After grabbing their tickets, passing through security and heading up the escalators at Pittsburgh International Airport, travelers are greeted by a new $4 million pastel and steel-colored terrazzo floor at the center of the Airside Terminal.
This is the landing for weary, busy or nervous passengers — and it’s also one of the main areas of focus for airport officials looking to keep travelers happy. And spending.
“We know that passengers are amenable to spending money in airports, if airports offer what they want,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “What I’m really focused on is how do we bring more of Pittsburgh into the airside core and into the concourses?”
Look no further than the floor, where the Downtown skyline, North Shore stadiums and riverside mills are depicted in hand-poured terrazzo. The floor topped off a $10 million renovation that included new shops completed last fall.
On Dec. 12, the Airside Terminal will open its doors to non-passengers for an open house so they can shop the Airmall, which offers Armani Jeans, Desigual, Pinko, Hugo Boss and an ever-convenient Rite Aid.
The 80,000-square-feet of retail and restaurant space is operated by Airmall, which contracts with the airport authority. Last year, the airport received nearly $5.4 million from Airmall profits, up from $4.8 million in 2012.
Last year, passengers spent upward of $60 million inside the airport, said Airmall Vice President of Development Jay Kruisselbrink. New flight announcements — like this week’s nonstop to New Orleans on Allegiant Air — help him sell the floor space to interested retailers.
Operating at an airport, generally, is more expensive for stores, given the logistics of moving products through security. But Kruisselbrink said they make the investment knowing the market they will reach.
“Everybody that comes here, for the most part, is a very good demographic,” he said. “When you travel, you don’t have much personal time, so if you can, you take care of some of your retail shopping while you’re traveling.”
The newest additions will be two Starbucks — one landside, near the rental car counters, and one airside. Requests for the coffee chain were among the most frequent that airport customer service agents received. Officials secured a Vino Volo, a boutique wine bar with locations in other airports nationwide and known for its tasting flights and in-house sommeliers. But the chain won’t be able to conduct business as usual — selling bottles or cases of wine to travelers — because of restrictions in Pennsylvania’s liquor law, Kruisselbrink said.
Marilyn Goodwill, 63, of Canonsburg travels through Pittsburgh International Airport about once a month, sometimes to visit her daughter in Florida. She appreciates the array of shops and snacks. She is encouraged by the addition of a wine bar.
“I like to look around,” she said. As far as services she’d like to see, Goodwill thought of her family members who travel with service dogs, who would like to see more pet-friendly areas.
Improvements now might pay off for the airport. Under its contract with Airmall, the authority has received 59 percent of profits. That jumps to 77 percent in 2018.
Seeking feedback about improvements, the airport conducted a first round of passenger surveys in the summer and is prepping another for 2016.
“I hope part of what people see is a real focus on the passenger,” Cassotis said. “We’re listening, we’re making sure we can do everything we can to introduce people into the community who have never been here before, and make sure people have what they need before they depart.”
This article was written by Melissa Daniels from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.