By Jonathan Coen
VENTURES AFRICA – The act of travelling goes beyond moving from Point A to B. The purpose behind a trip itself informs every aspect needed to make decisions. This can be seen in the case of the average business traveller for whom efficiency is key. Time spent on a trip is result-driven; quick check-in, security screenings, and the avoidance of queues as much as possible. Typically, for business travel, the only down time the individual gets is at the airport; waiting to board or connect flights.
Insignificant as it may seem, the travel experience is greatly tied to this wait time. It takes a discerning traveller to maximize the opportunities that come with it.
Airports around the world have continued to improve their physical structures and retail services to make waiting time more convenient for travellers.
Following extensive passenger research and investigation into industry developments –London’s Heathrow airport that welcomes more than 70 million passengers every year from more than 180 destinations – is fast embracing three key trends in travel which seek to improve air travel for even the most discerning traveller:
While Heathrow has been internationally acclaimed for its range of fashion and luxury boutiques for some years, the expectations of customers are constantly evolving. The airport is now being challenged to match the expectations set by even the most sophisticated of London boutiques. On the back of research revealing that more than 75 percent of passengers from Heathrow travelling alone and 26 percent of customers saying they didn’t feel they could make a fashion choice without asking others for a second opinion, the airport turned its focus towards providing customers with a new level of personalised luxury. A complimentary stylist is now available to every passenger departing from Heathrow in order to assist with navigating the 400 plus fashion brands across the airport.
Whether it’s an extraordinary dress for an evening event, a new season update or even advice on the latest beauty trends, customers can now expect a Personal Stylist to be available from the first to last flight of the day. These professionals will mimic the kind of service customers can expect from brands such as Selfridges or Harrods.
In 2008, Heathrow challenged the traditional expectations of airport dining by opening the first restaurant created by a Michelin-starred chef in an airport. Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food made it possible for passengers to enjoy a dining experience they would normally have to book months in advance. The opening of the new Terminal 2 in 2014 continued this spirit of innovation with the opening a restaurant by Michelin-starred Heston Blumenthal called The Perfectionists’ Café . Today, Heathrow is the only airport in the world with two restaurants designed by Michelin-starred chefs.
Inspired by Heston’s years of research and development work, the menu at The Perfectionists’ Café celebrates some of Britain’s favourite dishes and embraces the eccentricity of Great British invention with a wood-fired pizza oven and a liquid nitrogen ice cream maker. There’s also an element of theatre, burgers are made by grinding all the meat grains in the same direction to maximise the juiciness of the meat while ice cream sundaes are created with spectacular bursts of liquid nitrogen and pizzas are cooked in just 60 seconds in full view of passengers.
Making the exclusive accessible
With an unconquerable number of luxury destinations, hotels, restaurants, bars and other unforgettable experiences on offer, travellers have never had more ways to enjoy their time away. Heathrow has risen to the challenge of integrating luxury experiences into the airport by opening up a VIP service previously the preserve of royalty and heads of state to the public.
Affectionately referred to as ‘Heathrow in 50 steps’, Heathrow’s VIP service is a completely private and exclusive journey through the world’s busiest international airport. The service is designed for even the most discerning traveller with a private airport approach road, champagne on arrival and an executive transfer across Heathrow’s airfield to the aircraft steps. Passengers can even choose whether they would like to be the first or the last passenger to board their flight.
As traveller expectations continue to evolve, there is no doubt that airports all over the world will be challenged to develop their services.
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