Cleaning up at Hong Kong International Airport

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Notice anything in particular about the shots below from Hong Kong International Airport’s T1 fast food court?

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I’ll give you a clue. Take a look at the empty tables. No, not because they are empty but because they are clean. And note how in every picture you can see staff members (wearing red uniforms) constantly keeping the place spotless. When you process as many people as Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) does, that matters.

Compare and contrast that with my experience at a leading European airport recently (pictured below), where five of the first seven tables I saw were overflowing with the culinary carnage of departed diners. Dirty, empty plates, half-finished meals, cups, tea ridden saucers, tea bags you name it. There were no other spare tables.

I watched what happened. Or didn’t. Five minutes. Ten minutes. No sign of a clear-up. I went downstairs for a breakfast instead in a delightful little independent café. I finished my scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and cappuccino, paid the bill and headed upstairs again to see if anything had changed. You guessed it. Tables still uncleared.

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Self-service: Two passengers resort to clearing their own table

Mess 3 Mess 4 Mess moreNow is that because the concessionaire is paying an unrealistic concession fee – and airports need to know that staffing and service is the first thing to be cut when a concessionaire is under pressure – or was it simply down to poor management? Or simply a bad day (we all have them). I didn’t know. What I did know was that I took my business elsewhere. As has been documented many times, the quality of food & beverage is absolutely critical to the airport’s reputation, not just the operator’s.

That simply doesn’t happen in Hong Kong because airport authority and concessionaire are on the same page when it comes to the basics. And with food service it doesn’t come any more basic, or critical, than food service.

Several times in recent months (and twice in recent weeks) I have dined at The Peak Lookout at HKIA, largely I must say because I adore the view down towards the bustling landside departures zone. There’s a mighty sense of drama at HKIA, underpinned of course by its dramatic architecture but also by the tangible feeling of this place being a “crossroads of humanity” as long-time Commercial Director Hans Bakker used to call it.

m - hkia no seafoodJPG m - HKIA peak signJPGHKIA The PeakJPGOn Friday I had the pleasure of taking breakfast there with Cissy Chan, Executive Director, Commercial and Alby Tsang, Assistant General Manager, Retail & Advertising. The breakfast was simple (scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, once more, with a pot of steaming hot green tea) and delightful. Occasionally the service can be a bit brisk here (and I’m not talking fast) but otherwise it’s a consistently good place to dine pre-flight or while waiting for someone to arrive.

As always there were plenty of other talking points during my recent visits. Here are some of them.

As a regular traveller I like not only what Hong Kong International Airport has to offer but the way it communicates that offer. This sign is particularly instructive; just look at the services it is promoting. Wheelchairs, children’s play area, internet (free WiFi of course), charging facilities, art and culture exhibitions (constantly superb), free delivery service from the airport stores, baggage packaging, nursing rooms, prayer rooms, printing and photocopying/scanning services, a relaxation corner with paid massage service. In short, an airport that treats its passengers as guests.
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(Above and below) Ok, queues are ugly but here they indicate popularity of the offer more than slowness of the service

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Talking of queues, look at this line of expectant travellers waiting patiently to get into the (paid) Plaza Premium Lounge. Founder and Owner Song Hoi-see has created an extraordinary business with this concept and, as the photo shows, its popularity shows no sign of waning.
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Is this an airport first? LensCrafters offers a prescription glasses service and does it brilliantly. How do I know? Because I had my eyes tested by Optometrist Jason Wong who expertly helped me choose the right lenses while Senior Eyewear Consultant Michael Leung guided me through the right selection of frames. All this in 15 to 20 minutes. A wonderful addition to HKIA’s retail and services portfolio.

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Every airport should have a Muji to Go…


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… and every airport should have a Moleskine. What superb use these two lifestyle brands make of limited space.

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Surely one of the most iconic images in the airport world. This is a replica of a Farman bi-plane, suspended from the ceiling in T1. The wood and fabric, French-made Farman was the first aircraft to fly in Hong Kong, where it was flown in Sha Tin on 18 March 1911 by pioneer Belgian aviator Charles Van den Born. Simply magnificent.

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Airports should play a leadership role in driving environmental awareness. Hong Kong International consistently does.
Airports should also foster a Sense of Place in their product offer, art installations and promotional campaigns. Again, Hong Kong International consistently does.

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And finally, airports should also seek to have some spectacular shopping stand-outs. And in its Chanel and Rolex duplex stores, Hong Kong International certainly achieves that.

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