Learning lessons from Antipodean airports

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

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And so I say goodbye to my home country of New Zealand and begin the long journey back to London.

I’m travelling out of Auckland Airport via Sydney – another chance to view the outstanding new commercial offer in the International Terminal – and Bangkok (90 minutes in transit) before the final, long leg into London.

It’s been a tough but fulfilling 11-day trip beginning with a short visit to TFWA’s Gate One2One conference (pretty good overall) and Asia Pacific exhibition, followed by my reports on the new commercial and retail developments at Sydney Airport and Auckland Airport, respectively.

As always I’ve met some outstanding people along the way, notably the respective commercial teams from Sydney and Auckland and their various business partners.

More European retailers, in particular, need to get down to this part of the world (so do the organisers of some of the industry’s increasingly ludicrous ‘awards’, where Australasia never seems to get a look in). Those retailers would learn much about how to really do Arrivals shopping; how to offer destination merchandise with real quality and integrity; and how to balance the operational and commercial (though the Qantas check-in queue at Auckland today was appallingly slow).

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[Auckland Airport Arrivals stores]

If I was World Duty Free, for example, operating those token (duty paid) Arrivals shops at Heathrow, I would send someone down here to talk to Adrian Littlewood at Auckland Airport or Derek Larsen at Sydney Airport and find out how it’s really done.

And what about destination merchandise (below)? Both Auckland and Sydney Airports are packed with a range of alluring stores selling authentic art, crafts and gifts. We get ‘Glorious Britain’ with four key rings for £12. Sorry, it’s perfectly ok as a souvenirs outlet, but it’s not glorious at all – Britain has more to offer than that.

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Another thing that impresses me at Auckland Airport is the way they manage the flight information display screens. Take a look at the picture below. Note the time – 11.43.

Now note the boarding time for my flight (QF 114 to Sydney) – 11.35.

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Then look at the comment alongside – ‘Boarding in 5 minutes’. In other words I have not had to rush down to the gate in the (false) expectation that my flight will be boarding. The board (backed up by a public address announcement) tells me precisely when the flight has actually started building.

What’s the importance of that? Simple. In that extra time I had, I bought well over NZ$150 worth of destination merchandise and a quick bite to eat at Burger King. All that spend would have been lost if I had been called to gate earlier.

Look at the relaxed passengers in the excellent Blue Bar (below), with its fine views over the airport. Note the positioning of the giant flight information display screen. These passengers (sorry, customers) know precisely when their flight will board and are commensurately relaxed about it.

How much extra business does the Blue Bar do annually, I wonder, as the result of such great co-operation between Auckland Airport’s operations and commercial teams?

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  • Great collection of stories Martin,
    I know you have always knowm what the potential is in Southern Hemisphere airports; we just need more people to come down and visit us.