Thursday, December 13, 2007

Airport ... Aerotropolis!

I had a 3 hour wait at Chicago’s O’Hare international airport today, the maximum time I had spent at any airport for a domestic flight. This gave me an opportunity to reflect on the changing face of airports in the world. O’Hare international airport, world’s busiest airport in terms of take-off and landings, is like a city in itself, a direction in which all major airports are heading. Our very own Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport is also being developed into an aerotropolis (dunno who invented that word!). Today’s airport has gone way beyond being just a transportation hub where you start, end or transfer through a journey. In addition to a variety of food and drink joints, airports now offer shopping malls, business centers, executive lounges, prayer rooms (recently a sikh prayer room was approved at JFK airport), entertainment options and above all Wi-Fi internet connectivity. Wi-Fi connectivity varies from monthly accounts of $40 that can be used worldwide, to $30 for US domestic usage, to 24-hour pay-as-you-go for prices ranging from $2.5 (Rs. 100 at Delhi’s IGI) to $7 (Chicago’s O’Hare, London Heathrow and many others). Internet access coupled with the increasing use of cellphones and availability of roaming features instantly convert any airport gate to an office room. This has increased the usefulness of the waiting time at airport, especially for connecting flights. The airlines can leverage this by keeping greater connection times between flights (without losing customers) while optimizing their own operations. Better optimization would result in lower prices which would keep customers happy. The usefulness of connecting time assumes greater importance for international travel where the connecting times vary from 2-8 hours. After a quick wrap for dinner, a finished report and this post, it’s only 30 minutes to go …


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