The debilitating effect of the pandemic on airports has them revisiting how exactly they'll use their retail space, The New York Times reported.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Times that the future of airport retail would likely have to focus on space, with less of the crowding that happened pre-pandemic, along with provisions to guard against the coronavirus or other respiratory diseases.
That could entail more room for people to spread out and better ventilation systems, as well as better health screening.
“The crowded nature of things in an airport has always made me uncomfortable, particularly in a less modern one,” Fauci said, according to the Times. “People are literally nose to nose waiting to get on the plane.”
He said one particular challenge would be that a large amount of coronavirus cases are still asymptomatic, with no way of detecting who's infecting who, according to the Times. Contact tracing and temperature checks will be good starters to try to control future spreading of the virus as businesses continue to open back up.
Airport retail felt the burn from the pandemic in March, PYMNTS reported, as fallout from the origins of the virus in China and its spread to the rest of the world began to lower air traffic even then.
The Times quoted Alan Gluck, a senior consultant at ICF, who said the pandemic has essentially upended airport retail, with sales "in the toilet." San Francisco International Airport saw a 96 percent drop in concession sales in May, and duty-free concession was down 100 percent due to the stores all being closed. And at Singapore Changi Airport, the lucrative theaters, pool and numerous eateries aren't seeing the same levels of revenue anymore.
But still others are trying to adapt, such as the Kansas City International Airport, where a $1.5 billion renovation project was already underway before the pandemic, the Times reported. The plan was to consolidate the three terminals into one 39-gate giant. Now officials are considering modifications to better accommodate the new pandemic requirements, with health checks possibly being done outside.