Airport Experience Research - The Rise and Rise of the Airport Lounge

We increasingly live in a hybrid world. We ‘work’ when we’re at ‘home’. We ‘shop’ from our sofas. We ‘dine’ at our desks. At the airport, passengers expect to be able to shop for food, services, products and more wherever and whenever they like. The new airport needs to meet these evolved expectations accordingly. At Airport Dimensions, travelers are telling us that the lounge is set to become the retail epicentre of the airport – the place where people want to work, rest and play, but also spend.

In increasingly crowded airports, travelers see the lounge as more appealing an experience than ever and are more prepared to pay for the privilege, either directly or indirectly, to indulge here. In our recent Airport Experience research study, we found that over half of frequent travelers surveyed across the world (57%) visit a lounge at some time during their travels. A quarter of these do so because of their class of travel, while the second largest proportion (19%) use airport lounge and experience programme, Priority Pass and the same number gain entry via their elite airline status. Interestingly, with the strong post pandemic growth in leisure travel, leisure passengers are slowly displacing traditional business travelers in the lounge, happy to treat themselves as a part of their holiday. A not dissimilar number (18%) pay directly for entry.

This want to enjoy the journey is also reflected in how passengers choose to spend their time when they get to the lounge – they want to indulge themselves more than they want to work. While just over half (56%) said they chose to go to the lounge for the business facilities, a much more significant 78% go for the food and 68% opt to go to the lounge to enjoy the leisure amenities.

The desire for digital access to a range of in-lounge services is overarching, as it is across the airport. The top in-lounge digital priority was access to information about flight status, which was rated as important by 83%. Next on the list was the ability to order food and beverage (80%), followed by booking amenities, such as showers, in the lounge. While these services clearly sit at the more practical end of the spectrum, a significant two thirds (65%) said they thought it was important to be able to access the online shopping that they enjoy in their everyday lives, compared with just 12% who rated this unimportant.

A willingness to pay for services is also evident, with travelers seeking choice and the ability to personalize their airport experiences. Over two thirds (68%) say they would be happy to pay for premium food and beverage options, and again, augmenting the experience was high on the agenda for many, with over half (56%) saying they would be happy to pay for grooming and personal care or spa services.

Lounge visitors would welcome a chance to engage with leading consumer brands, and the ability to buy the products showcased. A very substantial 80% said they would like to experience different F&B products, while 73% said they would be tempted to sample perfume and cosmetics brands. 70% said that themed and sponsored brand areas would appeal and 73% would welcome the possibility to purchase the products that were displayed.

So, the line where retail ends and the lounge begins doesn’t have to be fixed, and the lounge (often regarded by airports as a facility that detracts from retail spend rather than encouraging it) can be an addition, not an alternative, to traditional travel retail. Whilst providing the best possible and more personal experience must always come first for airports and lounge operators, clearly there is an opportunity to encourage passengers to spend at a time when they tell us they are happy, relaxed and ready to spend.

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