BWI Chief Shares the Future in Concessions

Sept. 27, 2016

Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is in the process of upgrading its concessions and amenities as part of a plan to offer a better passenger experience.

In an exclusive interview with Airport Business, Maryland Aviation Authority (MAA) Executive Director and CEO Ricky Smith gave a sneak peek of what travelers can expect in the next few years. MAA oversees Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

BWI partners with Airmall to handle its food and retail program, said Smith. “Airmall does not own or operate any of the stores. They simply negotiate on our behalf. They go out and find, then negotiate with food and retail concepts to have a presence here in the airport,” he said. “Under this model, it has the effect of improving the customer service each of these operators offer because they are all competing to convince the customer, to come to their concept. And that competition drives quality, which drives sales.”

Under the old model, revenue per enplanement for the retail program was about $5 per passenger, said Smith. “That is now approaching $20 per passenger, because when people appreciate the service, they spend more.”

The airport will introduce a new revenue control system for its parking, said Smith. “It will allow us to provide services including space reservations and valet parking,” he said.

The Wi-Fi at the airport leaves a lot to be desired, said Smith. “One, customers have to pay for Wi-Fi, which isn’t an amenity they should have to pay for. And two, it’s not as robust and reliable as a service that a world-class airport should be offering,” he said. “So we’re going to transform to a free and much more robust and reliable WI-Fi service. We’re already looking at our options, and we are expecting to do something sometime next year.”

Concessions will be added in the new Concourse D/E connector that will open in November, said Smith. They include Chick-fil-A; R&R Rawbar, a sit-down seafood restaurant; Starbucks; Duty Free America; Roam Fitness, a gym; Flyby Sports, sports apparel; Pen & Prose; NYS Collection (sunglasses); and Hudson News.

Looking ahead, the airport plans on building a hotel between Concourses C and D, said Smith. “Orlando Airport’s hotel is a model of what we want to do. The project, part of the the new C/D connector, is on the drawing board, but we expect to launch that sometime late next year or early 2018.”