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Best Airport Venues for Meetings & Events

By Padraic Gilligan
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GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp keep us hyper-connected. However, they haven’t managed to eliminate our primordial need for Face-2-Face encounters. The more we connect, it seems, the more we want to be connected and the ultimate fulfillment of that desire is the reassuring comfort of a handshake or a hug given in a real place with real people in real time.

Our busy contemporary lives, however, demand that we’re super-efficient with this ever-diminishing commodity: time. That’s why airports and their environs are popular places to meet. Meeting attendees can fly to a central airport hub and, often, return home on the same day, avoiding the gnawing frustration of sitting in traffic on the Van Wych Expressway or the M25 or the Grande Raccordo Anulare.

So whether you’re planning a 30 minute tete-a-tete over coffee with a colleague, a full scale board meeting with attendees from many continents or, indeed, a sales meeting for your client’s entire EMEA region, here are the airports that make it seamless for you.

Best Airport Venues for Meetings & Events

1. Frankfurt Airport

As one of Europe’s top 5 hub airports, Frankfurt is obviously a highly convenient place to meet or to run an event. The Sheraton Hotel there is fully integrated into the terminal infrastructure and provides extensive meetings and events opportunities with over 1,000 guest rooms and 60 meetings rooms of various sizes. The plenary spaces at the Congress Centre accommodate up to 800 for a formal banquet and, in fact, play host every second year to the prestigious IMEX Gala Dinner.

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2. JFK Airport, New York

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Photo Credit: JetBlue

T5, the JetBlue Terminal at JFK, is right on brand for the new generation of meetings and events professionals in our industry. This is a real “new” terminal experience with lots of informal hang-out space, great free WiFi and an abundance of power connections. JetBlue also offers up-and-coming artists a unique showcase opportunity through its “Live from T5” series. The organisers, obviously, have an ear for talent as Taylor Swift was amongst the first artists to perform there way back in 2011. The warm sound of live music as you wind your way around the terminal makes T5 at JFK a fun place to transit.

3. Vienna International Airport

Vienna is constantly in the Top 3 on ICCA’s annual rankings of meetings and events destinations and Vienna International Airport is certainly a key reason for this. Connected seamlessly to the City Centre by train, the airport also has its own convention centre easily accessible from all terminals. There are 2,000 square metres of meeting space divided over 21 rooms with maximum capacity around 600 persons for a large-scale business meeting. The hotel has 500 guest rooms. Throughout the Terminals, Vienna International Airport also offers great individual work spaces, cluster areas and easily discover power sources.

4. Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam

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Photo Credit: Schiphol Airport

With amazing transcontinental connections, Schiphol, the airport of Amsterdam, is the perfect venue for global gatherings with attendees from LATAM, EMEA, NORAM and APAC (special prize for first person to comment with full explication of the acronyms!). Besides a plethora of adjacent hotels with extensive meetings facilities, Schiphol has its own conference and meetings rooms. Branded “Exchange Avenue”, these rooms are located on the third floor above the Departures 1 area and cater for up to 80 attendees.

5. Heathrow Airport, London

Not surprisingly Heathrow Airport, London has extensive meetings and events space over its sprawling 5 terminal footprint. Regus, the global leader in on-demand meeting space, operates 8 Regus Express business lounges at the spanking new T5 facility. These each cater for up to 18 delegates. Meanwhile in and around the airport there are 208 available spaces and rooms from meetings and events, mainly located in the plethora of hotels that surround the vast airport. Connected by covered walkway to T5 is the newly built Sofitel. This on-site property has 45 meeting rooms for a total capacity of 1,300 attendees.

6. O’Hare Airport, Chicago

In US airports, where arriving and departing passengers mingle on concourses, you don’t have to go landside to meet. This means that airport executive lounges are also an option for business meetings. Both United and American offer convenient meetings spaces at their respective locations around O’Hare extensive airport infrastructure. There’s also an on-site Hilton that connects with all the terminals. It has 43 meeting rooms and a ballroom for 400 attendees. The Hilton at O’Hare has won Best Airport Hotel in the US on many occasions.

7. Changi Airport, Singapore

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Photo Credit: Changi Airport

Ranked “best airport in the world” for 4 years in a row by Skytrax, Changi Airport in Singapore is also a great airport for meetings and events. Interestingly, Changi regards the entire airport as “events space” and highlights these events – exhibitions and retail promotions – under a separate tab on its excellent website. Currently they’re showcasing Singapore Rugby Sevens with an interactive play area at the heart of Terminal 3. Last month they had “The Great American Vacation” and offered free carousel rides for kids along with candyfloss and popcorn. Other airports please copy!

8. Istanbul Ataturk Airport

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Photo Credit: Istanbul Ataturk Airport

Istanbul is Europe’s third busiest airport by passenger numbers, ranked behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. It’s the hub airport for Turkish Airlines which flies to 241 international and domestic destinations, more than any other airline. Turkish Airlines’ executive lounge in Istanbul is the perfect rendez-vous location when your executives are flying from multiple points of departure. Covering over 6,000 square meters and with a capacity for over 1,000 guests, the lounge is a unique combination of meeting facility, gourmet restaurant, entertainment zone, playground, religious gathering place and spa. There’s even a golf simulator there if you really want to show your clients how good you are with a 7 iron.

9. Berlin Tempelhof Airport

Despite its size and volume of traffic, Istanbul Ataturk airport is due to close soon as the Turkish government is currently constructing an even bigger international hub. But what happens when an airport closes? It becomes amazing events space, that’s what! At least that’s what happened in Berlin when Tempelhof – the iconic pre World War 2 airspace – closed in 2008. Its website describes it thus: “The fourth largest contiguous building in the world has an unique ambience and unimagined freedom for different events. From tradeshows and product presentations on music and sports events, gala dinners and award ceremonies to film and photo shoots.” You get large volumes of usable space and a pretty unrestricted palette of event types to pursue.

In Conclusion

Airports are natural nexus or meeting points and have been used for decades to bring folks together in a face to face setting to dialogue, discuss and debate. As airports continue to develop as integrated, mixed use developments – the aeropolis concept – their importance for meetings and events will continue.

about the author

Padraic Gilligan
Padraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua Marketing, a boutique consultancy offering marketing, training and strategy for MICE for destinations, venues and hotels. He blogs weekly on destinations and matters of interest to the Meetings Industry at Padraicino
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