Nov. 18, 2021

The Business Behind Airports & What It’s Like To Live In One

Turns out the massive airport Toblerone is a pretty good value

Tom Pallini, aviation reporter for Business Insider, recently wrote about his experience living at "the best airport in the world." He chats with Scott and Nora about the business of airports including how airports operate and make money, why many U.S. airports look like decaying malls, and what’s being done to improve them.


Nora Ali: In the 1950s and '60s, air travel in the US was pretty glamorous, known as the golden age of flying. Travelers dressed to the nines for flights and were greeted by hostesses, served gourmet meals, and given plenty of space to stretch our legs. But in the decades since then, flying in the US has taken a turn for the worse, with long lines, constant delays and cancellations, a lack of amenities, and inhospitable policies and fees. So today we're going to find out why so many US airports look more like decaying malls than modern transportation hubs. We'll also find out how airports make money and look ahead to the future of flying. For that, we turn to Tom Pallini, an airlines visual features reporter at Business Insider, to take us behind the business of airports.

Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that gives you a front row seat to candid conversations with some of the biggest names in business, asking them the questions you wish you could ask. I'm your host, Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm your other host, Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you stories of how business shapes our lives, today and into the future. Now please make sure your seats and tray tables are in the upright position as we prepare to take off and get down to business.

Nora Ali: Have you had any bad airport experiences that you can remember, Scott?

Scott Rogowsky: Of course. I mean, jeepers, airports are the worst. I've been stuck for hours, I've had bags lost, I mean, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for me. You fly a lot, or maybe used to, before the pandemic-

Nora Ali: Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: What are some of your experiences? Especially international? I'm curious if you've been to any of the top ranked airports. I haven't been out to Asia-

Nora Ali: You have not?

Scott Rogowsky: In my life, I haven't seen the Middle East.

Nora Ali: What? God, come on.

Scott Rogowsky: I know. I got to get there. I want to see this Changi Airport in Singapore, or Incheon in Seoul.

Nora Ali: I've been to Haneda in Tokyo, which was incredible. And also the Hong Kong International Airport.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah? Tell me about them. What's what's so great?

Nora Ali: I mean, you don't want to leave. There's so much to do. I'm pretty sure I went to some resting space and took a shower when I was in Hong Kong. The Dubai Airport is incredible. Not all my experiences have been good though flying internationally. One quick story for you, Scott. I was flying to the Christchurch Airport in New Zealand and I got stopped by a dog because I had mini dried sausages in my backpack from a CVS in Downtown Manhattan. If that was the end of the story, whatever, who cares. Guess how much I had to pay because I accidentally smuggled in dried meats?

Scott Rogowsky: Oh, my goodness.

Nora Ali: Just give me a magnitude.

Scott Rogowsky: In New Zealand dollars?

Nora Ali: In New Zealand.

Scott Rogowsky: Do they use the Australian dollar? I don't know what the New Zealand currency is-

Nora Ali: New Zealand dollars, but let's do it in US dollars.

Scott Rogowsky: Okay. US dollars.

Nora Ali: US dollars.

Scott Rogowsky: Fine for smuggling in dried meats from a CVS. I'm going to assume it was more than you paid for those dried meats.

Nora Ali: Yes, by magnitudes.

Scott Rogowsky: I'm going to say 3.4 million.

Nora Ali: How did you know?

Scott Rogowsky: Is that it?

Nora Ali: I had to wire my entire family...No, I'm just kidding. No. What do you think?

Scott Rogowsky: What was it?

Nora Ali: No, what do you think? Actually.

Scott Rogowsky: 100 bucks.

Nora Ali: It was three times that. $300 down the drain for dried sausages.

Scott Rogowsky: Wow. I was closer with the 3.4 million.

Nora Ali: Yes. I also get put into quarantine when I come back from international travel at US airports, because my name happens to be on the No Fly List-

Scott Rogowsky: You're kidding?

Nora Ali: Some other person with my name and similar birthday...Yeah. So I've had a lot of suboptimal airport experiences, for sure. For sausages, and for my name. It's happened to be several times. It's just a bunch of other people who look like me, brown people are coming back from international travel, so it's-

Scott Rogowsky: That's got to make you feel great, huh?

Nora Ali: Yeah, I feel welcomed.

Scott Rogowsky: Welcome. Makes you feel welcome in your home country.

Nora Ali: Yes. But we did talk to our guest about even how the airport experiences themselves in the US just don't even compare to the international experiences.

Scott Rogowsky: No. I might move to Singapore, Nora, after this conversation. Just live in the airport there.

Nora Ali: Yes, yes. Oh, totally. Just be Tom Hanks. All right, let's get to it. Here is our conversation with Tom Pallini, aviation reporter at Business Insider.


Scott Rogowsky: How are you, Tom?

Thomas Pallini: Good, thanks for having me.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. This is a one that we were excited to do. I think we're all sort of invested in airlines because we use them so often, and they're pretty, pretty, pretty awful, and getting worse, and the experience is terrible. We just were so curious about how they work, and why they're so bad, and is there a way to make them better? So what's your background, first of all? You fly for a living?

Thomas Pallini: In the past few weeks, yes. I'm the aviation reporter for Insider and I cover the business of airlines, and byproduct of that is traveling a lot. So pretty much since August I've been on a plane a few times a month. I've had to sleep in a lot of airports recently, it hasn't been the greatest experience. Even though it's not me paying for it, I still travel on a budget, and a lot of things can go wrong, and a lot of things have been going wrong. So it's been fun, and I'm here for it, but it just, it takes a toll.

Nora Ali: We've all had bad airport/airline experiences, but you recently had a pretty good experience, I would call it a good experience, at Hamad Airport. You were stuck there for 48 hours, I think, but that airport was ranked the number one airport in the world by Skytrax. I was reading your article about it. Holy guacamole. They have a 25 meter pool, a squash court, a golf simulator. What was that experience like, and who in the world is actually using these amenities?

Thomas Pallini: It was a bit surreal when I got there, because I didn't expect to be living it. That was the one thing. It's one thing if you're planning a vacation in an airport, which a long layover can feel like 48 hours. But I get there, they tell me that, because of new regulations due to COVID, that I couldn't enter the country just yet. So they checked me into the airport hotel, and I basically just had to resign to the fact that I was going to be there a while. So I decided to make the best of it. It's really the only thing you can do in that situation, is just say, "There are worst places to be stuck, I guess." I've had to sleep in worse airports. At least this one I had a nice hotel room. So really, I mean the airport hotel is, you think of an airport hotel in the US, you're not thinking five-star accommodations. That airport hotel had the benefit of being a true airport hotel, and that I didn't even have to step outside to check in. It was just a few floors above the main concourse. I looked out my window and there was all people in the terminal walking around. So that was the first thing, was it was a very nice hotel. Attached to that hotel was a gorgeous spa, I mean rivals anything that I've seen at a hotel, even at nice resorts here in the US, so that you could book massages. You could go for a swim, as you said, a beautiful lap swimming pool, right above the main concourse. The golf simulator. For people staying at the hotel, a lot of the amenities were free, but if you were just passing through and wanted to have a swim on a long layover, you could pay some small fee, wasn't too crazy, from what I remember. It was just an airport experience unlike anything I've seen before. I spent a few hours just taking all that in, and I was working, but just seeing that this is what airports can offer was pretty impressive.

Scott Rogowsky: You're telling me that the Hamad Airport in Doha, slightly better experience and stay than the Ramada in Flushing next to LaGuardia?

Thomas Pallini: It's close. It's close. I mean, I haven't stayed at that exact Ramada, but I've stayed at enough New York City Airport hotels to know.

Scott Rogowsky: There's so much we want to discuss with you, Tom. Let's dive in deeper here on the experience of an international hotel, a top 10 ranked hotel like the Hamad, or like the Changi in Singapore, which I have never been to, but I was researching that one as well, with the largest indoor waterfall, indoor rainforests. These are being built as destinations, as fabrics of the cities themselves, as places where you don't even have to have a plane ticket, or you don't have to go through security to even visit these terminals. They're actually designed to allow tourists, and even locals, to come and enjoy, versus the US airport experiences. I mean, just how drastic is the discrepancy between the two? Try to paint the picture, if you can, for our audience.

Thomas Pallini: Sure. So the one thing that all of the big new international airports have is an abundance of space. Right? You go to some US airports, you feel closed in. Some of the remodeled terminals at JFK, they're very tiny. Low ceilings, tight hallways, no windows. You go to these airports and you have room to stretch out, right? That's the important thing. Even in Hamad, the windows were obscured by some security gates, but you had skylights overhead. So that's the one thing you notice. The second thing is, they're basically shopping malls. They want you to buy high-end products because they're cheaper than if you were buy them at your local mall, because you don't have to pay taxes on them, in most cases, if you're passing through. So you had shops in Hamad like Hublot, or I believe Gucci as well. It felt like I was in Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive, not in Middle East at an airport. But they're so important because these Middle Eastern countries and these foreign countries, they want you to come back. A lot of these airports are transit airports. Most of the people passing through these airports, whether it be in the Middle East or Singapore, they might not necessarily be staying there. So the airport is the only way to tell a traveler that's passing through the territory, "Hey, this is a place you might want to come back on your next trip." You mentioned Singapore, Changi, with the water fountain, that was a huge improvement. Hamad actually wants to do the same exact thing in their airport, but with a similar living space with plants and a tropical environment.

Scott Rogowsky: Shrubbery.

Thomas Pallini: Exactly.

Scott Rogowsky: Trees and shrubbery.

Thomas Pallini: Yeah, and the only shrubbery, I don't see much shrubbery at our airports. So if that's the one thing you take away, is travel the world, you'll see a lot of airport shrubbery.

Scott Rogowsky: But Tom, we have pigeons. We've got pigeons in JFK LaGuardia. You know? We've got some natural wildlife there, flying around.

Nora Ali: And they can't get out. They don't know how to get out. We hate airport birds. Even here domestically though, even if the experience is not as good as the international experience, there is this push, still, towards retail, where many of us have had the experience where you have to walk for a mile to get to your gate. It feels deliberate because then you have to pass through duty-free stores in some cases to even get anywhere. Does it feel like, at this point, airports are designs to favor retail sales over convenience because that's where the revenue comes from, is from those sales?

Thomas Pallini: Definitely so, and the key example is LaGuardia Airport in New York. They just opened up a brand new Terminal B, and it's gorgeous. I enjoy flying out of it, but you're absolutely right, it takes longer to get to your gate because after you go through security, you have to pass through this big shop. It adds a few minutes to your journey time. For a business to open up a storefront in an airport isn't cheap, airports need to make money too, so that's why their prices are higher and that's why they want to get you to spend the money too. It's because there's really nothing cheap about the way airports operate.

Scott Rogowsky: Forgive me for sounding like Jerry Seinfeld, but who are these people who are shopping at airports? I'll never understand it. I think he has a bit about they sell luggage at airports. Like who's buying luggage at an airport? You grab your clothes, "Forget, there's no time, just grab it. We'll get a suitcase at the airport." Honest to God, what is the economics there, and who are these people Tom? Are you one of them?

Thomas Pallini: I'm not one of them. I'm with you. I have every program in the book that lets me cut as much time out of the airport experience as possible. I don't shop in airports unless I absolutely have to. There are international visitors to the US. A lot of the currency will go further in the US, so when they make the exchange, they have a bit more money to spend. The same reason why shops on Fifth Avenue are able to make sales is the same reasons why airports able to make sales, is because there are people who are passing through there with means, and they have extra currency, because of the exchange rates, to do so. Just like I said, a lot of it's duty-free goods, so you are saving a bit money if you buy in bulk. The Toblerone, for example, at duty-free, they sell you the big package. I think you save a few dollars if you buy in bulk.

Scott Rogowsky: That's good value on the Toblerone. I find myself never more price sensitive and price conscious than when I'm in an airport.

Nora Ali: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Thomas Pallini: It's the worst form of capitalism. Where you're there, not against your will, but you don't have the option to price shop because all of the other prices are offering the exact same prices for the exact same product. I've learned to be the other way, where I know I'm in an airport and I just have to resign to the fact that I'm going to spend. So I don't go crazy, but I also don't wince as much when I have to spend $13 for a Chipotle burrito bowl that I can get in my hometown for nine.

Nora Ali: It's crazy. Let's take a quick break, Tom. When we come back, we will talk a little bit more about what you call the worst form of capitalism, i.e. how airports make money. We'll be right back.




Nora Ali: So, Tom, I understand there's three main types of revenue for airports. There's aeronautical revenue, non-aeronautical revenue, and non-operating revenue. The thing that boggled my mind the most is within the non-aeronautical revenue piece of it, a big chunk of revenue is for parking. The fact that you can't get to LaGuardia or JFK easily on the subway is mind-boggling, but again, that feels intentional. It encourages you to drive and to pay for parking, whatever it might be. Can you talk to us about maybe the incentives for these airports to make some experiences inconvenient even, like parking, to drive revenue, in that sense?

Thomas Pallini: With LaGuardia, the problem with New York's area airports is that it's hard to build new infrastructure to get to these airports. Right? We have the current debate raging on whether or not we should build the LaGuardia AirTrain, which would connect LaGuardia with the 7 Train Subway line that leads into New York City. The problem is that, if they build it, it's not going to be too convenient for people living on Long Island, and it'll be questionably more convenient for people living in the city. That's not something LaGuardia can control. There are factors outside of the airport, that it's not like they're sabotaging infrastructure projects just so they can get people to pay more for parking, but I will say that parking lots are million dollar items for airports. Even at my local airport, out on Long Island, Islip/MacArthur airport. It's a small airport, only has a handful of flights a day, three airlines fly out of there, and their parking lots make millions of dollars every year. Tens of millions of dollars every year. It's something like $14 a day is the cheapest lot. That's not uncommon. Parking lots are real estate. You see it in the city here with garages, and you see it outside every sporting stadium, is there are parking lots that have million dollar tax [inaudible 00:15:24] because that real estate is so valuable.

Scott Rogowsky: Getting back to the basics here, let's talk about who owns these airports, who's incurring these costs, and just the real basic cost revenue models of these airports. Because this is something that I'm curious about and I assume our listeners are as well.

Thomas Pallini: It differs by airport. So in Los Angeles you have, believe the name of the owner is Los Angeles World Airports, or something like that. World Airport Authority-

Scott Rogowsky: Very creative.

Thomas Pallini: Yeah. It's government organizations that run these airports. And in New York, for example, you have the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, it's a governmental organization. So they own the airports, but the terminals will be owned and managed by different companies. Right? So in New York, at JFK for example, Terminal One is a consortium of companies that operate the terminal, they control what goes on in there. Terminal Four is owned by the International Air Terminal Company, or something along those lines, IAT is the name, they control everything in that terminal. JetBlue has Terminal Five, and so on, and so forth. It really depends on the airport that you're talking about, but then each airport will have its own Air Service Development divisions. They'll be the ones that reach out to airlines and say, "Hey, we think that you should start this route. Here's the financial case that we see on our end." Then it's up to the airlines to say, "Okay, we see the value in this route, we're going to start service to your airport." But they work in tandem. The airports make the case to the airlines, and then the airlines have to see if the case works for them, and that's how they start service.

So, again, it differs each airport, how they're operated. Some airports are tiny. They only have one terminal and that terminal is operated by a private company. Some airports operate the terminals directly. It really differs.

Nora Ali: It sounds like US airports are slowly starting to become more privately owned or privately funded, from the public model at least, overall. I know in Europe privatization of airports is more widespread. So given that shift, is that good for travelers? Is that bad for travelers? Will we get better features as a result of continued privatization, do you think?

Thomas Pallini: I think privatization is always a good thing. I think it can only help. The problem is when you get to the real, airports needing hard infrastructure, there's always going to be government involvement. We saw that with the upcoming expansion of JFK. The government, whether it be the state of New York or the federal government, will always split the line, share the bill. There's an airport in New Haven, Connecticut that just got its second airline to fly there. It's a startup called Avelo, they just started flying. They're pumping in money into this airport to renovate it, but ultimately, it's the operators and the private companies that will be taking on the bill and, ultimately, the airport itself. So privatization is always a good thing, but when you really need the billions of dollars, that's when you're going to need the government to come in. But yeah, on the inside of these privately owned terminals, you are seeing improvements that are for the better.

Nora Ali: Yeah, and we saw an example of that with the $8 billion redevelopment of LaGuardia. It was a public-private partnership. Do you think we're going to see more of that, and renovating more of these airports domestically in the US so they can compare better to the wonderful international airports we discussed earlier?

Thomas Pallini: I think we're on a great path towards that. LaGuardia was a shining example of what these public-private partnerships can do. New York has famously led the way in showing how fruitful it could be when we work with private companies. So I think yes, and we're going to see more at LaGuardia itself. Delta is nearing the completion of its terminal renovation, so I think it has to be the way forward, just because we're already seeing the benefits of that. We have shining examples of how good it could work.

Scott Rogowsky: Are airports profitable?

Thomas Pallini: I don't believe they release financial earnings, I can't say for sure, but I would imagine they have to be because they seem to be thriving. With the high prices that they're charging me, I hope they are profitable.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah-

Thomas Pallini: I don't want to be paying that for nothing.

Scott Rogowsky: How much is Auntie Anne's rent? I don't want to know.

Thomas Pallini: Yeah. It's got to be sky high. We were talking about it today. People that work at these airport retail jobs fascinate me, because you have to think of all the things they go through every day just to get to their jobs. They have to park at the airport and they don't have to pay what we pay to park at the airport, but they have to park at the airport. They have to get there early because they have to go through security too. Then they have to work in the airport in a secure region, where they can't bring in water bottles or anything like that. So it's all these little things about airports that are just so fascinating in how they're able to work, but I would hope they're profitable just because of the amount that they rake in, whether it be from airlines or from retail. And on every airplane ticket, you do pay a little bit directly towards airport improvement projects. With all the revenue they're getting in, I would imagine there would have to be gross mismanagement if an airport wasn't, at least, on good financial footing.

Nora Ali: Tom, I'm curious about your take on budget airlines. Obviously airports get revenue from airlines, with landing fees, terminal rents, fuel sales, et cetera. But for budget airlines, like Spirit or Frontier, we know they're terrible experiences, they get revenue from these ancillary sales of you have to pay to bring on a carry-on, or pay to get an assigned seat. Are budget airlines good for airports, at the end of the day? Are they bringing in this new demographic of, maybe, lower income passengers that otherwise wouldn't be able to travel and now they can come and maybe spend money at the airports?

Thomas Pallini: Any new airline is going to be good for airports because every single plane that touches down is going to have to pay a landing fee, they're going to have to pay to use the terminal. They're going to have to pay, in some cases, to rent out gate space and ticket counter space. So it's not an airport's best interest to be turning away airlines unless they physically do not have the space to accommodate them. Airports are getting the same landing fee that they're getting from Frontier that they'd be getting from American, and it brings them more customers. The benefit of an airline like Frontier and Spirit is they want to get as many people into the plane as possible.

Nora Ali: We have seen though, consolidation of some of these larger airlines. Is that good or bad for airports? Is that good or bad for travelers, having these three to four major airlines, versus previously there were around 10 to 12, or more?

Thomas Pallini: Airline consolidation was big in the early 2000s, and now, you're right, United and Continental merged and now it's just United. American Airlines and US Airways formed to form American. It's something that the Department of Justice looks on very closely because of anti-monopoly laws. It's given the traveler more connectivity than ever, because when two airlines merge, their networks merge. So while you might have not been able to fly between two cities on one airline in the past, you could fly on them now.

Thomas Pallini: It's really all about how airlines use that power. In the past few years, pandemic aside, I wasn't seeing prices sky high on routes. I've only seen prices go down. That's my anecdotal experience, but I fly across the country a lot. I haven't seen airlines take advantage the way a traditional monopoly would, because they are still competing against each other. There are startup airlines. You have Breeze Airways, which is, the founder of JetBlue started a new airline, it's called Breeze Airways, and then we still have around 10 or 11 other major US airlines, all the way from the biggest American airlines down to the JetBlues and the Alaska Airs. Then the low costs, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit. So there is still a good number of these airlines keeping everyone in check, and I think the low cost airlines really do a good job at keeping the major carriers in check, especially in the domestic market. But I mean, there's no shortage of competition overseas either. American has to compete with the likes of Virgin Atlantic, let's say, on the New York to London route, or Delta has to compete with Lufthansa flying between New York and Germany. So my personal perspective is that we're not at the point yet where we have to worry about it being too non-competitive.

Nora Ali: But more airlines is better for airports though, is that correct? Because that means they can charge more fees?

Thomas Pallini: Not necessarily. If two airlines combine but they keep the same level of service to a given airport, it'll ultimately just even out.

Scott Rogowsky: We've reached cruising altitude with our conversation about the business of airports with Thomas Pallini. We're going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we're going to go even deeper into the airport revenue model, and pull back the curtain on those gnarly airline taxes and fees. Ouch. Tom, we're talking about the degradation of the flying experience in the US, the deterioration from those glamorous jet age days in the 1960s. By the way, Tom, do you see the pendular swinging back from what was full meals and, just, the white glove service that we used to have on airlines, to now barely getting a free bag of pretzels, or a biscuit, with all this cost cutting? Do you see a world where we can get back to those glory days? If you pay the thousands of dollars for a international first class ticket, then it never went away. But if you're like me and you're riding in the back, I don't think the pendulum will swing back that way anytime soon. The best you could hope for is that they have the meal choice that you want by the time they get to your row.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Some of the things that have changed since 9/11, for example. Stricter security, I imagine that's very costly for airports. Do you think we'll see more of those efficiencies in cost cutting from the security standpoint, especially given the changes we've seen in the last couple of decades?

Thomas Pallini: In the cost of every ticket, there is a, I think it's a $5, charge that's a 9/11 security fee, is what I believe they call it. It's on every ticket, you look in the fine print, it's there. So that's how we pay for the security at airports, it's part of the way we pay for it. Then we also have private companies, like CLEAR, that are saying, "Pay $129 a year, and we'll give you what you want. We'll let you cut the line." The pure fact that the government is on board with these companies that are, it's not only saying, "We'll let you keep your shoes on," but, "We'll let you physically cut the line," that's a great sign. And then we're also seeing new scanners that are cutting down the times it takes to get through security. So at some airports, and we're going to see this in a lot of the new terminals that are popping up, but we're going to have scanners that scan bags quickly. Some of the scanners let you leave your laptop in them. We'll never go back to the days of you show up two minutes before your flight and you don't have pre-check and you still make it, but TSA has been good at getting there. Then another, I don't know if it saves time, I think it might actually take longer, but you don't have to show your boarding pass at a lot of the checkpoints anymore. All you have to do is show your driver's license. They put it in a reader and it finds your boarding pass for you.

Nora Ali: You mention CLEAR, we see CLEAR, these biometric scanning devices, that sort of thing, all over the place, that's supposed to make the experience easier. What's your prediction for when we're going to see more technology like that, and biometric scanning, such that it is a totally normal part of the process? And are we in this place where people aren't opposed to scanning our faces, and maybe scanning hand prints, like the more futuristic tech for how you go through security?

Thomas Pallini: It's already here. We're seeing that with Delta. Delta Partners was an early partner with CLEAR. If you're a frequent Delta flyer, it really behooves you to sign up for clear, just because you can use it at so many Delta airports. That's why I was really hesitant not to sign up for CLEAR in the beginning, is because I wasn't seeing it when I was doing my normal travels. I wasn't going to pay more than $100 for something that I could only use once or twice, whereas a pre-check, I could use pre-check 99% of the time. But Delta has been very good with adopting biometrics. What they're doing down in Atlanta is they're letting you use the biometric data that's linked to your passport to do things like check in, and drop bags, and get tickets. We just saw them debut all of that technology in one of the terminals down there. We're seeing this at airport gates, is in JetBlue's Terminal Five at JFK, it's you're scanning your boarding pass, and then if you're on an international flight, you look at a camera and it takes your picture, and that's how you get on the plane. So the thing is going to be acceptance. Do people want to give their biometrics? The one thing about that is people always say they're against privacy, but a lot of people prefer the convenience of using these biometric things to get through the airport quicker. So that's what it will really come down to, is do people want to use this? They don't keep the data for long. I think CBP, there was a big controversy a few years ago, and CBP only said it keeps it for a few days and deletes it off the system once you're not traveling anymore, but there's going to have to be some transparency in that field if we're going to be giving this data over to airlines and government agencies.

Scott Rogowsky: I don't know, Tom. It's enough to make a guy fly private.

Thomas Pallini: If only we can be so lucky.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. What if Nora and I wanted to start our own airline? A Business Casual Airlines. Hooters did this, right? I mean, you mentioned these startup airlines that are coming up. Is this a field where we could see some disruption in the way that we've seen so many of our other daily utilities been disrupted by the tech world? Is there any world where we could see a total, not just a remodel and maybe an indoor waterfall, but truly the airport of the future, so to speak? Much like Telosa, city of the future. Tom Pallini, what does the airport in Telosa look like?

Thomas Pallini: The perfect airports exist for people who could afford to pay. You bring up flying private, and when I was a teenager in college, I worked at a private terminal at an airport. These people that fly private, well, they could show up whenever, really. I've seen people come in from overseas, and when they go through customs, a lot of the time they're not going on the plane with dogs, they're not checking every cabinet. They're going around with a radiation detector to make sure you're not bringing in anything nuclear, and I've seen this in person, and then they're checking the passports. It's, basically, as long as your documents are okay, you're good to go.  But yeah, the airport of the future exists for people that can afford to use it. Because they show up whenever, they don't have to go through security. Yes, you have to go through customs, but some of these private terminals, I mean, I think Delta's getting really close with the airport of the future where it's just, "Let me put my thumb on it, pull up all my information for me." Security's right there. Really, the ideal airport for me is just one where I don't have to walk too far. People make fun of me all the time, but I hate airports where you have to walk any sort of distance that can't be alleviated with a moving walkway. There are some airports, even at JFK, where I always get the last gate, and it's always a hike. I land off a long haul flight and I got to walk a mile just to get to my car. To me, the airport of the future is, I get off the plane, the exit's right there, my car is there. I don't have to pay $100 to park it there, and I go home. So it really depends. I'd want less time in the airport. Even though I cover aviation, I'm an aviation enthusiast, I love being at the airport-

Nora Ali: You just want to get out.

Thomas Pallini: Yeah. I've lived in a lot of airports this summer, even just last week. I don't want to spend more time than I have to in an airport. I'm very impatient that way, and that's my airport of the future, it's just one that you could spend the least amount of time in as possible.

Scott Rogowsky: Airports are going to be with us, and we'll always be talking about them, and I think we now have a lot of information about them that we didn't have before. But I do hear the little ding, the seatbelt sign has come on. It is time to return to our seats as we prepare for landing this conversation. Tom Pallini, thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights on the business behind airports with us. Hope to catch you at Hartsfield or O'Hare making a connecting flight some time soon. DFW, perhaps?

Thomas Pallini: I'll just be breezing past you, because I don't, you know?

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah.

Nora Ali: He's-

Thomas Pallini: I don't stay in one place. I prefer, the 20 minute connection time's perfect for me because I won't be waiting around too long.

Nora Ali: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Thanks Tom.

Scott Rogowsky: We'll exchange a head nod on the way to Cinnabon.

Thomas Pallini: Thank you both for having me.

Scott Rogowsky: And now, BC listeners, we want to hear from you. We're doing an episode about the business of dating, specifically those dating apps. We want to know what's your worst dating app story. Tell us about a date catastrophe. A date-tastrophe. Send us an email at, or DM us on Twitter @bizcasualpod. That's B-I-Z casual pod, with your thoughts. Thoughts.

Nora Ali: You could also leave a voice memo on our website,, or give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862 295 1135. As Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners, old and new. Drop us a line, and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from so we can hear from you in a future episode. In case you want even more Business Casual in your life, we've got a newsletter that comes out every Sunday night, which previews our upcoming episodes for the week. So if you're into that, subscribe at

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is produced by the high-flying Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production, sound design, and mixing by Daniel Marcus. Alan Haburchak is the director of audio at Morning Brew. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia, and Jessica Cohen is our chief content officer. Music in this episode from Daniel Marcus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for your ear candy. We'd love it if you would give us a great rating and a review. Nora, how do you give a review? Should we do a podcast episode about how to give reviews?

Nora Ali: I think we should. The short story is scroll down further than you think, in Apple Podcast, and then you can leave a review. Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.