Privacy Pods Gaining Popularity With Passengers and Airports

Privacy Pods Gaining Popularity With Passengers and Airports
Author: 
Nicole Nelson
Published in: 
November-December
2021

Cellphones and laptops at the ready, a fair amount of business travelers regularly arrive early at Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) to squeeze in a few calls or emails before departing. And it always distressed Scott Hinderman, executive director of the Indiana airport, to watch them bypass traditional seating areas and workspaces to huddle in remote corners for some peace and quiet.  

Time and again, Hinderman saw industrious business passengers with a finger jammed into one ear and a cellphone pressed hard against the other, struggling to tune out fellow travelers, boarding calls and the terminal’s natural hustle and bustle.

The scenario, which plays out at airports throughout the world, has become less common at FWA since it introduced modular work pods from YOURspace, a local Fort Wayne company. The airport provides two units, each 54-by-54 inches, free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. As expected, passengers are relishing the new soundproof enclaves.

facts&figures

Project: Privacy Pods

Sample Brands: YOURspace; Jabbrrbox Escape Pods

Sample Locations: 2 YOURspace units at Fort Wayne (IN) Int’l; 4 Escape Pods at Greenville-Spartanburg (SC) Int’l

Installations: April 2021 & July 2021, respectively

Key Benefits: Soundproof, technology-enabled space for customers to work, game or relax; potential new revenue stream for airports

Other Airports With Current or Pending Installations: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Int’l; Greenville-Spartanburg Int’l; LaGuardia Airport; John F. Kennedy Int’l; McCarran Int’l; Northwest Arkansas Nat’l; Oakland Int’l; O’Hare Int’l; Ontario Int’l; Pittsburgh Int’l; Seattle-Tacoma Int’l

“If you want to get on a call in a pod, you won’t have announcements blaring in your ears,” Hinderman remarks. “We have had lots of positive comments.”

Hinderman reports that the popular amenity has generated enthusiastic praise since FWA began an open-ended pilot program with YOURspace in April 2021. 

David Faust, chief executive officer of the company, notes that the pods were originally developed for in-home use by employees unable to work in offices due to COVID-19. Since then, however, the product’s usage has evolved considerably.

“As we launched into the market, we found there were a lot more commercial applications than we anticipated, airports being one of those,” Faust explains. “Airport terminals that are layover-centric don’t have great environments for taking Zoom calls or conference calls, much less casual phone conversations.

“With people flying again and starting to get more into their normal routines with business and vacation travel, we can put these up to give people more privacy. If they are there for an hour or three, they have somewhere to go and be productive.”

Regarding the general trend of increasing traffic, Hinderman reports that FWA is approaching its 2019 passenger levels. And like other airport executives, he is seeing leisure travel rebound more quickly than business travel. He consequently expects the modular workspaces to become even more popular as FWA’s traffic normalizes and its terminal facilities continue to grow.

“I could see us needing two additional pods when our gates expand from eight to 10,” Hinderman says, referring to plans for a capital expansion/renovation project slated to open in 2025. “And as we see more and more business travelers, I think these pods will be in much higher demand.”

Hinderman notes that customers are still discovering the new amenity. “It’s a very attractive and unique niche,” he comments. “Some of the flying consumers flock to them and try to grab these private spots.”

Monetizing the Concept

“Private spots” are gaining traction and providing a new revenue stream at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), where Escape Pods debuted as a co-branded venture of Jabbrrbox and Manchester Airports Group USA in July 2021.

Jabbrrbox Co-Founder and Joint-Chief Executive Jeremy Jennings describes the concession offering at GSP as a technology-enabled platform for passengers who want a private space on the go. Individual units have a physical hardware solution, the Jabbrrbox Pod, and a digital platform for productivity, privacy and wellness.  Customers can reserve and book in advance through the Jabbrrbox mobile app or make reservations on-demand at the airport.

Jennings explains that Jabbrrbox formalized a partnership with MAG USA one year ago, creating an extension of MAG’s Escape Lounge network, which develops premium common-use airport lounges that are not affiliated with specific airlines.

“We have jointly gone to market to bring our ‘best of breed’ Jabbrrbox units to airports with the Escape Pods co-branding to allow for a best-in-class customer experience,” says Jennings.

Scott Carr, vice president of Commercial Business and Communications at GSP, reports that the “plush and quiet” individual spaces have hit the mark with passengers at the South Carolina airport. Four Escape Pods—two in Concourse A and two in Concourse B—are attractive additions to the airport’s award-winning concessions program, he adds. GSP collects a percentage of the revenue generated by each Escape Pod.  

“These units fit like a glove into alcoves that had previously been used for automated retail,” Carr says of the 46-by-46-by-90-inch pods. “Comparing high-end retail and private workspaces is like comparing apples and oranges. But based on the first six weeks of operations, we have been extremely happy with the revenue generation.”

From his observations so far, the new pods have primarily been reserved by business travelers for Zoom meetings and conference calls via Microsoft Teams.

“I haven’t seen anyone use one for gaming yet, but anything can happen,” Carr remarks. He suspects that leisure passengers are more likely to rent pods for a quiet place to relax or meditate.

Opportunities Abound

Carr sees many upsides to GSP’s new concession option.

“For us, this was a unique opportunity based on the partnership Jabbrrbox had put together with MAG USA,” he says. “We have a MAG Escape Lounge at GSP and thought the pods would be a natural extension of that passenger amenity. We already provide the lounge; private workspaces for the traveling public seemed like a good addition.”

Beyond GSP and FWA, several other U.S. airports are in the midst of adding private pods/workspaces. Jeremy Dalkoff, vice president of business development for Escape Lounges with MAG USA, is heading the effort to expand the company’s lounge and pod networks.

“We have 60 units planned in our ecosystem and have plans for a lot more,” Dalkoff reports, noting that Escape Pods will soon be installed at McCarran International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport (Terminal 8), and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Subcategory: 
Concessions/Retail

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