Up, up and away again in 2024

The following two tabs change content below.
Farewell London. Next stop Dubai. All aboard the big steel bird, aka as the Airbus A380-800
My first inflight Interim Bureau of the year is up and running

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.

“Hello Martin.”

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.

Here to help: Ben Crowley out on the shop floor monitoring a busy morning’s trading
Eat in. Take away. Take on board: Pret A Manger has it all covered

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.

The Terminal 3 seating area is packed but so are the shops and F&B outlets

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. ✈

Me and my old friend Mr Bones sure get around: Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones; Now shake dem skeleton bones…
I remember when YO! Sushi first arrived on the airport scene and it was a sensation. It’s a tried and tested formula these days but an impressive recent makeover of the conveyor belt sushi restaurant is obviously working judging by the number of diners enjoying a mid-morning meal.

Pretty in pink: EL&N London is dubbed the ‘Most Instagrammable café in the world’ and I can testify to the quality of the offer and the service too having popped in for a pre-flight bite and hot drink
Pâtisserie E. Ladurée, commonly known as Ladurée, is a great addition to the Heathrow line-up. Note the adjacency with high-end brands Moncler and Tiffany on one side and EL&N London on the other in this vibrantly alluring commercial avenue. Food as the new airport luxury. Ladurée enjoys world renown for its fabulous double-shell macarons, invented in 1930 by Parisian pastry chef Pierre Desfontaines. Some 15,000 of these delectable delights are sold every day. I reckon that number will soar thanks to the Heathrow opening.
Another tried and tested Heathrow F&B proposition, Caviar House & Prunier continues to offer a splendid post-security, pre-flight serenity. Matched by its fine offering.

It’s hard to believe Caffè Nero is just 27 years old. Founded in 1997 by Gerry Ford, whose vision was to create traditional Italian cafés across Europe offering high-quality coffee and serving as neighbourhood meeting spots. Caffè Nero certainly does exactly that at many airports around the globe but few I think match the Heathrow T3 edition.
Like Yo! Sushi, World of Whiskies generated great interest when it first opened in 1992. The subsequent enormous growth in single malt whiskies and therefore their much greater presence in mainstream duty free shops – has maybe robbed the concept of some of its allure and perhaps it is due a refresh? 
Big luxury names abound at T3 and they don’t come any bigger than a certain French powerhouse with arguably the world’s best-known acronym

I am old enough, fortunately or not, to recall when Harrods first opened at Heathrow in the 1990s. It was another sensation and moreover a critical statement that airports deserved their place at the top table of world retail. Again, see how the F&B and retail blend nicely.
Both in-store and outside it Gucci makes a strong statement at Heathrow
Heathrow T3 is one of Avolta-owned World Duty Free’s busiest and most profitable operations worldwide. Confectionery is split left (above) and right, partly by premium and mainstream lines, but despite the best efforts of Cadbury I’m not sure either wows the way a great chocolate and food store should.

A Korean passenger eyes the red-hot Sol de Janeiro brand, acquired in 2021 by L’Occitane Group
Chanel does… well, what Chanel always does. Stand out for its sheer elegance, visual impact and fine offer.
This Jo Malone festive season outpost was attracting plenty of attention during my visit
The Year of the Blue Dragon is almost upon us, and Johnnie Walker is seizing the moment with its suitably themed Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year of the Dragon limited-edition bottling.  The vivid design, created by acclaimed visual artist James Jean, features a dynamic interpretation of the noble Wood Dragon. The brand’s famed tagline is ‘Keep walking’ but thanks to the allure of the bottle and its packaging, bolstered by the striking digital media in the background, it’s a welcome case of ‘Keep stopping’ in terms of Heathrow passengers.