Travel in itself is stressful and with waking up early and running through the airport to just sit and wait having a spa nearby to freshen up sounds like a great idea! There are several airport spas popping up at hubs around the country and you’d be surprised at how popular, affordable and chic they are.
Increasingly, airports are vying to be your go-to beauty destination. As they transition from transportation hubs to full-on shopping malls with chic boutiques, name-brand retailers and restaurants affiliated with celebrity chefs, more airports also are welcoming spa and salon businesses that help passengers glam up, too. The newest on-the-fly beauty services go well beyond the typical chair massage. Travelers at Chicago O’Hare can choose a walk-in or pre-booked “back facial” (an upper-back acne treatment) at the recently renovated Terminal Getaway Spa. LaGuardia fliers can try a shine-enhancing hair glaze and blowout at WT GO, a spinoff of the upscale New York salon Warren-Tricomi that opened in January. Meanwhile, men seeking old-school pampering can pop into the two-year-old barbershop at Buffalo Niagara International Airport for a hot-towel shave and a few minutes in the massage chair.
Not exotic enough for you? Try a fish pedicure at Wellness Oasis at Singapore’s Changi Airport, which involves plunging one’s feet into a pool full of callous-munching fish. Or, if you decide your bikini line needs immediate tending, “We’re ready, and the wax is hot,” said Adeline Moya, vice president of business development at Be Relax, a French chain with 38 locations world-wide including airports in North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia (its name is a slightly awkward translation of a French idiom).
Beauty is just the latest development in the continuing evolution of airports that began after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when heightened security measures required travelers to arrive much earlier than they had before. After the security logjam comes the seemingly endless wait known in airport-speak as “dwell time,” a perfect opportunity for businesses to find profitable ways to amuse their concourse captives. The travel and retail industries are hoping to grab a piece of the $439 billion “Wellness Tourism” market, a travel category that includes beauty and which in 2013 grew at a faster rate than tourism overall, according to a study by the Global Wellness Institute, a Miami industry group.
This year, XpresSpa has added seven new spots at various airports. Meanwhile, its competitor, Be Relax, will have 11 new locations by the end of 2015, including Boston Logan, Toronto Pearson and Washington Dulles. A 3,000-square-foot branch is slated to open at Dubai International Airport in early 2016. Retail stores are getting in on the trend, too: Estée Lauder last year opened a 5,320-square-foot boutique at Detroit Metropolitan Airport; aside from selling its brands’ products, the store includes services like the “Arrive Hydrated” skin-care consultation, which uses products from the prestige line La Mer. Benefit recently discontinued its Sydney Airport brow service but still does brows at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, and Auckland Airport, New Zealand.
Fliers can also go the do-it-yourself route with beauty vending machines, which started showing up at airports about two years ago and have only multiplied since. Vending machines from 3FLOZ dispense travel-size beauty and grooming items, while Benefit Cosmetics’ “Glam Up & Away” kiosks sell mascara, blush and lip color and have mirrors on the side so travelers can touch up right after
buying. Nail-polish brand Essie has vending machines at five U.S. airports, letting bored travelers give themselves manis at the gate.
Travelers also often assume beauty services at airports cost more than those on the outside. That isn’t necessarily the case. Blowouts at WT GO in the XpresSpa in La Guardia’s Terminal C run $45 to $95 (the pricier version includes the glaze treatment); blowouts at Warren-Tricomi’s regular salons are $65 to $100. A basic XpresSpa manicure costs $30, about a third more than the national average, but
a haircut at the Old Fashioned Barber Shop at Buffalo Niagara is just $15—which might explain why some regular clients are locals who drive to the airport for a cut.
Still, some services just don’t fly. At Terminal Getaway Spa, which has locations in Chicago, Orlando and Charlotte, the most popular service remains that old airport standard: A 20-minute, $42 chair massage. Women business travelers tend to decline facials, because they’re already made up for the day, said Marko Iglendza, the chain’s founder and CEO. Nor does Terminal Getaway offer blowouts. “Say you’re flying to a meeting,” Mr. Iglendza said. “Would you really go to the airport to have your hair blown out? You might be late; there might be traffic. Would you really risk it?”
“There are two things you can do to waste time in an airport: get drunk or get your nails done,” she said. “I didn’t think arriving where I was going drunk was going to work.” Ha! Well put ma’am, well put.
So have you put the airport spa scene to the test? Share the services you’ve seen or tried and what you think with us on Twitter or Facebook using hashtag #airportspa.