OTG Management, an airport concessions firm based in New York City, plans to expand its test pilot of encouraging travelers to borrow complimentary iPads at a few North American airports.
There are more than 2,000 iPads in operation. Yet when the company has fully deployed its program, its set of 7,000 iPads will be the second-largest consumer facing iPad offering after Apple retail stores themselves.
The OTG concept is simple: Persuade travelers waiting in airport lounges to borrow the company's free iPads that comes with free WiFi. Users can surf the Internet, play games, or order food, beverages, and other last-minute concessions like magazines for walk-up delivery to their seat. (OTG owns the participating concessions.)
A built-in app delivers steady alerts and updates about flight status so a passenger doesn't accidentally miss their departure. The alert service, which requires users to punch in their flight number, is optional.
Passengers are encouraged to put away their own tablets by offering free charging at power ports are available at every seat.
So far, the company has installed hundreds of iPads in 80% of the gate area at terminals C and D of New York's LaGuardia Airport, concourse G at Minneapolis Airport, and the Fetta Panini Bar and Heirloom Bakery Café in terminals 1 at Toronto Pearson Airport.
The company has concessions at 10 North American airports, which are the airports that will be getting iPads next. These include Philadelphia (except terminal E), Washington, DC's Ronald Reagan National Airport, Chicago O'Hare's Terminal 2 and 3, Orlando's Airside 1/3 and 4, Boston's Terminal C, and Tuscon's West and East Concourse.
To find out some more about the program, Tnooz spoke with chief technology officer Albert Lee.
Are you planning any partnerships with other travel companies, such as online travel agencies, on-board ancillary retail companies like GuestLogix, global distribution systems, or day-of-travel apps like TripIt and GateGuru?
Not yet, as we're still fine-tuning the system. But that's the direction we're ultimately heading in.
We eventually want people to be able to order their meal or bottle of water or reading material and have it ready for them at the gate to retrieve after they pass through security, and we want to work with partners who can make that ordering in advance possible.
Right now, we're strictly our own system working on post-security sales.
No one else has tried this at such a scale. We're still learning what works and what doesn't, and we've had to socialize some new behaviors in our airport vendors, to get them to delivery food promptly.
At LaGuardia, the traditional rows of seating at gate areas were replaced with cafe-style seating, with mini-tables and bar-height stools. The company claims seating density hasn't changed, though some passengers claim it's harder to find a private space.
OTG paid Delta Airlines $50 million to remake the terminal, plus a share of all future concession sales, in its contract for exclusive ownerships of the shops and restaurants in the wing, which it rents from Delta.
Images: Above, at LaGuardia airport, courtesy of Nick Vivion. Below, courtesy of OTG Management.