The airport at Darwin, capital city of Australia’s Northern
Territory, is the 10th busiest in Australia, served by a handful of
domestic airlines and two international carriers, China’s Donghai
Airlines and Singapore’s Silk Air. Among the world ‘s airports, it is
very much small beer.
Yet, like airport mega hubs around the world — think Singapore
Changi, SkyCity Hong Kong and Beijing Daxing — Darwin Airport believes
it has a role to play as a ‘traveltainment’ destination for those who
don’t necessarily want to board an aeroplane but want to be entertained,
especially at a time when a global pandemic has crushed international
During the recent ‘dry’ season in northern Australia, Darwin Airport
transformed its short-stay car park into a drive-in open-air cinema. And
more recently, it has opened Australia’s largest trampoline playground,
called Flip Out. Set in an indoor area at Darwin Airport Central, the
facility is targeting fitness and agility classes and team-building.
Bringing the outside in
Gardens and greenery are becoming a feature of many airports. Dubai
International has its Zen Garden, where misting machines create a steamy
tropical retreat, and Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport is home to the
Shiseido Forest Valley, a 900-tree, 60-000 shrub indoor landscape.
At Beijing Daxing, five traditional gardens have been added to the
end of each departure corridor, each one inspired by Chinese history.
They comprise the Silk Garden, Tea Garden, Porcelain Garden, Countryside
Garden and Chinese Garden.
Even the control tower of the new Istanbul airport is in the shape of a tulip, Turkey’s national flower.
The current preoccupation at airports is, rightly enough, concerned
with passenger health with authorities introducing a range of end-to-end
safety measures to counter the pandemic.
Examples include contactless food services where online orders from
airport restaurants are delivered to passengers at the gate, and
Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which allows travellers to enter
Dallas Love Field Airport’s Hudson Nonstop retail store using their
credit card, take the products they’re looking for, and then walk out of
the store without having to queue up to pay.
Air Asia has also ramped up its e-commerce business through an online
shop, which enables customers to purchase duty-free products and have
them delivered to their doorstep within the next working day.
Soon, KL International Airport will roll out the first phase of its
Single Token Journey initiative which utilises facial recognition
technology to provide passengers with one single-token biometric
identification authentication that will take them through the entire
airport journey without having to show their boarding passes, from
check-in through to the boarding gates.
In Hong Kong, the Airport Authority is working closely with
international bodies such as ICAO, IATA and other major hub airports, to
standardise health and safety protocols, and is also introducing facial
recognition technology to streamline the departure process, making it a
Airport lounges are also upping their game. Plaza Premium Group,
which operates hospitality services at 49 international airports, has
reinforced its hygiene protocols and introduced digital initiatives
covering a spectrum of contactless transactions — think QR-code food
ordering, e-books and magazines, and vending machines for travel
More options for events
Looking beyond Covid, airports are planning to enhance the facilities
on offer, not just for airline passengers but also for those who regard
airports as safe havens for corporate events.
Global airport operator, Fraport, is currently seeking proposals to
assess market interest in the construction of a sports/multi-functional
hall on a vacant plot of land at Frankfurt Airport.
The goal is to create a venue suitable for hosting top-class domestic
and international sports competitions, as well as concerts and cultural
In Hong Kong, New World Development is the force behind “11 Skies”,
Hong Kong’s largest integrated complex for retail, dining and
entertainment facilities. Scheduled to be completed in phases from 2022
to 2025, it will include 800 shops and more than 120 dining concepts,
plus wealth management and wellness services.
Pivotal to the development will be Hong Kong’s biggest indoor
entertainment centre, which will include Kidzania and SkyTrack, the
world’s longest indoor and outdoor karting track weaving through the
In phase two of the development, AsiaWorld-Expo will house the
largest indoor performance venue in Hong Kong, accommodating 20,000
Even before Covid, Singapore was a global leader in providing
entertainment for passengers transiting via Changi Airport. Latest
offerings to keep the airport humming while planes stay on the ground
include glamping for families at Jewel, the nature-themed entertainment
and retail complex open to the public, and canopy park tours that
involve walks about the trees.
And while those facilities are clearly aimed at a family market,
Singapore is clinging onto hopes that it can resuscitate the corporate
market with a pilot facility at Singapore EXPO which will segregate
business travellers into a dedicated travel lane from airport to EXPO
In between, corporate travellers have access to 670 short-stay guest
rooms and about 170 meeting rooms designed to host small groups of
between four to 22 people.
Room rates start from about S$390 (US$294) per night for an executive
room and S$430 per night for a premier room. This includes the cost of
Covid testing, three meals per day and airport transfers.