As Priority Pass passed the 1000 club milestone this past year, the pace of growth often eclipses the fact that we’ve been at this for 25 years. You might have read our brief history of some of the changes in the commercial aviation industry over the last few decades. The journey’s been long, but steady and exciting as we shape the airport lounge experience to be more of a lifestyle extension than a destination. Priority Pass members have more choices than ever before, across 500 cities in over 130 countries. In addition to traditional airport lounges, we now feature alternatives like, boutique airport accommodations and new dining options. Think about it: Over the last several decades we’ve seen the airport experience go from being airline-centric to one that’s more traveler focused. We’ve shifted lounge exclusivity from being something only the airlines controlled to an achievement that can be enjoyed, regardless of who you fly or what class of service you’re in.
BEEN THERE. DONE THAT.
Did you ever wonder why the largest airlines boast about the number of destinations they fly to around the world when you’re probably only interested in going to one or a couple destinations for your next trip? “We fly to over 200 destinations around the world,” they say. And you may respond with, “But I only need one.” You might only need one destination but corporate travel departments definitely would be interested to know about all of them. Having the reach to go around the world means passengers have more choices with a familiar brand. It’s more about being there for you when you need to be somewhere than it is about the total number of locations. The same could be said about airport lounge memberships. Now that we’ve spanned the globe and included new and interesting experiences for our traveling members, we can’t rest on our laurels. Air travel is still a stressful toil for many. We get that. That’s why being everywhere you need us to be is a quest we share.
Until 25 years ago, airlines dominated the club concept until Priority Pass changed the business by freeing air travelers from the airline and class requirements for lounge access. Priority Pass recognized that these cherished spaces dutifully bridged the gap between the service passengers received in the air and their experience on the ground. Over the last 5 years we’ve seen competition grow for airline passenger dollars and loyalty and Priority Pass has once again led the way by expanding the number of lounges available around the world. But there is more to come.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
We know airport lounges aren’t always accessible and it can be frustrating to be at an airport that doesn’t offer lounge access, or lacks one you have a membership to. As we look to the future of the airport experience, lounge access will continue to be a core component, but we also know that travelers will be seeking more to make their journey fit their travel lifestyle.
- Alternative Options: Organic growth and new partnerships will not only give members access to more lounges around the world, but there will be new options. These will include boutique mini-stay accommodations, special discounts, and dining privileges at various airports. These lounge alternatives help round out the travel experience by matching options to a member’s needs at a given time.
- Complementary Partners: The airport environment is they key part of a traveler’s journey, but so much goes on within an average airport terminal that stress and chaos often overwhelm the experience. Priority Pass is constantly seeking to unlock new opportunities for making a journey as stress-free as possible. This takes a forward-thinking approach toward enlisting partners whose businesses play a complementary role in the travel experience. Partnering with merchants, retailers and airport operators will widen the scope of offerings that Priority Pass members will enjoy in the coming years.
- Digital Innovation: For our lounges branded The Club, we take pride in creating fresh, modern and pleasant spaces to work and relax in, often from the ground up. Priority Pass is committed to innovation and that means not only embracing technology like the user-friendly digital access card, but also recognizing the way members travel as a blueprint for future plans.
Graham Richards is the Director of Strategic Network Development for Airport Lounge Development, a sister company to Priority Pass. Richards’ team seeks out new opportunities to expand lounge options for Priority Pass members—an effort that relies heavily on forming positive relationships with airport operators.
You might be surprised to learn that lounges are one of many competing interests when it comes to acquiring airport space. Airports think of other retail options before considering airport lounge space. Richards considers this one of his biggest challenges. “We’re focused on increasing the number of lounges we have globally, particularly at locations that currently lack a lounge option for travelers, but airport space is in high demand and there are lots of different parties interested in the limited space,” he said.
Travelers are demanding more ways to improve their airport experience. They want many options from retail and dining to spa services and more. “The airport is noisy, confusing and often difficult to navigate. Our focus is on making the guest experience more rewarding by building our lounges to include services and amenities that match what the guest needs, be it a space to relax, work or even socialize,” he said. This brings us to an important word that he uses frequently when describing what travelers really seek. Hospitality. “It’s not just about getting away from the gate or the crowded terminals,” he points out. “It’s about wanting hospitality.”
Richards likes to describe the lounge footprint in terms of zones as his team considers building the ideal space. Realizing that guests have different reasons for visiting a lounge, besides simply getting away from crowds, he refers to each zone based on guest activities: A Replenishing Zone, a Productivity Zone, and a Relaxation and Refreshment Zone. If these sound more like what high end hotel accommodations typically offer, you’re right. In Richards’ view, the business is hospitality, after all.
The Club lounges enhance the airport experience because they address the needs and wants expressed by Priority Pass members and focus groups. The goal remains to expand options and create an environment that meets each individual’s definition of Lounge Class. That means looking for opportunities all around the world. “We’re globally focused as we look to increase the breadth and quality of the guest experience. It’s part of the Priority Pass commitment to ensure the best coverage globally for our members,” Richards said.
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts required to get you to sit comfortably in that lounge seat. We also realize that travel is a lifestyle, whether it’s for business, pleasure or a little bit of both. Think about what it takes to finally reach your seat on the plane. You have to arrive at the airport early, get through the security checkpoints, find a place to eat, or make calls, or get some work done, then finally board the flight. Of course, that’s if everything goes as planned because getting through the airport can be unpredictable. Lounge access gives you a place to accomplish several of those smaller airport tasks in one place. You’re away from the chaos, in a much more civil environment. Even if things don’t go as planned, like when your flight’s delayed or cancelled, having a calm place to collect your thoughts and plan your next moves is incredibly rewarding.
Because traveling is rarely perfect, you need to build time into your itinerary to enjoy lounge visits along the way. Priority Pass continues to build on its strong history and, as the family of lounges grows around the world, members can look forward to more opportunities to expand their airport experience with dining, retail and other unique perks. Of course there are times when you absolutely need to and then times when you simply want to, but isn’t it rewarding to have that choice? We think so and that’s why we’re committed to expanding our list of options for members to truly enjoy their time at airports. After all, life is all about choices and when it comes to your travel lifestyle, we like to think you made the best one.