Airport lounges step up their game to serve millennials, solo travelers

 Millennials and those adding leisure to business trips are growing segments for the travel industry. Meeting the needs and expectations of these groups is an ongoing task for airlines, especially when it comes to airport lounges and amenities. By focusing on technology, convenience and personalization, airlines are finding ways to keep travelers coming back for more.

“As millennials are used to having choice and convenience -- in other words having it their way -- this poses a big challenge for airlines, fairly conservative organizations that are either middle of the road or cheap and cheerful, to become truly customer-centric,” says Raymond Kollau, founder of AirlineTrends.

Airport lounges are offering access through airline loyalty programs, special pass programs and even single-visit passes. “One of the first perks of elite status is normally lounge access, even when you’re flying economy,” writes Harry Guinness for Popular Science. Similarly, Priority Pass provides travelers with access to 1,300-plus lounges worldwide, for a fee.

Making improvements

“In recent years, both airline lounges as well as airport food and beverage outlets have been improved significantly, both in terms of comfort, atmosphere and the quality of food and drinks on offer,” Kollau said.

Solo travel is a trend that is crossing generations, and for Gen Z, travel ranks as more important than buying technology or food and beverage experiences, according to Forbes. This is driving demand for technology that makes the travel experience more enjoyable.

“Airports and airlines are all innovating along the lines of providing passengers a more hassle-free, convenient, journey, as well as improving the comfort and experience of physical spaces such as lounges, restaurants and gate areas,” Kollau said.

Kollau cites “digital innovation that empowers passengers,” such as real-time information, as easing the way for travelers and helping to reduce stress during travel.

Bringing in convenience, personalization

Ways to access airport lounges have expanded in recent years, going beyond access only for those flying business or first class. The lounges themselves, meanwhile, have incorporated technology to enhance customer service.

“Another interesting innovation in terms of convenience is the option for passengers to pre-order food and beverage at the airport via the airport or airline mobile app and pickup their order as they head for the gate,” he explains. “One such company, Grab, has partnered with airports in the US and the UK to integrate their pre-order service into the airport's apps. In the US, Grab has also partnered with American Airlines.”

Plaza Premium Group is expanding the concept of pay-per-use airport lounges across Asia, with a stated mission to make travel better. The company has partnered with a host of top airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, in addition to American Express.

“There is a growing number of different lounge formats, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach,” Kollau said. “A good example is Air Canada, who recently rolled out a domestic Cafe Lounge at Toronto Airport, which takes a cue from millennial-focused hotels such as Moxy, CitizenM and Aloft by creating a cafe-like setting which includes a grab-and-go wall with sandwiches and healthy beverages. Air Canada has also its regular Maple lounges, plus a premium Signature lounge for travelers flying in business class internationally.”

Related stories: