My first Blog of the year and my first airport and airline of the year. I suspect a lot of each will ensue in the remaining 360 days of 2024.
I’m onboard Emirates EK008 from Heathrow to Dubai, where I’ll stop overnight before heading home to Hong Kong in the morning.
The rapid-fire security process at Heathrow duped me into thinking the airport might be quiet post the festive season rush but Terminal 3 was buzzing airside.
One glance around the terminal tells you in a single panorama why so many brands (across multiple price points) retailers and food & beverage operators are drawn to the airport commercial world.
T3 pretty much offers something for everyone, perhaps the most impressive aspect of its extensive and eclectic commercial proposition. It’s a mixed bag, very good in parts but with some of the shopping elements that were once cutting edge now looking a little dated. Retail was ever thus. However, there’s also lots of newness as the photos below reveal.
Not just the photos. I got confirmation from someone who knows better than most.
I looked up, without my glasses not recognising the friendly face in front of me (a subconjunctival hemorrhage suffered a few days earlier probably ensured I wouldn’t have recognised him even with them on. Truly a case of catching a red-eye flight).
“Ben. Ben Crowley.”
And indeed, clad in a distinctive purple Heathrow fleece it was Heathrow Airport Head of Luxury, Fashion, Food & Beverage, Essentials & Technology Ben Crowley, who had spotted me snapping pics of the busy (and typically excellent) Pret A Manger food & beverage offer.
We chatted about how good it was to see Heathrow humming again. When I left England in July 2020 for Hong Kong, T3 was a dark, sad and largely empty place, (dis)courtesy of the pandemic. On my next trip a year later things weren’t much better. Today it’s very much business as usual, COVID consigned to history, a history we do not want to dwell on but equally should never forget.
Ben pointed out some of the many recent improvements and additions and mentioned some exciting things to come. Today he was doing what all good airport commercial managers do, spending time inside the terminal, watching, evaluating. What’s working. What’s not. He told me he spends a lot of time on the shop floor. No ivory tower mentality here and Heathrow is a better place for it. ✈