SSP asked leading international travel journalist Nick Trend to share his thoughts on the good (and the bad) of modern travel.
Nick has worked as a travel journalist and editor for more than 20 years, beginning his career as a writer for UK consumer publication Holiday Which? magazine. He has been a commissioning editor and columnist on leading UK national news paper The Daily Telegraph travel section since 1995, and is also a contributing editor to Condé Nast Traveller.
In what way do you think ‘the traveller’ has changed in recent years when it comes to eating and the choices they make about food when at an airport?
It’s easy to forget how check-in times have lengthened. In my experience this means more time hanging around the airport, therefore it is more likely passengers will want to sit down and eat properly. At the same time, we are now being charged for food on most flights, and the quality of in-flight catering remains low – another reason why people seem to be more inclined to invest in a decent meal before they board, especially if they have had to travel for two or three hours to get to the airport in the first place.
What is important to you when you are buying food and drink at an airport and what makes for a good experience in an airport or station bar or restaurant?
In terms of price and quality, I don’t think there is much difference between what people want at an airport compared with any other place to eat. I believe speed and service is more critical than choice – no-one minds much if there are only three varieties of pizza on the menu, but we certainly don’t want the stress of waiting for a meal when a flight is being called.
In what ways do you think airports/food and beverage have improved in the past few years?
Some of the more specialist outlets – such as Caviar House and Prunier seafood bars – have definitely improved the variety and quality on offer. But there are still too many mediocre and poor outlets at British airports.
How do you think it can be improved further?
Try the main restaurant, Altitude, at Geneva airport. You’ll see that it is possible to offer great food at a reasonable price in civilised surroundings.
What technological and communications advances at the airport have made the traveller’s life easier?
Wireless internet is the obvious answer – though not at the prices that some airports are now trying to charge. Fortunately, smart phones and a proliferation of useful apps mean that many travellers can now get around this.
What do you think the airport of the future will look and feel like for the passenger?
I wonder if we might start to see even more of a two-tier airport system – with different terminals aimed at different types of passengers or airlines. The upmarket terminals like Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and London City Airport itself, will focus on improving the customer’s experience, and offer more seamless security and immigration, better restaurants and more comfortable lounges; while the airports focusing on low-frills airlines will continue to offer a rather grim experience to passengers.