• Aviation infrastructure-enhancing customer experience

    29 June 2018

    Benoy CEO, Tom Cartledge, discusses the future of aviation and his international practice’s growing involvement with a global sector experiencing surging increases in passenger numbers and soaring demand for innovative new airport infrastructure.

    1. What does Changi Terminal 4 represent for Benoy in terms of your reputation as a global practice?

    The great thing about Changi is their reputation and quality as a client – their demand for excellence in both service and design is replicated in all of their terminal buildings. From our exposure and work with Changi, we’ve been fortunate to follow this with appointments with Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Bahrain International Airport as well as other leading operators which still remain confidential.

    2. Changi is an award-winning airport in its own right, isn’t it? It’s an airport people have a real emotional response to.

    Changi has just won the Skytrax World’s Best Airport Award for the sixth consecutive year, there’s no denying their impact in the sector. Where they excel is definitely passenger experience. It was actually our work in this area which drew the attention of Heathrow Airport. We are the Commercial Masterplanners for the Heathrow Airport expansion and rather than being engrossed in an engineering solution, we are working closely together to put the customer experience at the heart of the planning.

    3. Are you creating a Benoy experience below the surface that you would want the client to know about?

    We’re unashamedly referencing back to our work as retail and place-makers in that space. What people have seen and experienced in successful Benoy retail locations is that repeat visit, personality of place, attention to detail and
    customer experience. Here, the connection with T4 is quite notable. Changi knew we understood the retail world. It was visionary of them to say ‘Actually, if we took these guys and put them into this space, what could they achieve for us?’ Before that, Benoy had not done comprehensive terminal buildings before, so in some respects Changi were ahead of the curve.

    4. How do you handle something like security, which is a major component on an aviation project but perhaps not something Benoy has been exposed to?

    With airports, security is always paramount to the discussions. One of the most critical aspects is that these airports are secure, safe, and well protected. From our perspective, how the impact of security and some of the more basic things like getting bags through on time plays into the overall passenger experience is very important. What is interesting now is the introduction of automated processes for check-in, bag-drop and immigration – there’s a real art in balancing automation and traditional manned counters to ensure more stress isn’t being added to the passenger.

    5. In Asia Benoy is well known for modern, mixed-use projects. Does the current focus on aviation sector projects indicate a change in direction for the group?

    Over the last three or four years, we have looked at how retail, as a place creator and commercial driver, can actually go into different sectors. This ultimately led us into aviation, which fascinates us, and we feel the sector is now
    a really interesting component of our business. Every Benoy studio is currently working on an aviation scheme.

    6. As your practice becomes more heavily involved in the sector, where do you see it going in the next 20 years?
    If we reflect on where the sector has come from, in some respects, there hasn’t been huge obvious progress in air flight, but every industry is continuing to be disrupted. In ten or fifteen years’ time, maybe there will be noiseless flights, or different cabin systems that mean different demands on the passenger. What we’re doing at Heathrow and other terminals is to examine potential future changes in the airline industry, and what that might physically mean to the places that people are getting on and off the planes.

    7. Generally, how do you view airport infrastructure today? Are modern terminal buildings becoming generic?

    With airport projects, there is a huge opportunity to bring in the local flavour. This is often somebody’s arrival point in a country, and it may be the first time they experience that. In Singapore, we designed T4 to bring the concept of
    the ‘Garden City’ into the terminal and celebrated the essence of the city by including traditional retail townhouses in the shop front space, for example. In Manchester, we’re delivering the interior components of the new £1 billion
    Terminal 2, the largest construction project in Greater Manchester. There we’ve used the heritage of the North of England as an opportunity to bring in new materials. The bee is a prominent symbol of the area so we’ve introduced
    highlights like honeycomb detailing through the flooring and ceilings as a reference point. It’s all in the detail and how that enhances the passenger experience which helps to give these large public infrastructure projects a
    personality and identity.

    8. To conclude, what would you like the readers of PRC Magazine to know about your association with the aviation sector?
    We have a growing interest and fascination with the future of aviation, and Benoy brings a different type of thinking to creating commercial solutions and a great passenger experience within airport destinations across the world.

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