Meeting passenger needs at London Luton Airport

Posted: 6 February 2007 | Martyn Lloyd, Commercial Director, London Luton Airport | No comments yet

Due to an increasing number of visitors to London Luton Airport, the recent redevelopment of the departure and arrival lounges has helped to produce a relaxed atmosphere, which provides passengers with an ideal terminal building.

London Luton Airport

In September 2004, London Luton embarked on a 10 month project to develop the departure and arrivals lounges and other facilities at the airport. At a cost of £38 million the project was devised to create more space and a relaxed environment for passengers to eat, shop, and pass their time.

The redevelopment of London Luton’s lounges was deemed essential as the facility was at capacity and the airport, being London’s fastest growing, was expecting further significant growth.

As well as an increase in passenger numbers, passenger demographics and tastes had also changed dramatically since the original lounges were designed. Once a base for charter flights, London Luton has grown and continues to expand as the airport of choice for many low cost airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair.

Research has shown the profile of passengers choosing to fly with low cost airlines tends to be in the higher demographic range and include a significant proportion of frequent flyers. London Luton passengers enjoy high quality products and service and expect excellent value for money. The airport recognised the need to change the retail and catering brands on offer and upgrade the ‘passenger experience’ through new and improved airport facilities. The vision for London Luton Airport was a unique retail and catering mix within a modern and spacious terminal building.

Retail is increasingly an important revenue source and represents a significant percentage of the airport’s overall income alongside the more traditional aeronautical activity.

Airport lounge design concept

An involved planning and design process took place leading up to the project build. This involved re-evaluating the London Luton brand and positioning within the market place; research included use of focus groups and culminated in the vision of London Luton as a ‘no frills chic airport’.

The initial concept for the redevelopment of the airside lounge was to create an aspirational environment. All aspects of the development moving forward were consistently re-evaluated throughout the build to ensure the designer’s concept was maintained. Within this new and vibrant space were introduced high quality brands, wide choice and affordable prices. London Luton Airport worked to create a different shopping environment to other airports featuring innovation alongside recognisable brands.

During early stages of the project build the Commercial team entered into lengthy discussions to secure the right mix of brands and negotiate the most ambitious unit fit outs.

In addition to the creative element of unit fit out, to ensure consistency, London Luton implemented rigorous control measures with regard to shop fitting detailing specifications on fixture height and placement.

As part of the airport redevelopment, the London Luton team implemented a comprehensive delivery schedule. This detailed timelines for a smooth transition from the old lounge to the new facilities to ensure minimum disruption to the airport’s passengers.

The delivery of this ambitious project was made possible as the departures lounge was built in a fallow part of the airport on the first floor of the terminal building. Contractors were able to work on the new facility causing minimum disruption to passengers. Work continued up to the end of June whilst the old facility continued to operate; the ‘change over’ from old to new took place seamlessly overnight!

On 31 June 2005, passengers said goodbye to the original 24 000 sq ft lounge with ‘bare essentials’ shopping and catering. The following day, passengers were welcomed to a new lounge with a trading space of 42 000sq ft.

Retail improvements

Today, as one of London’s fastest growing airports it is essential that London Luton’s infrastructure and facilities deliver optimum quality and enhance the airport’s growing reputation. We are delighted with the improvement in facilities; the departure lounge is a great achievement. The larger space means that we can accommodate more passengers and continue to improve the airport by allowing new stores to open here.

The new departure lounge currently offers a wide choice of retail and catering options for passengers including exclusive stores such as Kurt Geiger, the UK’s leading luxury shoe and accessory retailer and SOS, a fashion store specialising in holiday wear. Other key brands include Monsoon, Accessorize, Dixons Tax Free and Sunglass Hut.

The modern and spacious new Arrivals and Onward Travel Centre area now boasts an excellent range of exciting food and beverage choices that include Costa Coffee and Marks & Spencer Simply Food; these brands have already proved immensely popular with passengers and employees alike.

Technology is also becoming more accessible at London Luton Airport with the opening of a new Internet Café within the main passenger concourse. This compliments the superior facilities provided in the airport’s two new ‘Business Lounges’ within the airside departures lounge.

These new developments, together with the existing shops, bars and restaurants, provide London Luton Airport passengers with an enhanced airport experience. Passengers now have a larger and more comfortable waiting area and a greater choice of places in which to shop and eat. The large and dramatic window in the roof of the new departure lounge offers passengers a great viewing area.

However, the current facilities, post development, are still only “work in progress”. London Luton has demonstrated the ability to handle significant growth and adapt to changing passenger expectations and market conditions. The airport team will continue to work hard to deliver the best possible airport experience for our passengers and continue the development of an exciting and innovative retail and catering airport product.