Innovation That Matters

Heathrow Airport installs Alain de Botton as writer in residence

Travel & Tourism

Airports in August are generally heaving with tourists, delayed flights and the occasional strike. London’s Heathrow Airport, however, seems to be focused on moving forward, judging from two innovative services it launched this month: first its new driverless personal transport pods, and now a writer in residence. And not just any writer: residing in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is Alain de Botton. Focusing both on the people who work at the airport and those that pass through it, De Botton’s weeklong layover at Heathrow seems to combine elements of his recent “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” and his earlier “Art of Travel”. The author won’t be idling away his time in Terminal 5’s lounges or champagne bars; seated at a desk, he’s writing a book that will be published late September. As he types, the work-in-progress is projected on a screen behind him. An excerpt published by The Faster Times: “In the cloudless dawn, a sequence of planes, each visible as a single diamond, had lined up at different heights, like pupils in a school photo, on their final approach to the north runway. Their wings unfolded themselves into elaborate and unlikely arrangements of irregularly sized steel gray panels. Having avoided the earth for so long, wheels that had last touched the ground in San Francisco or Mumbai hesitated and slowed almost to a standstill as they arched and prepared to greet the rubber-stained English tarmac with a burst of smoke that made manifest their planes’ speed and weight.” Besides publishing at the speed of light and providing Heathrow with some lovely literary publicity, the endeavour taps into two ongoing consumer trends. First off, the status stories element: passengers and staff members are invited to share their stories with De Botton, and have a chance of being immortalized in A Week at the Airport. Secondly, a generous dose of free love: Heathrow will be handing out 10,000 copies of De Botton’s diary to passengers travelling through the airport. Smart marketing move by Heathrow, and one for any other brand to be inspired by: be delightful, be relevant, be generous. (Related: Hotel offers ‘reader in residence’Airline alliance offers free audiobook downloads at airportsPersonalized inflight mags at Heathrow’s Terminal 1.) Spotted by:


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