The new, 225,000-square-foot space connected to the main processing area that passengers enter is elevated with 28-foot-high windows providing a look at the vistas outside. Embedded in this spacious hold room are 17 food, beverage and retail areas, so that when passengers are seated they are just “a foot or two away from concessions,” says Diaz. This allows passengers to grab a bite to eat or shop without fear of missing a flight.
Gebo says the airline responded to customer requests for high-quality dining and shopping experiences and selected concessions with that in mind. “We are pleased to introduce first-time airport concessions from well-known restaurants that offer variations on Texas flavors, along with established airport concession brands that are already popular with customers.”
Houston Chef Bryan Caswell’s 3rd Bar Oyster & Eating House and Chef Johnny Hernandez’ The Fruiteria lead the dining options, which are rounded out with Texas icon Whataburger, Bullrito’s fresh Tex-Mex, and Barcuterie’s cured meats and classic cheeses. Familiar favorites such as the Fresh Gourmet Marketplace and Starbucks also can be found. “We felt it was important to balance the local flavor and give people a little taste of Houston as they pass through the airport,” Gebo says.
Grab a Seat
Three seating arrangements were selected for the space: Traditional linear seating, where every other seat in the row has power; cluster seating, where three seats are arranged back to back with a small “end table” in between, and every seat has power; and a power bar arrangement. “Overall approximately 50 percent of the seats [in the new terminal] are powered,” says Martin Sharp, international manager, North and South America, Zoeftig, the firm that supplied the seating for this terminal. “The industry has caught on that power is desired and that it’s time to get away from rows and rows of linear seats. Humans don’t like sitting next to other humans they don’t know,” he explains. “People will naturally sit in every other seat; cluster seating increases the seating available because all of the seats are being used.”
Because customers said access to plugs and WiFi was important, WiFi access is free and available throughout the terminal and 50 percent of the seats offer plug-ins for wireless devices. These amenities also benefit the airport itself, says Diaz. Passengers must create an account with the airport when they sign into the system and provide basic information such as name, address and email. The airport plans to use that database to drive a frequent flyer program that offers discounts on parking, concessions and VIP lounges. The system will also gather information from customers on the good, the bad and the ugly of airport operations, which will allow the airport to fine-tune operations, promote positive experiences and mitigate negative ones.
United incorporated a new gate layout and boarding lane design in the terminal to improve boarding times and reduce crowding. The area incorporates a new pier construction which to envision, Stephanie Buchanan, vice president IAH Hub, United Airlines, says to hold up the palm of your hand and three fingers. The palm, she says, is the main concourse area where hold room seating and concessions are located, while each finger is a pier, and each pier has 10 gates. At the mouth of the pier is a boarding door and that’s where passengers pass though with their boarding pass. They then take an escalator down and follow signage to board their flight. “This is more like a central boarding area, almost like a train station,” she says. “There are boarding doors where customers go down to the three ‘fingers’ where the gates actually are.”
With this design, passengers spend more time in the pleasing hold room area and United is able to be more flexible with its aircraft gating and staffing.
Facelift seen as having 'ripple effect' on use
The $350 million terminal will finally give RDU the capacity it needs to handle future growth, airport officials say.
The international terminal, scheduled to open a week from today, speaks with a global voice and a welcoming Texas twang to put travelers at ease.