SmartDesign Group

SmartDesign Group

June 24, 2009 17:26 ET

SmartDesign Group Designs 'World's Best Airport', Incheon Wins Honour for Airport Design

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - June 24, 2009) - SmartDesign Group client, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Korea recently picked up top honours at the 2009 Skytrax World's Best Airport awards. The award is based on passenger survey results from travellers in airports around the world and is the most sought-after in the industry. The awards reflect a number of categories related to quality including airport design, retail offerings, amenities, passenger processing and customer service.

SmartDesign Group worked with Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) in the redevelopment of Concourse A and the new Passenger Terminal Building. We asked Nick Baker, President of SmartDesign Group, about the planning and design of the World's Best Airport. Here's what he had to say about the airport design.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a great airport?

A: Well, considering today's economic climate, it's probably the presence of passengers. But joking aside, a great airport is one where the environment strikes a balance between efficiency and a memorable experience. For instance, as a passenger, I want check-in to take minutes. I want to breeze through security without concern and be left with ample time to relax, dine and shop in a stimulating environment. The perfect airport experience is without fault, stress or delay.

Q: What were the challenges you faced when you started working with the Incheon team in 2005?

A: The biggest challenge for us was finding a way to improve an airport that was already one of the most renowned and benchmarked in the world. With that in mind, we focused on building brand equity around the passenger experience. How do both visitors and the thousands of employees who work at IIA interact with the environment? What and how can we improve the overall flow of traffic to make the space more pleasurable?

Q: How is the airport experience different today than it was 5 years ago, 10 years ago?

A: I would say that most people consider me an optimist which is true. However, I do believe that I'm a realist too. And the reality is that people today are striving to find more time, and to reduce the burden of stress. Unfortunately, travel and stress seem to go together. I would say that the most marked change is that may airports now recognize the need to alleviate stresses created by security and processing.

Also, airport authorities are focusing more on creating uniquely memorable environments for passengers that reflect regional attributes and include original retail brands. The goal is to curb homogenization. While there is still a long way to go in achieving that, when you consider the creative plans for many airports that are currently under construction, the future looks incredibly bright.

Q: What design constraints/challenges do you face when it comes to airport retail design?

A: In more established environments the biggest constraint is lack of useable commercial space. Apart from that, challenges such as traffic, flow and ambiance can easily be overcome with planning and attention to aesthetics.

Q: Incheon International Airport is far from your head office in Vancouver. What was it like working with a team in Korea?

A: It was amazing. The IIAC team were extremely professional and willing to explore new ideas and embrace change. The commercial team is experienced in all areas of revenue enhancement in non-aviation sources. They have a management team that is adept at supporting tenants and partners through the challenges and complexities of bureaucracy.

Q: In your opinion, what makes Incheon a world-class airport?

A: From the instant you enter the terminal building, the process is flawless. Check-in, security and immigration points are plenty and the level and quality of retail & concessions is as good as it gets. Transit passengers are catered to, entertained and cocooned in a tranquil environment, while arriving passengers are processed and delivered landside in the shortest possible time.

All in all, there is a genuine commitment to excellence.

SmartDesign Group is a retail design practice that specializes in the commercial development of airports around the world. They have contributed to the success of over 100 airports worldwide and continue to pioneer new thinking in areas of non-aeronautical revenue streams and airport design. SmartDesign Group is committed to working with owners and operators to maximize opportunities and create efficiencies in the transportation, sports & entertainment, retail and hospitality industries. Notable projects include New Doha International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Wembley Stadium, and Hotel One. To find out more, visit

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