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Up, Up & Away: Evolution of Airport Lounges

In any airport you go to, I’m always in astonishment at the hustle and bustle you experience throughout the terminal. Like a small city within a city, each airport has that sense of urgency, confusion, and chaos. With business travelers constantly on the move to catch their next connection, confusion and awe from the out of town tourists, and rogue bachelorette parties on the prowl, the airport terminal is always an insane buzzing of people like a swarm of bees outside an active hive. 

Thank god for airport lounges.

In today’s lounge, you’ll find a sense of solace and calm. Away from the insanity at the gate and the droning hum of arriving, departing, and delayed flights over the speakers.

For many years, airport lounges didn’t play a big role in the travel experience; mostly because security procedures were not as intricate as today, there wasn’t as much waiting time in the terminal.

But the lounge business of yesteryear looks very different than today’s modern sanctuaries. Lounges are now more than just a place to relax and have a snack before a flight. By increasing innovation, comfort, and offering exclusive experiences, there is an opportunity to truly stand out among the competition. 

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Amenities are Key

Most lounges boast some sort of food and beverage offering, but others are taking F&B services to the next level. Whether buffet style of full service a la carte dining, lounges are really upping their culinary game offering a wide-variety of cuisines and catering to those with dietary restrictions. From exclusive cocktails upon arrival to specially curated menus in each lounge location, there’s something special for every guest. At the British Airways lounge at JFK, our team prepared a one-of-a-kind menu to celebrate the Royal Wedding this past May.

And today’s amenities goes well beyond the realm of hospitality. Now, lounges continue to up the ante with high-end spa partnerships. Not only can you sip on a handcrafted cocktail, send a few e-mails before takeoff, but now you can also get a quick massage before catching your overnight flight.

British Airways’ partnership with Elemis spa includes a complimentary 15-minute treatment for those flying in First or Business class, and offers a number of upgraded services. And American Express Centurion Lounges’ partnership with Exhale Spa, means relaxing chair massages, skin treatments and manicures – all included with entry.

Then there are the ultra-exclusive perks like those that come with the British Airways Concorde Room experience. Guests have their own private security line – which never hurts to elevate the travel experience.   

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Cultural Authenticity is Critical

In the world of food services and travel, regional authenticity is key. What would a trip through Kentucky be without bourbon, right?

At all lounges, a unique sense of identity is required. Just like each of the passengers coming in and out of each airport, each lounge needs to meet (and exceed) the needs of those guests.

The American Express Centurion Lounges, for example, are all modern in their color scheme and design, but each location plays a nod to their local surroundings. In Las Vegas, for example, the lounge features a menu designed and inspired by Food Network’s Scott Conant, who owns Scarpetta, a popular restaurant in Las Vegas and New York City. Each lounge also boasts seasonal menus, curated based on what’s readily available in their respective region. 

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The travel experience starts from the minute you arrive at your terminal. The airline you choose has become associated for your experience through the security process, waiting process, and boarding process. It’s no longer just the wheels up to wheels down experience from gate to gate.

If you’re going to be in the airport anyway, you might as well get away from the chaos in an airport lounge and enjoy the plethora of amenities available right at your fingertips.

By Rick Russo, Sector President, FLIK Hospitality Group


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