For airlines, airport lounges are a great way to build their brand and increase customer loyalty. However, do travelers really think the lounge experience is valuable anymore? Many lounges feel dated and don’t meet the expected standard of luxury. Others that have been upgraded over the past few years often tend to feel overcrowded. It’s fair to say that the lounge experience is hit or miss. Even with some upgrades, the fundamental issue is that lounges are not particularly attractive to anyone because they cater to everyone.
Different segments want different things from the lounge experience. As a business traveler, there isn’t much value in free veggies, hummus and a Bud Light. Business travelers are looking for a quiet place to work, so a lounge with noisy kids or friend group is no different than being in the general waiting area of an airport. For families travelling with young children, being stuck in a cubbyhole for two hours with no entertainment is more stressful, as you’re trying not to disturb the business travelers. They want a space where they can relax and where their families can enjoy their experience. And with many airports upgrading their food options and waiting areas, paying for lounge access could seem even less valuable.
Airlines have a great opportunity to improve their lounge experience for customers. Understanding the different customer segments and their needs, and tweaking their lounge experience to meet these needs, could be a step in the right direction.
Here a few things airlines can do to better focus their offering:
- Designate lounges as “business” or “leisure” lounges, especially at hubs where airlines have multiple lounges. The physical product could be designed to better meet the needs and preferences of the business or leisure segment. Airlines could even consider leveraging concepts such as installing convertible furniture to convert lounges as per segment demand (by time of day, day of the week or season).
- Tag business lounges as “quiet zones” with convenient spaces to work, easy-to-access Wi-Fi and sound-proof booths to take conference calls. Potentially even serve food and drinks at workstations. Leisure lounges could cater to families with kid-friendly food like pizza, chicken nuggets and carrots, play areas or children’s programming on TVs.
- Offer a family rate for leisure lounge passes for four to five people that include food, entertainment and maybe even a small tchotchke for the kids on their way out, and a leisure rate for adults that includes catered food and top shelf alcohol. For business travelers, in addition to a lounge subscription, offer a one-time corporate rate that includes access to a phone booth, quick-serve food options and good and easy internet connectivity.
These are just a few ideas, but airlines can do so much more to sharpen their lounge value proposition and in turn further strengthen customer loyalty.