Passengers who are going to meet their planes at gates G 1 through G 6 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport can't be blamed for doing a double take and taking a step back as they get near their gates. Sure, they were following the signs pointing them to those six gates but suddenly they're inside a CIBO Express Gourmet Market that's selling jackets, purses, packaged food, made-to-order food, newspapers, ice cream, magazines, birthday cards and who-knows-what-else?
So it's no wonder that some people heading to Gates G 1-6 back out of the CIBO into the airport's main concourse to double-check themselves but, sure enough, there are the Gates G 1-6 pointing into the store. So those doubters venture in again to pass through the store and find themselves in a pod of six gates for Delta Airlines where there are a restaurant and a mini-bar at the edge of the seating area.
Instead of the chrome and black seats seen at many airport waiting areas, some seats are at raised tables like those found in some bars and fast-food restaurants. Others are at counters in front of the mini-bar. More are in restaurant's area at four-seat tables. Some are in one-seat booths in the main waiting area.
And here's the main change from the other, usual seating areas at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and other airports: each seat has an iPad permanently installed on a table or counter near the seat. Passengers can use the iPad to surf the Internet, play games imbedded in the iPad, check their emails, post notes on Facebook and tweet their friends—all for free. They can also look at the menus of the adjacent restaurant and mini-bar and, after ordering online and paying with a credit card scanner near each iPad, they'll find someone bringing their food to them a few minutes later.
“A company named OTG has built two areas like this at airports in New York City,” said Patrick Hogan, director of public affairs and marketing for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. “But this one, the third built, is the largest so far.”
Planning by OTG for the changes at Gates G 1-6 began more than a year ago, said Hogan, although the renovated area didn't open until late 2012.
Hogan said that the revised gate pod allows passengers waiting for their Delta flight to eat good food—the restaurants have chefs—and relax near where they're going to board their planes. “That way they don't have to eat a ways away and wonder if they're going to make their plane,” he said.
Also, passing through the CIBO encourages impulse buying, he said. “The concept is breaking down the boundaries between where people sit, eat and shop,” said Hogan, adding that passengers can sit at any seat in the waiting area, including in the restaurant and mini-bar without having to buy anything.
“If this concept proves successful, it will get the other vendors' attention,” he said.
Delta Airlines is planning to revise the entire G concourse at a cost of $25 million so the other gate areas in the concourse will resemble the one at Gates G 1-6, said Hogan. Ultimately, 2,500 iPads and 10 restaurants will be in G concourse, states the website of OTG, a New York-based airport food and beverage operator that has 150 restaurants in 10 airports.