The next big travel destination could be the airport itself
Your next entry into an airport may not require you to carry a passport. Infact, you don’t even need to catch a plane. Airports now want you to hang out – even without having to take a flight.
Usually, if one is waiting to meet an arriving family member, friend or a passenger, one has to wait in a designated area outside of the terminal for them to exit after disembarking , completing arrival formalities and collecting their baggage. Going through airport security to meet them is prohibited. Non-ticketed passengers are allowed access beyond the security checkpoints only if they are accompanying minors or special needs persons. Some airports issue Airport Entry Passes (AEP), but this allows entry to only designated areas.
All that’s gradually changing
American airports might not be the first place you would think to go shopping or grab a bite to eat. But as many major locations splurge on renovations, they’re encouraging travelers even if they don’t have a flight to catch, to take advantage of their revitalized spaces. The trend to build airports into attractive communal gathering spaces for day-visitors is gathering momentum. It’s a trend that’s likely to continue as investors’ eye ways to make airports more than just a point of transportation.
Orlando International Airport’s Terminal C is ready to show off its new look - for a price. The airport launched an Experience MCO visitor program that offers a trip option - minus the need to actually fly.
The six-level, $2.8 billion Terminal C construction project, which opened just over a year ago, accommodates up to 50 guests a day and includes access to Terminal C. Inside, visitors can visit the terminal’s restaurants and shops that includes merchandise stores for Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. There’s also a premium lounge, palm trees, large murals, terrazzo flooring and access to the Brightline Orlando train station. There’s even a digital “Moment Vault” where travelers can have an immersive, interactive experience.
This however is not the first program of its kind. Pittsburgh’s airport launched its (now paused) program in 2017, and Seattle’s visitor pass program, launched in 2018, was so successful that it increased its guest capacity to 300 a day.
More Airports are on the move
More airports are rolling out visitor experience programmes - from high-tech security and bathrooms to striking architecture and lush greenery.
Oregon’s Portland International Airport has budgeted $1.5B to turn its main terminal into a Portland-inspired “street” with local shops and restaurants. New York’s LaGuardia Airport recently finished its $8B overhaul to make the airport feel more like a luxury resort than a transit hub.
Who even needs the plane?