PHL displays innovative concessions
Airport becomes gateway to Philadelphia
By Jordanna Smida, Assistant Editor
Philadelphia — Among the many airports that stand out with recent additions and renovations in the retail and concession areas, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) that has been recognized among the most innovative to date. An ongoing trend in airport retailing and concessions is the notion that airports are THE gateway to the city. With this in mind, Philadelphia was the natural site for this year's Concession Analysis seminar, says Patricia Ryan, committee chair.
In looking back on the completion of the Terminal B and C concessions project at PHL, Jim Tyrell, manager of operations, states that timing is indeed everything.
Tyrell began his career with PHL in 1987. "The airport was the pits," he states. "Our main tool was duct tape."
In 1991, a facelift for the airport was approved, which included new walls, ceilings, and a few new concessions throughout the terminals. New phones were also added. "It was like putting perfume on a pig," Tyrell states.
Looking very institutionalized, the airport was approaching four million enplanements through its terminals A and B. In 1992 Edward Rendell, mayor of Philadelphia, wanted change. After a trip through Pittsburgh airport, the Mayor told PHL that he wanted Pittsburgh, Tyrell recalls.
At the time the airport was about to close negotiations with Aramark for another concessions agreement. However, with new intentions to replace its existing concessions, the airport terminated the agreement. Tyrell hired a consultant and traveled to Pittsburgh, returning with ideas to bring back to Philadelphia.
A combination of factors came into play. US Airways, hubbed at PHL, had a surge of growth. Another factor was baggage claim service, one of the airport's largest complaints. "Baggage took 45 minutes on a good day," Tyrell states. At the time PHL had two separate baggage areas and two separate ticketing facilities for US Airways. This prompted the beginning of the Terminal B and C project.
With 60 percent of the airport's traffic flowing through terminal B and C, PHL consolidated US Airways' baggage and ticketing systems, creating a new baggage area for the airline.
In addition to these changes, PHL tried to make the traffic flow through the terminals less congested as well as a pleasant experience for the passengers.
Though Alfred Testa, director of aviation for PHL, came on board after the program was instated, he's been very enthusiastic about it. "Our concessions program is a very good program and I take no credit for it... We've always thought of retailing in airports as food. Then Pittsburgh came along and showed us that merchandising can sell too, and I think there's more that can be done."
A Walk through the Marketplace
Throughout the Marketplace PHL has placed rocking chairs in various locations, and on certain days passengers can enjoy local live music. "We want to offer space with a sense of place," Tyrell states. The chairs are one of Testa's favorite additions. "This is a great opportunity to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere by adding a little bit of home to the airport," he says.
The Marketplace also offers a food court featuring local delis and restaurants, with seating overlooking the ticketing area. Above the seating area is the new US Airways VIP Club.
Other additions have been made throughout the airport as well. One of the latest additions is LapTop Lane, located between terminals A and B, allowing travelers access to all of their office communication needs including fax, e-mail, phone, and laptop connections. Staples Office Supply also recently opened its first on-airport location as well. According to Tyrell, the store has been a hit, especially for a business traveler's forgotten items.
Commenting on the uniqueness of PHL's concessions program, Testa says, "It reflects Philadelphia and is a little different than any other program in the country."
A seminar attendee sums it up, "You get a taste of Philly without having to leave the airport."