Is it just a waiting room, or something more?..
As someone who spends an awful lot of time in airports, and reads even more comments about the various offerings – I asked myself – what makes a good airport lounge? Is it the food, facilities, showers, beverages, design? And if every lounge has at least similar amenities, what makes travelers fall in love with one, and despise the other. Here are a few distilled thoughts on the subject.
A great lounge hides people. When you’re sold the dream of elite frequent flyer status or tranquil lounges, walking into a convention center sized space full of people, all seated in rows is hardly the vision. I think a great lounge hides people. You’ll have divider walls, different rooms, varied seating, color schemes and art and anything that makes spaces look personable.
If you’ve ever been to Doha, you’ll know flights come in at the oddest of hours. When facing back to bank long haul flights, you just want a great shower and a nap – after some biryani of course. Qatar easily offers some of the best airport shower suites in the world, with their Doha lounge. And their many nap rooms and quiet areas with couches allow travelers to curl up, re charge and unwind in private, divided spaces. Any great lounge anticipates travelers feelings and reverse engineers the passenger experience. And if you can’t anticipate power ports, what good are you?
Why do people hate British Airways lounges and love Cathay Pacific lounges? If they both serve champagne, have printers, views, meeting facilities and showers and comfy chairs what’s the actual difference? The instantly definable factor is style. Sitting in a Cathay Pacific lounge, you’d be excused for believing you’re in a nice boutique hotel. In a British Airways lounge, you feel as if you’re in a space designed to be a waiting room lounge, which therefore makes you realize you’re just in a waiting room, lounging.
Some people hate giving up their cozy corner spot to have a spot to eat in the dining room. After all, the full menu is only served there – and travelers get hungry. Lounges such as Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse excel by customizing service. If you want the full menu anywhere in the lounge, you can get it. If you’d like to pop over to the brasserie to mix your wait up, you’ll get a waiter service feel, but it’s all stuff you could’ve ordered from the waiter service at your seat. The same goes for their cocktail bar. You can get the stuff anywhere, but if you want to sit at the bar, that’s cool too.
Delays, cancellations – they happen. Having highly qualified staff, perhaps with extra privileges to assist and rebook passengers and lounge customers can make an immense customer experience difference. Why haul passengers off to far away boarding gates when you can just proactively help customers in the lounge? Having agents that can waive draconian fees, force upgrades or perform other tasks, all from the comfort of the lounge is glorious.
I love a lounge that’s unlike any other. Perhaps this location offers a menu no other lounge does, or this one has a champagne not found elsewhere – whatever it may be, anything which makes a lounge definitive and unique turns travel into a treasure hunt. The mundane experience gives way to the “ooh, this one has ____”. Look no further than any Qantas First Class lounge. They’re probably the only lounges I really would pay to eat in, outside of the airport.