Type to search


BLOG: The always meanwhile airport


Designers and authors Adam Scott and Dave Waddell extol the virtues of Munich Airport, pioneers in the design and management of the experience-led ‘always-meanwhile’ airport.

In the often extremely long-term world of capital works programmes, so-called ‘meanwhile-state’ planning is the temporary use of land earmarked for development.

At it’s very best, it’s where key stakeholders – local community, tenant, landlord, developer, and so on – come together to prototype ideas that inform the spatial master plan and better weave the planned development into the wider community.

Space that would usually sit fallow behind giant hoardings is thus beautifully and imaginatively repurposed as temporary markets, workspaces, galleries, or even whole high streets.

The Kings Cross development in London in the UK often held up as benchmark for the type, though there are plenty of fine examples out there.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak. There’s no reason why airports – which seem to be almost permanently engaged in the business of pouring new concrete – shouldn’t be doing the same, allowing of course for the ‘always-on’ nature of the fully-functioning transport hub, dictated by policies, teams, and practices that are designed to limit disruption to service.

There is no end product in the world of the continually improving airport, hence the term ‘always meanwhile’: that is, the idea of the airport as an ever-evolving project capable of responding to changes in circumstance and to the changing needs and wants of its travellers and other stakeholders.

For examples of airports that have got this right, one doesn’t have to look much further than the likes of Doha Hamad, Tokyo Haneda, and Singapore Changi.

However, for an airport that has so owned the process as to be an industrywide exemplar, then Munch Airport (MUC) is the master always-meanwhile magician.

MUC, to begin at the beginning, owes in large part to what it calls an ‘integrated thinking’ approach to everything it does, and which has it regularly cited as one of Germany’s best employers and sees it scoring highly on every passenger experience measure you care to name.

This all at the same time as having carried out major capital works programmes in multiple terminals, in both front-of-house and back-of-house operations, and on its transport links and parking. No wonder most airlines would give their front teeth to work with it.

For Munich, an ‘integrated thinking, responsible action’ strategy – which considers everything from governance and leadership to identity and brand, staff recruitment and training, technology and platforms, to architecture and zoning – has long been the secret behind its success.

A holistic approach, it begins with and constantly acts on an understanding that the customer sits at the centre of everything it does. This is not, we hasten to add, a piece of marketing fluff: the customer experience at Munich is a core KPI-measured business objective, and the approval and implementation of every single decision is based on that objective.

The passenger journey is conceived of as much more than a series of efficient and effective transactions. The airport champions an ‘extraordinary events’ programme, and a Customer Excellence Academy ensures that its experience-led philosophy is stitched into every level of the business.

Meanwhile, employees are actively encouraged to contribute to its innovation programmes. We could go on, but you get the idea.

MUC may be advantaged in that it is city-based, possesses much landside estate to exploit, and does not have to work with an army of third-party suppliers.

We’d be fools, however, to allow any of this to obscure the fact that it is the epitome of what it means to be a highly integrated and experience-led always-meanwhile airport, one that has become by design a destination in its own right.

Indeed, it has been so successful in achieving its aims as to now act as consultant-in-chief for the competition, selling its expertise in relocation, planning, construction, and operation to airports worldwide.

Not just the benchmark in how to create and sustain the always-meanwhile airport, it holds the IP on how to manage change – profitably, continuously, wonderfully.

About the authors
Adam Scott and Dave Waddell are authors of The Experience Book and run The Experience Course, helping companies to embed a methodology of experience masterplanning in their organisations. As experience masterplanning agency FreeState they work with airports and other transport campuses, but those mentioned in the article are not present or past clients.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *