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SXSW panel heralds innovation at Austin airport

South by Southwest Conference & Festivals (SXSW), an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences, is in full swing this week in Austin, Texas. The festival is famous for exploring “what’s next” in a variety of industries, and this year the spotlight shone on an area that is well known to Delaware North: airports.

kk-7500433Kevin Kelly, president of Delaware North’s travel business, joined flight industry experts from Conde Nast Traveler and ICRAVE to discuss the future of airports.

“In a city like Austin, there’s an expectation of the kind of food you’re going to get,” said Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of ICRAVE, the studio that designed Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Though airport food did not initially meet that expectation, companies such as Delaware North have turned that around.

According to Kelly, Delaware North’s operation at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) has become entrenched in the city’s identity, offering iconic Austin foods such as breakfast tacos, Amy’s Ice Creams and Salt Lick BBQ.

“We really wanted something innovative for Austin, and when you think of sense of place, Lionel’s group can take the community, in this case Austin, and bring it to the airport to make it a seamless gateway,” Kelly said.

And according to Barbara Peterson, senior aviation correspondent for Conde Nast Traveler, it’s not just about the food. Airports also need to offer more retail and other activities. At ABIA, Delaware North sponsors a first-of-its-kind live music program – especially fitting in a city that bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”

“[Designing airports is] an opportunity to actually create a compelling experience that’s commensurate to what your time in Austin [is like],” Ohayon said. “Your time in the airport should be a part of that story.”