LVIA Retains New Concessionaire

by | Jun 27, 2023

Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

Lehigh Valley International Airport is bringing in a new concession operator that will sell national and local food, beverages, and gifts.

Tailwind Hospitality will start operating concessions at LVIA on Sept. 1. Its offerings will include food from Zekraft, which has three Lehigh Valley restaurants, and local craft beers. The gift shop will include regional favorites. National brands will include Which Wich, a sandwich chain.

Thomas Stoudt, executive director of the airport Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA), said the airport’s 10-year deal with First Class Concessions expires as of Aug. 31. That gave LVIA an opportunity to try something new.

Providing food and beverages at regional airports is challenging because the flow of customers is dictated by airplane departures. Darren Betters, director of business development for the authority, pointed out during Tuesday’s airport authority meeting that “The world of concession operators for airports this size is pretty small.”

“Airport concessions are a little bit different,” Stoudt said after the meeting. “They operate around a flight schedule versus set daily hours.”

Stoudt said Tailwind made a good impression and the authority heard good reviews about the company from other airports. Tailwind operates at 39 airports in 23 states. Its clients include airports in Erie, Pennsylvania; Amarillo, Texas, and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Tailwind will invest $2 million in capital improvements as part of its 15-year contract at LVIA. One big change will be moving the airport bar into the middle of the terminal. That will provide more seats and a new look.

“This is an exciting opportunity that allows us to redefine the space,” Colin Riccobon, LNAA’s director of government and public relations, said.

“They’re going to have more food and beverage options with a Lehigh Valley flavor,” Stoudt said. The focus will be on quick food and beverage options, he said.

Tailwind started as a delicatessen in 2001 at the Aspen, Colorado, airport. In 2005, it took over the concessions at Wilmington (North Carolina) International Airport. Its corporate offices are in Wilmington and Denver, a destination recently added to the LVIA roster.

Betters said Tailwind will seek to retain employees of First Class Concessions.

The airport is on track for its new terminal connector and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint to open in August. That project, supported by federal and state grants, will help move passengers through the airport faster.

Passenger traffic at LVIA in May was 73,192, down 12% versus May of 2022, as airlines pull back on some routes in response to federal scrutiny.

Stoudt said airlines have reduced some operations to make sure they meet their schedules. The Department of Transportation has been monitoring airline performance closely after an epidemic of flight delays and cancellations in 2022 that angered flyers.

“Major airlines have reduced capacity in their schedules,” he said, to ensure that they have crews and equipment to serve their routes. He expects the capacity issue to be resolved when summer ends.

LVIA continues to set records for cargo, Stoudt told the Board of Governors. Cargo was up 36% over May 2022, which was also a record-setting month. So far this year, 31% more cargo has moved through the airport compared to 2022.

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority operates Braden Airpark in Forks Township and Queen City Airport in Allentown, in addition to Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township (Lehigh County).