As Airport Lounge Development opens its 18th lounge, the company’s director of Strategic Network Development, Graham Richards, discusses the growing demand for shared-use lounges and plans for the future.
Airport Lounge Development (ALD) opened a new shared-use lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport earlier this month. The company currently operates 15 airport lounges in the United States and three in the United Kingdom, branded as “The Club,” and has signed on to open three more in Buffalo, Charleston and Jacksonville.
Priority Pass, which gives members access to over 1,200 airport lounges and is a partner of ALD, has seen membership grow rapidly in recent years, according to Graham Richards, director of Strategic Network Development at Airport Lounge Development. “There are so many savvy travelers out there these days … they see opportunities to improve their travel experience and as a result they’re signing up with Priority Pass,” Richards told APEX Media. “As a sister company, one of our primary jobs is to make sure we’re providing more lounges for Priority Pass.”
But quantity does not come at the expense of developing quality spaces that “create a sense of place,” Richards insisted. The company accomplishes this by sourcing local materials and working with photographers who are native to the city. Chef and mixologist Kathy Casey, named one of the top 10 most influential bar people of the past 25 years by Cheers Magazine, develops the beverage menus, including location-specific cocktails like the Cali Orange Margarita at San Jose International Airport and the ATL Peach Margarita at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The Club lounges are divided into zones labelled privacy, replenish, productivity, relax or refresh. “People don’t want to lose time at airports, I think they want to keep their life going,” Richards said. “It becomes either: Can I be productive, can I enjoy myself, can I have a different experience? Can I do all three? People are looking for experiences and we want to give that to them.”
Richards also credits airlines and airports for the increase in popularity of shared-use lounges. “Some international airlines have one or two flights per day to the US from Europe or Latin America. It doesn’t make sense for them to build their own lounges,” Richards said. “The airports are increasingly seeing the benefit of the shared-use lounge because [space is at a premium] and it does accommodate multiple carriers – we have lounges that accommodate as many as seven different carriers.”
ALD has put operational procedures in place to manage lounge capacity. Airlines provide a list of passengers who quality for lounge access in advance, so that ALD knows how many seats to reserve for those passengers. Declining an airline customer or a customer who pre-booked the lounge isn’t an option, but “if the lounge is full and somebody walks up to buy a day pass, to protect the experience of those already in the lounge … we’d ask to take their cell phone number so that we can text or call them if space becomes available,” Richards explained.
Despite the fact that airports are offering increasingly diverse experiences and services, Richards is confident that demand for airport lounges will remain strong as long as the companies creating them are constantly innovating. “As biometric scanning gets introduced at airports, it makes perfect sense that it’s part of the lounge experience too,” Richards said. “We are also evaluating virtual reality right now, specifically we’re looking at destination content. It’s something you can expect to see in our lounges in the future.”