Terminal 3 at Heathrow

heathrow A captive audience is valuable; firms and shop owners around the globe work desperately to get people to give them "just 10 seconds." This is why Super Bowl commercials are so pricey; they're shown to a huge audience of captive viewers. That said, Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport takes the cake for the biggest consumer trap in the world. If Swoopo.com is in the lowest circle of rent-seeking hell, Terminal 3 is in the one just above it. It's the only airport terminal I've ever seen where the rents are so high that even McDonald's can't compete. Terminal 3 does one simple thing that I've never seen at any other airport: they don't tell you what gate your flight leaves from until a few minutes before you're supposed to board. The passengers have to sit in the terminal lobby, in front of all the duty free shops, until their plane's ready (for me, this was 4 hours). And these are rich, international passengers, Saudi oil princes and high-power business executives, in the world's busiest layover. There's nothing to do in this lounge that doesn't involve spending money, besides using the bathroom. People are generally ready to spend money in airports; Terminal 3 has all of the popular upscale Western brands (all the alcohol you want, D&G, Burberry etc), and travelers might have forgotten to get gifts while abroad. Furthermore, the "duty free" tag is a popular lure, even though the pound and the high rents pretty much eliminate any savings from buying there. I'm surprised, and grateful, that this business model hasn't spread to other airports.

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