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Path 2 Plane

One of the more interesting paths to purchase is the journey from airport check in to boarding an international flight – what I’m calling the Path 2 Plane.

And one of the more amazing Path 2 Plane experiences is the $2 billion renovation of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

On a recent trip to the States, it was a revelation for me, as this used to be one of the most dreaded encounters for a traveller on the planet.

As in all airports though, you still need to get through hell before you can enjoy heaven. The first three stages of the Path 2 Plane are check in, security, and customs and they are usually far from pleasurable.

From the traveller’s perspective (or the leisure traveler anyway), there is an internal clock ticking, and you are in a stressed state.

Will my bags be too heavy? Have I got my passport? Will I make it through security? Will I make my flight? Not a great precursor to parting with money.

But once you get through that relatively daunting obstacle course, there is the pleasure of knowing that you have time on your hands.

And LAX has set the stage to make sure that you spend your time wisely… spend being the operative word.

The portion of the Path 2 Plane in between security and boarding is gold for retailers.

The audience is a relatively captive one who feels that they have permission to indulge. But they won’t hand their money over easily. Their senses are heightened and their expectations high.

The Tom Bradley Terminal delivers big time with a multi-media assault, luxury shopping, locally-oriented food and beverage, and the reassurance that travellers are going to get a good deal.

Importantly, it all feels very LA – it’s big, brassy, showy; designed to make the globetrotter leave with a taste of the City of Angels.


The experiential highlight for me was the Time Tower, a 22m digital structure that displays a constantly changing array of images from a waterfall to a giant stack of suitcases.

Once every 60 minutes, the screens peel away to reveal the internal workings of a giant clock, with a group of Busby Berkeley style dancers celebrating the new hour.

Digital is everywhere here – another display has 60 vertically arranged LCD monitors in 10 columns playing images and music from countries around the world.

Beyond the digital installations are some very good food experiences, including a Petrossian Caviar store and LA’s Border Grill.

Then it’s down to business in duty free, with slightly less impressive (but well frequented) liquor/tobacco/fragrance and skincare stores, activated via the usual multi-buys, sampling, gift with purchase, and travel exclusives.

Once travellers have had their fill and loaded up on duty free, Tom Bradley is wi-fi enabled, and there is a final chance to purchase along the Path 2 Plane, right at the gate.

Some of the stores and restaurants are yet to open at the Tom Bradley Terminal. But you can get a feel for what will be a pretty amazing customer journey – with the retail delivered, by the way, by our very own Westfield.

The challenge for airport operators in the future will be to control the whole Path 2 Plane, from the moment you leave home, to the time you strap in.

For the time being, the first parts of the Path 2 Plane (check in, security, customs) in LA (and everywhere else) are still far more painful than they should be.


Jon Bird is chairman of specialist retail marketing agency IdeaWorks, and chairman of Octomedia, publisher of Inside Retail.
Email: Blog: Twitter: @thetweetailer

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