Airports Pump Up Concessions With Workout Facilities & Other Healthy Offerings

Kristin Vanderhey Shaw
Published in: 

More than ever, consumers are making purchase decisions based on a desire to take better care of their bodies and minds. Airports, in turn, are taking notice and refining their concessions programs accordingly. From low-fat snacks to full-size workout rooms, airports are offering passengers far healthier options than sitting at the gate with a bag of fast food.

Riding the wave of the health trend, World Health Networks debuted its new generation  "FlyHealthy HUB" during Passenger Terminal Expo in March. The HUB is a high-resolution monitor designed to silently engage airport visitors about the healthy products and services available inside a given terminal. It also leads users through a series of free, non-invasive biometric tests such as blood pressure, heart rate and body mass index via voice prompts offered in a variety of language options.

World Health Networks provides the FlyHealthy HUB free to interested airports. The stand-up unit works in conjunction with the organization's FlyHealthy App, which allows travelers to store their test results and offers discounts to specific health-oriented products and services at individual participating airports.


Topic: In-Airport Health Initiatives
Locations: Burlington Int'l Airport; Dallas/Fort Worth Int'l Airport; Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport
Sample Offerings: Yoga rooms; gyms; healthy restaurants & menu items; automated external defibrillators; walking routes; rocking chairs; exercise suggestions; CPR training
Key Benefits: Higher customer satisfaction; new sources of concessions revenue; positive impact on employee health expenses
Funding: Some airports secure sponsors for health programs; others self-fund their initiatives

World Health Networks is a member of the Coalition for Healthful Airports, which reports on best practices for improving the wellness of passengers and employees. Members include the International Air Transport Association, Airports Council International - Europe, the Airline Medical Directors Association and World Heart Federation.

Airport elements reviewed by the coalition include:

  • Smoke-free environments
  • Healthy food options
  • Automated external defibrillators
  • Distances marked inside and around airports for walking courses
  • Passenger relaxation and massage areas
  • Health care facilities such as medical clinics
  • Vended products for smoking cessation
  • Meditation/retreat/yoga area
  • Free access to hand sanitizers
  • General facility cleanliness
  • Educational displays and passenger health tips, including information on "chair aerobics"

Airports of all sizes are showing increased creativity incorporating healthy features. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world's busiest passenger airport, worked with the Centers for Disease Control to establish walking routes for passengers on layovers; Burlington International Airport (BVT), a 10-gate facility in Vermont, has added a yoga room. Still others provide free health tests and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.  

It's not all purely altruistic, though; airports are finding that health-oriented initiatives can create new concessions revenue streams and help hold employee health care costs in check.  

Lean Bodies & Budgets

Gene Richards, director of aviation at BTV, felt that it was important for the airport to match the culture of Burlington, which some consider one of the healthiest cities in the United States. When airport employees clamored for more secure bicycle parking, the airport added bike racks with the help of a grant. In the warmer months, the racks are full, Richards reports.

"Burlington is a very green city," he relates. "We think it's important for the airport to reflect the themes of our area, and we considered carefully what would be green and sustainable options for our employees and passengers. With that in mind, we implemented water bottle refill stations with filtered water, we source concessionaires that can provide food from 50 to 100 miles of the airport, and we encourage our employees to ride their bikes or walk to work."

BTV also strives to create an environment that is comfortable and calm, much like the area's many bed-and-breakfast lodges. Kennedy rockers are clustered throughout the terminal, with easy access to outlets and Wi-Fi. Two areas feature iPads donated by the Burlington Free Press to provide free entertainment for adults and children.

A yoga room, also completely funded by local sponsors, further reinforces BTV's commitment to health and wellness. Evolution Yoga, a Burlington-based yoga studio, consulted with Richards and his team to establish the right look and feel for passengers. Evolution also maintains and stocks the airport yoga space on a daily basis. A placard on the wall lists the sponsors who donated materials and services, from sustainable bamboo flooring to a hand-lettered glass front. 

"We're lean and mean at our airport, and it's important to us to provide the amenities our passengers and employees want," Richards comments. "So we have found ways to make it work. We try to relieve stress for travelers coming through Burlington with an abundance of (power) outlets, food choices, rocking chairs and yoga. And our wellness committee is constantly on the lookout for more ideas."

Currently, BTV is developing walking trails, both inside and outside the airport. And once again, airport personnel found a sponsor for the project: Blue Cross Blue Shield. 

Across the Border

Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) opened a full-size workout facility last September, with support from GoodLife Fitness, the largest fitness company in Canada. The gym includes cardiovascular equipment with personal television screens; strength training equipment and free weights; a lounge area with massage chairs; and changing rooms with towel service, private showers and lockers. Catering to the specific airport population, it also includes a luggage storage area.

YYZ officials also asked GoodLife to suggest some exercises for travelers whose itineraries don't allow them to use the pre-security gym. YYZ developed the information into advertising materials that help promote the facility and the airport's healthy travel options, explains YYZ spokesperson Corrinne Madden.

The airport also hosts several employee health and fitness programs from the Health and Wellness Committee of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority's Fire and Emergency Services. "It's important that employees are both happy and healthy in order to provide the traveling public with the best service," says Madden. "The health and wellness programs are designed to create awareness and confidence in all aspects of health and fitness."

One of the committee's new programs aims to educate members of the airport authority's fire department about healthy, nutritional food.

Employees and passengers alike can choose from a number of airport restaurants that feature healthy dining options:

  • Camden Food Co. offers local products; organic entrees; a breakfast bar with yogurt, oatmeal, etc.; a salad bar; and organic baby/children's food
  • Freshii features salads, rice bowls and wraps made with fresh ingredients
  • Brands like Purblendz and Extreme Pita provide detailed nutritional information on their menu boards to help diners make healthy choices

In addition, virtually all restaurants at YYZ offer vegetarian meals, gluten-free selections or vegan options. Many of the restaurants operated by OTG, such as Heirloom Bakery and Fetta, source products from local suppliers where available and offer a range of organic options in many locations.

Brioche Doree and The Marketplace, both HMS Host restaurants, promote grab-and-go kids' meals with veggies and dip, cheese, fruit and other fresh choices via their "Kidz on the Fly" selections.

Elsewhere in the airport, YYZ promotes its Public Access Defibrillator Program. The initiative not only places 190 automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public spaces throughout the airport, it also educates employees about using the life-saving devices.

"Almost 40,000 Canadians die each year of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which occurs when the heart's electrical system malfunctions and stops beating," explains Madden.  "Since its inception in 2002, the AEDs across Toronto Pearson have saved many lives. Historically, the survival rate for SCA victims was less than 5 percent in North America. In 2013, the survival rate increased to 40 percent, which can partly be attributed to the introduction or expansion of many public access defibrillation programs, like the one at Toronto Pearson."

The public education program also sends fire and emergency service personnel into the terminal with a "Heart Cart" to educate passengers and airport employees about CPR basics and using AEDs.

Living Well at the Airport

Health initiatives at Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) didn't take a big chunk out of the airport's budget, but they do pay for themselves in customer satisfaction, says DFW spokesman David Magaña.

A walking path, measured in steps, is popular with international passengers in Terminal D. And a yoga area opened between terminals D and B in 2012.

DFW also requires concessionaires to offer healthy and vegetarian options, per guidelines from the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine. The airport's website provides a guide for healthy eating, with a list of items that contain fewer than 600 calories, a maximum of seven grams of fat and less than 850 milligrams of sodium.

"We've discovered that changing to healthier concessionaires brings more business," reports Magaña. "We talk to our passengers every day, we do surveys frequently, and made educated guesses to determine where the trends are headed for both travelers and employees."

The American Heart Association and American Airlines' Occupation Health Services supplement DFW's efforts by helping passengers learn and practice lifesaving Hands-Only(tm) CPR. A touch-screen kiosk in Terminal C allows hands-on practice of the method with an actual CPR mannequin and an automated watch-while-you-practice CPR program. A video that presents a brief introduction about the steps of Hands-Only CPR is followed by a practice session and 30-second test. The kiosk even provides feedback about users' hand placement and the depth and rate of their compressions.

DFW Airport recently earned two major honors for its LiveWell employee wellness program. It was named one of the 100 Healthiest Workplaces in America by Healthiest Employers, a technology and data research company focused on corporate wellness. The airport also earned recognition as a Well Workplace for 2014 from the non-profit Wellness Council of America.

"The LiveWell program is based on sustainability and applying those principles to our people," says Magaña. "Keeping our employees healthy means fewer sick days, fewer workers' comp claims and a happier work environment overall. With the costs of health care on the rise, it's a way to level those costs."


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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