Is Canberra Airport on the way to changing from a nice local airport into one of those shopping centres with runways attached?
It's just announced an expansion of its shopping and restaurant area to make it nicer for travellers, with more local food available plus shops to spend your dollars in.
But there's money to be made - and there is well developed science behind airport design. The idea is that the lay out of terminals pushes passengers to part with their money before departing the city.
The researchers for the industry have their own jargon to help airports maximise their "non-aeronautical income", mostly the substantial money from shops and car parks.
There is "dwell time" - how long you spend between security and boarding.
There is the "golden hour" when the shops which confront you after security have the best chance of turning a passenger into a customer - less than an hour and people rush to board by-passing retail therapy.
Canberra Airport isn't giving the detail of the new layout but the industry has done a heap of studies on which Canberra can draw.
One bit of psychology seems surprising, though. We tend to push airport trolleys so they veer to one side.
Try it in the supermarket: push the trolley with only your right or left hand and it won't go straight. That's the theory airport designers work on - so when we push a trolley we tend to look to one side - towards shops, they hope.
According to InterVISTAS, one of the world's big airport consultancies, we are mostly right-handed: "Customers push a cart or pull a suitcase with their right hand, which causes them to walk in a counter-clockwise direction due to the imbalance."
This has implications for where to put a shop: "As a result, customers look to the right far more than the left, and see more things on the right than the left."
The consultants (who have advised the Australian Airports Association) conclude: "More sales are generated if a walkway curves from right to left with more merchandise and space on the right side because passengers are looking right while (perhaps unconsciously) walking left."
Some of the consultants' advice seems obvious: "Customers should be surrounded by retail options on all sides, thus creating the ambiance of a marketplace that allows for a pin-ball effect between shops."
But the profit conscious airport should give passengers space to repack their bags after security. "At this point, the passenger has completed all of the stressful aspects of travel: arrive at the airport on-time, complete check-in formalities, and clear the security checkpoint, and is now a valuable customer.
"The view of the retail environment will cue the customer's brain that it is time to shop."
The view of the retail environment will cue the customer's brain that it is time to shop.InterVISTAS Consulting Inc
Light in the terminal is important. One "aviation customer experience consultant", Julian Lukaszewicz, was quoted as saying, "There's a trend that the shops face the tarmac. Passengers tend to walk more into shops that have direct access to the sunlight. If they're closed off with artificial light passengers feel they are too dark and avoid them."
According to DKMA, another of the world's big airport consultancies, a good way for airports to increase "spend per individual" by passengers is to "put them in the mood to shop".
"An airport's most satisfied passengers:
- Are twice as likely to shop
- Spend 7 per cent more on retail and 10 per cent more on duty free."
The consultants advise airports to promote themselves as shopping destinations: "Airports must adopt a more commercially-focused mentality and promote themselves much more effectively as a shopping destination."
It thinks airports need to find ways of getting us to spend more time there: "They need to work on increasing 'dwell time' as much as possible since passengers who spend more than 60 minutes at the airport are 34 per cent more likely to buy food and beverages, 38 per cent more likely to buy retail and 26 per cent more likely to buy duty free than passengers who spend fewer than 60 minutes at the airport."
And yet ...
I don't like to feel I'm imprisoned in a department store - trapped in a hell of retail "dwell time", even just for a "golden hour".
I like Canberra Airport precisely because it's not that kind of high-pressure sales zone, holding us like sheep waiting to be shorn of our "non-aeronautical revenue".
I hope it stays that way.
And, anyway, how many gift packs of Tim-Tams or Gucci belts at $645 do we need before boarding?