show their boarding passes, from check-in through to the boarding gates.
In Hong Kong, the Airport Authority is working closely with international bodies such as ICAO, IATA and other major hub airports to standardise health and safety protocols, and is also introducing facial recognition technology to streamline the departure process, making it a “touchless” experience.
Airport lounges are also upping their game. Plaza Premium Group, which operates hospitality services at 49 international airports, has reinforced its hygiene protocols and introduced digital initiatives covering a spectrum of contactless transactions — think QR-code food ordering, e-books and magazines, and vending machines for travel essentials.
More options for events
Looking beyond Covid, airports are planning to enhance the facilities on offer, not just for airline passengers but also for those who regard airports as safe havens for corporate events.
Global airport operator, Fraport, is currently seeking proposals to assess market interest in the construction of a sports/multi-functional hall on a vacant plot of land at Frankfurt Airport.
The goal is to create a venue suitable for hosting top-class domestic and international sports competitions, as well as concerts and cultural events.
11 Skies will be Hong Kong’s largest retail, dining and entertainment complex when it opens, in phases, from 2022 to 2025.
In Hong Kong, New World Development is the force behind 11 Skies, Hong Kong’s largest integrated complex for retail, dining and entertainment facilities. Scheduled to be completed in phases from 2022 to 2025, it will include 800 shops and more than 120 dining concepts, plus wealth management and wellness services.
Pivotal to the development will be Hong Kong’s biggest indoor entertainment centre, which will include Kidzania and SkyTrack, the world’s longest indoor and outdoor karting track weaving through the complex.
In phase two of the development, AsiaWorld-Expo will house the largest indoor performance venue in Hong Kong, accommodating 20,000 people.
Even before Covid, Singapore was a global leader in providing entertainment for passengers transiting via Changi Airport. Latest offerings to keep the airport humming while planes stay grounded include glamping for families at Jewel, the nature-themed entertainment and retail complex open to the public, and canopy park tours that involve walks about the trees.
And while those facilities are clearly aimed at a family market, Singapore is clinging onto hopes that it can resuscitate the corporate market with a pilot facility at Singapore Expo which will segregate business travellers into a dedicated travel lane from airport to the exhibition centre and back.
In between, corporate travellers have access to 670 short-stay guest rooms and about 170 meeting rooms designed to host small groups of between four to 22 people.
Room rates start from about S$390 (US$294) per night for an executive room and S$430 per night for a premier room. This includes the cost of Covid testing, three meals per day and airport transfers.
Source: Meetings and Conventions Asia