Flight Plan

Lounge around before you fly

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on September 04, 2019 Published on September 04, 2019

Private players are keen to pamper travellers with innovative facilities at airport lounges

Feel like being pampered at an airport before you board your flight or want some time at a quiet place on the ground to complete an important presentation before boarding? Lounges, which have sprung up at airports around the country, might just be the place for you.

Unlike earlier, you do not have to be either a business or first-class flier to enjoy the facilities available in the lounges.

Even if you are flying economy, you can pay extra and enjoy the same facilities as business and first-class passengers.

Lounges are not only available at airports in metro cities — which handle a bulk of the fliers and where lounges (whether you could use them or not) have very much been a part of the airports — but also at airports in smaller cities like Dehradun and Ahmedabad.

Also, they are open to both international and domestic travellers.

A bulk of the airport lounges are being provided by private players and it is primarily these players who have opened up the hitherto private space for first- and business-class fliers to others as well.

According to the authorised spokesperson for Bird Catering and Lounges, which currently has lounges at Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut, Bhubaneshwar and Dehradun airports serving both domestic and international travellers, non-airline entitlements account for 60 per cent of the business at its lounges while the rest comes from first and business-class passengers.

Logical entry

For Bird Catering and Lounges, entering the lounges space at airports was a natural move as it does ground-handling activities at various airports across the country. Plaza Premium Group in India, which has lounges at Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad in both the domestic and international airports, is being run by the joint venture company Premium Port Lounge Management Company Private Ltd (India) incorporated by Dinesh Jhunjhunwala and Song Hoi-see. It started with its lounge in Delhi airport 11 years ago.

 

Another player is Travel Food Services, which was already into travel retail services when it entered the lounge business about five years ago. It currently has around 19 lounges, including those in Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai. Travel Food Services accepts walk-in visitors at most of its lounges, the exception being some like the GVK lounge in Mumbai, which is exclusively for first and business-class travellers.

‘As you like it’ packages

Unlike business and first-class fliers who do not pay extra for using the lounges, the other fliers have to pay for the services in the lounges.

However, if players in the lounge market are to be believed, the rates they charge are not an issue, given that the services that they provide for non-entitlement travellers are exclusive.

Further, according to the players, fliers these days do not mind paying extra for these services. Indeed, fliers are becoming more demanding and want a range of services so even though the average time spent by a visitor in a lounge is about 30 minutes, fliers do not mind paying for the comfort that a lounge provides.

Says Bhavya Kukreja, General Manager PR and Marketing and Communication, Plaza Premium Group, “When we started, lounges were very basic — a place for a passenger to rest and relax before boarding the flight. But now fliers have become more demanding and it is not uncommon for a lounge to have a separate play area for kids.”

 

The Plaza Premium Group offers various packages at its lounges, including a four-hour package that features food and beverages and a shower facility for ₹2,500 per person. Also on offer is a package that includes a shower and the facility to take a one-hour nap. Visitors can either take the entire package or walk in for any specific service.

The rates vary from ₹1,200, excluding taxes, for food and soft drinks while travelling domestically while it is ₹1,800, excluding taxes, for international travellers. The rates charged by different players vary.

So, at Terminal 1, a walk-in customer will pay around ₹1,500 for a three-hour stay, which includes food and soft drinks and free Wi-Fi while at the Chennai international lounge, a walk-in passenger will pay ₹2,700, which includes alcoholic beverages.

Going by the figures, the number of fliers using these lounges is rising. Currently the Plaza Premium lounges see about 15,000 footfalls every day. Bird Catering and Lounges says it gets close to 400 footfalls a day from around 30 earlier.

Tie-ups with corporates

“The footfalls in the lounges are directly proportional to the growth in traffic in the industry,” says Gaurav Dewan of Travel Food Services.

He adds that now with the industry recording a slowdown they are tying up with corporates in a big way.

 

“Many of the customers we get are through the various tie-ups with corporates and others,” he says.

Given that the concept of non-entitlement use of lounges is relatively new in India, the players are trying to cash in on their USP. Hence, Premium Plaza looks to offer the largest liquor variety and a VIP room in the lounge where five to 10 people can sit separately.

Meanwhile, credit and debit card companies are also tying up with lounges to provide their customers some extra care before they fly.

One good way to get access to lounges is checking with your credit or debit card company in case it has any tie-ups.

Published on September 04, 2019
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