Flight Plan

Airport retail goes ‘out of touch’ with old ways

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on June 09, 2020

Distance matters From parking to shopping to boarding, a contactless journey through social distancing and automation, at Bangalore Airport AFP   -  AFP

Just about everything is available as before — but passengers are guided to go contactless

As those who have been taking the relaunched flights in India are seeing, the flying experience has changed after the lockdown on flights was lifted.

Fliers are now doing web check-in so that there are no queues at check-in counters and they are printing their own boarding cards and baggage tags. They are also getting used to wearing masks and being given limited food and beverages on the flights. All these are drastic changes.

However, if there is one thing that has not changed as much, it is the retail experience at the four metro airports. These airports handle a majority of the passenger traffic in the country and retail and food and beverage outlets are a source of revenue — which these airports want to now use to earn money after remaining shut since March 25 this year. The government allowed limited domestic flights to start operations, after two months, on May 25.

At Bangalore airport, air travellers can now browse through all the stores that they are familiar with thanks to their flying experience before the coronavirus struck. Everything — from gifts, fashion, accessories, sweets and chocolates, cosmetics, to tea and coffee — is available at the airport.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Mumbai International Airport, which is currently handling 50 domestic flights, has opened up at least 50 per cent of its stores. These include food and beverage outlets such as Subway and Starbucks and a few retail ones such as William Penn, MAC, Hidesign, Go Colors, Samsonite and Raymond.

A spokesperson of Delhi airport confirmed that all retail stores, including convenience, electronics, lifestyle and fashion, gifting, toys, pharmacy and liquor, are open as are all food and beverage outlets at the airport.

‘App’ening trend

However, the retail experience has changed a bit to keep up with the new social distancing norms. At Mumbai airport, “the staff operating at food & beverage as well as retail outlets are being well-equipped with PPEs. Further, passengers need to use a digital menu and are encouraged to use contactless payment methods and avoid cash transactions to minimise contact,” a spokesperson for the airport said.

At retail outlets, the staff ensure social distancing as soon as a passenger enters the store. Passengers are requested to avoid touching the products themselves as a representative of the outlet helps them out. The retail outlets are also sanitising their shops regularly and undertaking thermal screening of the staff while entering the terminal building to safeguard the staff members, the spokesperson added. Mumbai airport has also laid out markers inside the retail outlets and modified seating arrangements to ensure social distancing in the food court.

At Hyderabad airport, where all retail outlets are open, fliers are being encouraged to choose from a range of digital options for making payments. “The Hyderabad airport is enabled with the HOI app, which is a digital platform that passengers can use. The HOI app or QR codes placed across the terminal can be used to pre-order food through mobile phones,” said a spokesperson for the airport.

Delhi airport too has a fully integrated online food and beverage ordering platform through the HOI app, where passengers can order and receive their meals at the gate, a spokesperson for the airport said, adding that the app is available on both iOS and Android phones and provides contactless ordering facilities to passengers.

However, at Hyderabad, currently the F&B outlets are only offering take-away, packed food prepared with one-time-use cutlery. Same is the case at Mumbai airport.

Going a step further, Bangalore airport has shifted focus from F&B outlets and, besides retail stores, has opened up its duty-free shops for those arriving on the Vande Bharat evacuation flights.

Published on June 09, 2020

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