As airport time killers, cocktails will never lose their most-favoured status. But the race for novel concessions inside the terminal is becoming more, well, playful. Especially when it comes to mollifying less-than-happy passengers.
Last month, the first U.S. airport video game lounges opened with three dozen Microsoft XBox rigs at Dallas-Fort Worth International, while John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is hosting the first virtual-reality “experience centre” this summer for the 70,000 travellers who traverse Terminal 4 each day.
The goal is a deep desire among fiercely competitive airports to offer harried travellers something different when the TSA sets them free. In a world of endless McDonald’s outlets and magazine racks, game lounges may very well stand out. For airports, the period when a passenger is waiting to board, “dwell time” in industry lingo, is a prime selling opportunity.
Beer, burgers and duty free are stalwarts of the trade, but a chance to market an experience to the anxious, weary masses is rapidly gaining critical mass. And when it comes to video games, there are eager players across Generation Z, millennials and even Generation X.
“I think people are desperate for entertainment — they run toward us,” said Lynn Rosenthal, chief executive of PeriscapeVR, the startup that designed the “immersive entertainment” virtual reality installation at JFK. “You’ve got a bunch of stressed-out, bored people looking for something to do besides eat or drink.”
The Los Angeles-based company has fielded more than 300 calls from interested airports, she said. PeriscapeVR charges $10 for 10 minutes with a video headset and offers discounts for longer blocks of time. A full hour costs $35.