Airports Are Designed to Make You Spend Money

July 16, 2019

Airports used to be a way-station between the ground and the sky. But in the 1990's airports were transformed into malls. In this video Cheddar explains how the design of the airport makes you spend more money without always realizing it.


MALE_1: Pop quiz.

MALE_1: How early should you arrive

MALE_1: to the airport if you have a domestic flight?

MALE_1: International, I'll give you a second to think.

MALE_1: And while you're thinking,

MALE_1: why don't you take a second to hit that subscribe button?

MALE_1: So do you have your answer yet?

MALE_1: If you go by general consensus you

MALE_1: probably said two hours for domestic,

MALE_1: three hours for [NOISE] international.

MALE_1: But what you may not know is you

MALE_1: don't actually have to get to the airport that early.

MALE_1: These time frames were based on

MALE_1: the old days of airport travel

MALE_1: where everything took longer

MALE_1: because it had to be done manually.

MALE_1: But we're in 2019, baby.

MALE_1: Getting through the airport goes way

MALE_1: faster when you can use a kiosk,

MALE_1: print your own boarding pass,

MALE_1: and check your own bags.

MALE_1: However, airports still want you there earlier.

MALE_1: In the 1990s, airports were

MALE_1: transformed into malls in order

MALE_1: to capitalize on captive patrons

MALE_1: waiting for their flights.

MALE_1: By 1998, certain airport retailers were making

MALE_1: a whopping 950 dollars per square foot of space.

MALE_1: That's three times the mall average at the time

MALE_1: of $250-$300 per square foot of space.

MALE_1: And it hasn't slowed down since.

MALE_1: In 2018, for the first time ever,

MALE_1: Estee Lauder made more money at

MALE_1: airports than in any other physical location.

MALE_1: But it's not just about adding stores.

MALE_1: Airports are designed to make you spend money.

MALE_1: Here are some of the tricks they use.

MALE_1: Once you've print your ticket,

MALE_1: checked your bags, and gone through security,

MALE_1: you might find yourself with an hour of

MALE_1: free time to spend before you board your flight.

MALE_1: The industry calls this, "The Golden Hour."

MALE_1: Golden Hour is the first 60 Minutes post-security

MALE_1: when you're just sitting at the airport,

MALE_1: money burn a hole in your pocket.

MALE_1: Now, obviously,

MALE_1: not everybody has free money to spend like this.

MALE_1: But the point here is that airports are

MALE_1: trying to strike while the iron is hot.

MALE_1: You've already purchased a flight.

MALE_1: So airlines expect that you probably

MALE_1: have some disposable cash that you can,

MALE_1: well, dispose of while you're waiting for your flight.

MALE_1: That's why as soon as you leave security,

MALE_1: you're most likely going to be

MALE_1: corralled through a maze of Cinnabons,

MALE_1: Sunglass Huts, Hudson News stores,

MALE_1: and many other shops on your way to your gate.

MALE_1: But just getting you to walk through isn't good enough.

MALE_1: I mean, how do they know for

MALE_1: sure that they're gonna make me spend the money?

MALE_1: Leaving nothing to chance,

MALE_1: airport designers decided that

MALE_1: the pathways through the stores should be long,

MALE_1: windy, and mostly curving to the left.

MALE_1: While straight lines and grid like systems

MALE_1: might be what we're used to in malls,

MALE_1: this serpentine path actually works far better.

MALE_1: According to a survey by InterVISTAS,

MALE_1: a travel consulting company,

MALE_1: serpentine pathways made 60 percent more revenue

MALE_1: than their straight line counterparts.

MALE_1: When the road is windy,

MALE_1: people have a much higher chance of

MALE_1: seeing all the merch there is to offer.

MALE_1: On top of that, most airport hallways

MALE_1: intentionally curb right to left.

MALE_1: Most people are right-handed,

MALE_1: and right handers tend to look

MALE_1: right far more often than they do left.

MALE_1: So curving to the left allows the eye to

MALE_1: naturally get a better view of all the merchandise.

MALE_1: Airports, knowing that you only have so much time to buy,

MALE_1: try to make you feel as relaxed as

MALE_1: possible in your purchasing experience.

MALE_1: So airport designers have situated their shops

MALE_1: to face the tarmac with big windows,

MALE_1: so you can see all the planes while you're shopping.

MALE_1: This is partially a wayfinding tactic,

MALE_1: but it also puts people at ease.

MALE_1: If you can see the plane,

MALE_1: then you must be close enough

MALE_1: to walk there pretty quickly.

MALE_1: So why not spend a few more minutes

MALE_1: investigating the shiny items, right?

MALE_1: It's very sneaky, but double sneak attack.

MALE_1: The windows also let in a lot of sunlight,

MALE_1: reminding you of an outside world,

MALE_1: and that helps people not feel as trapped.

MALE_1: Even though you kind of bored.

MALE_1: However, not feeling trapped is pretty much

MALE_1: integral to the whole spending money thing.

MALE_1: That's also why the aisles in

MALE_1: stores are much wider than usual.

MALE_1: Allowing for people to move freely with

MALE_1: their suitcases without bumping into others.

MALE_1: Stores at the end of the day,

MALE_1: can only sell you things you really want to buy,

MALE_1: and airport designers kn,

MALE_1: ow this, because they lay out the path of the stores

MALE_1: meticulously to cater to

MALE_1: the different sections of the airport,

MALE_1: as you walk through.

MALE_1: They force you through Duty Free first,

MALE_1: as they know you probably have

MALE_1: some leftover foreign currency

MALE_1: if you traveled internationally.

MALE_1: This is also the last chance they'll

MALE_1: get to sell you a local souvenir.

MALE_1: If you're able to make it through all that unscathed,

MALE_1: then they pull out the big guns on you for

MALE_1: Section 2, the food court.

MALE_1: If you're gonna be the airport for

MALE_1: another two hours, plus, however,

MALE_1: long your flight is, you just know that

MALE_1: sitting around is going to make you hungry.

MALE_1: Seeing as domestic flights don't offer meals,

MALE_1: and international flights give you okay food at best,

MALE_1: airport designers know you're gonna wanna make a

MALE_1: stop here before you get to your gates.

MALE_1: And if you're curious about why food on

MALE_1: airplanes tastes worse from a scientific perspective,

MALE_1: check out our explainer on it

MALE_1: here or in the link in the description below.

MALE_1: The last section is specialty retail,

MALE_1: and it's usually pretty easily

MALE_1: visible from the food court area.

MALE_1: Now, that you've got a full stomach

MALE_1: and time to kill before your flight boards,

MALE_1: you might as well check out what

MALE_1: the stores have to offer, right?

MALE_1: Here, you might find Gucci bags, specialty lipstick,

MALE_1: and even exclusive flavors of whiskey that

MALE_1: you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.

MALE_1: The airport has become like

MALE_1: the Wild West of consumer products.

MALE_1: While malls and physical stores

MALE_1: are becoming a dying breed,

MALE_1: airport retail revenue has been

MALE_1: increasing consistently year over year.

MALE_1: So do you ever spend the money

MALE_1: on regular items when you go to the airport?

MALE_1: Sound off in the comments below.

MALE_1: And if you enjoyed this video give us

MALE_1: a like and hit that subscribe button.