Flooring selection is critical in an airport, affecting passengers’ comfort levels and serving as a gateway into the country. Xander Okhuizen and Jessica Fayers of Brintons Carpets explain why the company’s Axminster broadloom carpet is ideally suited to the challenges of an international terminal.

"Which airport do you want to be delayed in for six hours?" asks Xander Okhuizen, APAC director at Brintons Carpets. "An airport that is cosy and warm; one that keeps noise to a minimum? Or a noisy one with hard flooring?"

It’s not a difficult question to answer. While domestic terminals can get away with a somewhat functionalist approach, international terminals need to be equipped for passengers who may be waiting there a while. This means going beyond the bare essentials, and creating a space suited to a stop-over. Future Airport Asia sits down with Okhuizen and Jessica Fayers, regional sales manager for Asia, to see exactly how Brintons is taking ‘on the ground’ experience to new heights.

Why is it important to have the right flooring in airports?

Xander Okhuizen: Domestic terminals are often treated like a bus terminal because, usually, when a flight arrives you’re leaving again in 30 minutes. But, in an international airport, you may have hours to kill, so the environment is a lot more important. Flooring is the largest-usage material within an airport’s interior design, and can help shape passengers’ comfort levels for the better or the worse.

How exactly does the right flooring affect airport passengers?

XO: Pick a plush, attractive carpet and passengers will feel at home. Carpet reduces foot fatigue as passengers walk around; it dampens noise, traps allergens and encourages people to spend longer in the terminal, increasing revenue in the process. Conversely, hard flooring can make passengers feel less relaxed. They can become disinclined to wander around and this will reduce the money spent in concession areas. Not to mention safety issues, such as the possibility of slipping.

What should operators look for in a carpet?

XO: Not all carpets are made alike, and operators need to decide which attributes they require. Plain, office-style carpet tiles are popular in some quarters, largely because they are cheap and perceived as being easy to replace. But this is a short-sighted view. You can’t maintain plain carpets. If you’ve got plain carpets in your office, everything that falls to the ground you can see. With busy designs, you don’t see the little things that fall to the floor. A high-contrast design can be extremely elegant, beautiful and rich.

It sounds like the design trends we see in hospitality are making their way into aviation.

XO: Absolutely. We’re seeing design trends in fashion feature heavily in hospitality. If you book a hotel room, an impression is made within seconds of entering it – if you see a stain on the floor it’s a dirty, cheap hotel, independent of how much you paid. It’s the same with airports. It’s the entrance or departure to a country, and tells you something about that country. Do you want to have a cheaper, office-style carpet or something that makes a statement?

Can you tell us more about Brintons?

XO: Brintons was founded in 1783, and is now the largest woven carpet manufacturer in the world. We are best known for our range of commercial and bespoke carpets for use within public spaces. We have carpeted high-profile buildings across the globe, from The White House to Buckingham Palace. Particularly in Asia, airports are a key area of expertise.

Which airports around Asia have you already worked with?

Jessica Fayers: We’re well-known for carpeting Singapore’s Changi Airport, Hong Kong Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, as well as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore Airports. Our Axminster broadloom carpets, which are made of 80% wool and 20% nylon, have unlimited design opportunities and give more of a hospitality feel, which is why Brintons was chosen to carpet these airports.

What makes Brintons different?

XO: Our broadloom carpet is made predominantly from British wool, making it highly durable and suited to the heavy foot traffic of a terminal. This gives it unparalleled longevity, eliminating the need for frequent replacements and saving money over time.

JF: Brintons is the cheapest solution in the long run. Carpets often last ten years, and we have examples of carpets performing well in an airport for over 20 years, whereas a cheaper product can look bad after just three months.

Is softer wool not more desirable in a carpet?

JF: The strain on an airport carpet is different to that of a hotel, home or office, and not everyone can engineer a carpet that can withstand the volumes of foot traffic that there is in an airport. With soft wool, when people walk on the carpet, it will become flat and look old quickly. The wool that we use is coarser and more durable, so the carpet looks new and fresher for longer.

How exactly is Brintons taking the on-ground experience to new heights?

XO: Aside from their superior performance characteristics, our carpets are stunningly designed. With our new high-definition weave technology, we can use up to 32 colours in a single carpet design and can even weave photorealistic carpets. What better way to advertise your city than with an image of its skyline?

JF: Brintons Axminster carpet is designed to create a welcoming atmosphere for incoming guests and a warm farewell to departing passengers. We give you the opportunity to make your airport the start of the destination rather than just a transit point en route to it. What could be more welcoming than making passengers feel that they’ve already arrived home?