A new vibrancy at Vienna Airport

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It serves a city that is one of the richest in Europe, and one of the fastest growing for luxury brands downtown; it boasts a catchment area that spans several countries, and has a highly impressive network of flights serving emerging eastern European states.

Despite these advantages, it’s fair to say that Vienna Airport has not punched at its weight as a regional hub, or captured the imagination of its passengers for the quality its consumer and commercial offer. Until now, perhaps.

As I discovered on a visit to Vienna this week, the airport is working hard to upgrade passenger perceptions of the experience. That process began with the long-awaited and much delayed opening of the Skylink (now somewhat clunkily named Check-In 3, though T3 is also used) extension last year. That extension now houses two fine Heinemann Duty Free stores with superb local flavour and design (the non-Schengen store is pictured above), plus some strong and varied F&B offers, also offering a taste of this great city.

But that was just the beginning. By the end of 2013, Vienna Airport will have opened more than 30 additional shops and restaurants across its estate, some in T3 (including Longchamp, Michael Kors and Versace soon to open) but most in T2, which is undergoing a major transformation.

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Local hero: jewellery brand Frey Wille

There, recent additions in the Schengen area include Desigual, Aeronautica Militare, Porsche Design and Flavours of Austria, one of the best destination stores you’ll see anywhere. In the Non-Schengen zone, new stores from Versace and Zilli aim to tempt the high-spending Russian, Asian and Middle Eastern passengers who too often bypass the central stores after immigration in T2.

Next to open (T2 Schengen) will be a vast Christ unit, marking the well-known jewellery retailer’s Austrian debut, and the Gebr Heinemann store will be reconfigured by Q2 next year to tie in with one of the airport’s biggest moves yet: moving to a centralised security in T2. That will have the effect of drawing all passengers into the central zone, exposing them to the new brands noted above and to Heinemann Duty Free’s expanded space, which will double to around 1,250sq m.

The rest of this zone will be redesigned too, with ‘local heroes’ Frey Wille, Swarovski and Wolford moving adjacent to one another to create an upscale Austrian branded area, while Airest (a major player in F&B and speciality here) will open a 300sq m multi-brand fashion unit.

There’s plenty more short-term development planned (you’ll read about it in our Cannes Print Edition), but long-term, there’s an even bigger goal in sight. Currently, Vienna Airport houses a series of distinct, fragmented buildings that do not link to one another, forcing duplication of the offer across the real estate.

If the airport management has its way, a major project (subject to board approval) will take place over the next five to seven years to create an airport under one roof, with a major commercial zone at its heart.

That’s the long-term vision. For now, Vienna Airport is on a path to grow its international network (in stiff competition with Munich and Zürich in particular), to create a new image for retail and F&B, and in doing so, importantly to rebuild respect among its local passenger base. The journey will be a long one still, but the first steps have been taken.

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