Airport business lounges are an important part of a network airline’s service to its high-yield and frequent passengers. So they are places where the airline’s brand philosophy and signage should be strongly evident, says Austrian Airlines.
Locating lounges near departure gates is best, since passengers can remain in them until shortly before departure. More and more passengers are using lounges, so Austrian believes it is often necessary for an airline to have several lounges at the same hub. Joe Ferry, Virgin Atlantic Airways’ head of design, says Virgin hasn’t yet seen the need to have more than one Clubhouse at an airport but remains open to the idea should it enhance its customers’ experience.
The lounge’s service product should reflect whether the airline predominantly operates long-haul flights or short-haul connections, as well as the needs and volume of its transfer passengers. Austrian and Virgin say their passengers want a high-quality food and beverage choice (particularly hot snacks); international magazines and newspapers; relaxation areas; comfortable chairs with foot-rests; computers and free internet and Wi-Fi access for conducting business; and attentive staff who can help with booking needs or other problems.
Virgin and Austrian also emphasise wellness in their lounges. Virgin provides spas where passengers can get massages and hair styling, or can relax in Jacuzzis, saunas, steam showers and tanning booths. Austrian offers special wellness food and drinks, aroma therapy products and “aroma columns” that filter and neutralise the air and create a natural and refreshing scent throughout its lounge spaces.
Within the Star Alliance of which Austrian is a member, each hub lounge reflects the design and brand of the home carrier. However, in strategically important markets where several Star members have an interest or where competition from other alliances is heavy, such as Nagoya and Zurich, there are special Star Alliance-branded lounges.
Austrian only has own-brand lounges at its Vienna hub, using Star members’ lounges or contract lounges at other destinations, but Virgin has its own-brand lounge at each destination it serves.
Virgin incorporates essential-service-specification items in each Clubhouse but in designing its lounges at different airports it generally has Ferry’s in-house teams inject the Virgin brand whilst collaborating with local architects and interior designers to capture the spirit of the city where the lounge is located. To ensure that each destination’s Clubhouse has a unique feel, Virgin has each one designed and styled individually rather than adopting a standard lounge scheme, says Ferry.