How Changing Consumer Expectations Are Causing Shifts in Airport Lounge Usage

Feb. 22, 2018

In the first six months of 2017 the airline industry experienced a 12-year high in global passenger traffic growth (7.9 percent) according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). As airports grow busier, the way travelers are using airport lounges is changing. An increasing number of passengers are seeking out the calm haven of an airport lounge. For example, in just the first two months of 2017, the Airport Lounge Development (ALD) network of lounges has experienced an over 70 percent increase in guest volumes year over year.

Even in the midst of these changes, what remains the same is the expectation of an elevated airport experience upon entering a lounge. Here’s how airport lounge access is shifting, the demands of consumers are changing, and why offering premium experiences results in the largest ROI when it comes to customer satisfaction:

The democratization of airport lounge access

Lounge access was once reserved for only the most elite travelers, those flying first class or who flew enough to have accumulated an elite status. Nowadays, that’s no longer the case. Even as airlines make it more challenging to achieve elite status, more travelers than ever are being introduced to the airport lounge experience. This is thanks to, for example, credit card perks like membership in the world’s largest lounge access program, Priority Pass and consumers purchasing lounge day passes directly at the airport.

Rising expectations for a digital lounge experience

The entire airport experience is becoming digitized and today’s frequent flyers have a strong desire for a seamless digital experience at the airport that caters to the "digital flyer." From the very moment a passenger enters the terminal doors, digital tools and technologies are playing an increasingly important role. This comes in the form of everything from biometric enabled self-service check-in facilities to mobile phone applications designed to help navigate through airport processes.

A focus on customer personalization

Airport lounges are also looking to change the ways they interact with travelers based on traveler demand for an individualized consumer experience. Research by ICLP found that there is an opportunity to increase personalization of communication between airports and travelers. Airports are giving passengers free public Wi-Fi, but only 48 percent are collecting data from the passengers using it. Eighty-six percent of passengers are willing to share that personal information, but only 27 percent of airports are using customer data to personalize their communications.

Customers now expect companies to know them and their preferences. Business travelers, especially, have come to expect a seamless experience at airport lounges that meets their business needs. They depend on the work stations, satellite TV, free newspapers and magazines, meeting rooms, and conference phones that lounges offer in order to make sure they can still complete a full workday whilst traveling. That’s why at Airport Lounge Development we have specific Productivity and Privacy Zones in our lounges where business travelers can focus on work and take calls.

Whenever possible, airport lounges should look to personalize their communications with guests and remember their individual preferences because personalized, relevant offerings positively influence the consumer experience.

The offering of premium experiences

Travelers expect airport lounges to offer an oasis away from the noisy, crowded gate areas and lounges should hire and train their staff members to deliver exceptional hospitality. For example at The Club airport lounge offerings by ALD, guests are greeted by name with a smile upon arrival and throughout their experience in a lounge, they become a guest in our home, rather than merely a passenger passing through. Food and beverage options should be all inclusive, from the buffet to premium beverages, including locally sourced beers and wines.

As airport traffic continues to get more jammed, with air travel passenger demand expected to double over the next 20 years, access to airport lounges will increasingly be seen as a must-have when traveling. The value of a shared-use or common-use lounge provides the perfect solution for airports looking to meet the needs of the growing demand for a lounge experience. As consumers shift their expectations around lounges, airports and lounge providers will find increasing success by offering premium, personalized experiences that suit the savvy traveler.

Nancy Knipp is the Senior Vice President at Airport Lounge Development.

About the Author

Nancy Knipp | Senior Vice President

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