SimpliFlying Featured: Stamp of approval

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Passenger Terminal World magazine, March 2014 - The battle for brand loyalty between airlines is fierce. The result is a generation of airport lounges that create a brand experience unlike anything that has come before. Shashank Nigam, CEO of consulting firm SimpliFlying, who has advised over 40 airlines and airports around the world, says the trend
is not surprising given the power of a lounge to build engagement with customers. “A lounge that exudes the personality of the airline brand goes a long way in building the relationship between airline and passenger. An immersive experience in the lounge can set the tone for a differentiated experience in-flight and beyond,” he says.

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SimpliFlying Featured: Stamp of approval

  1. 1. 32 LOUNGES LIZ MORRELL RIGHT: The entertainment zone and relaxation areas at Virgin Atlantic’s JFK Clubhouse The battle for brand loyalty between airlines is fierce. The result is a generation of airport lounges that create a brand experience unlike anything that has come before The airport lounge has evolved into a space that can offer everything from spa treatments to top-end cocktail bars, and has developed into a fierce battleground among airlines eager to immerse a traveller with as exciting a brand experience as possible as they fight to boost loyalty among an increasingly disloyal customer base. From the Star Alliance business lounge in Los Angeles International, which has a quiet reading room with soundproof doors, to the Qantas Singapore Lounge in Changi International, which includes elements such as a communal cooking counter that replicates the lively atmosphere of Singapore’s hawker centre, everyone is trying to get in on the trend. Dr Ali Genc, senior vice president of media relations at Turkish Airlines, says that a good brand experience is vital in the lounge area. “Our aim is to conquer a place for our brand in the hearts and minds of the customers. We want to arouse positive emotions regarding our brand and to create a desire to repeat the experience over and over again,” he says. Passenger Terminal World | MARCH 2014 passengerterminaltoday.com
  2. 2. LOUNGES 33 32 LOUNGES LIZ MORRELL RIGHT: The entertainment zone and relaxation areas at Virgin Atlantic’s JFK Clubhouse The battle for brand loyalty between airlines is fierce. The result is a generation of airport lounges that create a brand experience unlike anything that has come before The airport lounge has evolved into a space that can offer everything from spa treatments to top-end cocktail bars, and has developed into a fierce battleground among airlines eager to immerse a traveller with as exciting a brand experience as possible as they fight to boost loyalty among an increasingly disloyal customer base. From the Star Alliance business lounge in Los Angeles International, which has a quiet reading room with soundproof doors, to the Qantas Singapore Lounge in Changi International, which includes elements such as a communal cooking counter that replicates the lively atmosphere of Singapore’s hawker centre, everyone is trying to get in on the trend. Dr Ali Genc, senior vice president of media relations at Turkish Airlines, says that a good brand experience is vital in the lounge area. “Our aim is to conquer a place for our brand in the hearts and minds of the customers. We want to arouse positive emotions regarding our brand and to create a desire to repeat the experience over and over again,” he says. Passenger Terminal World | MARCH 2014 stamp of approval passengerterminaltoday.com passengerterminaltoday.com MARCH 2014 | Passenger Terminal World
  3. 3. LOUNGES 35 The attraction of doing this in the lounge environment is the freedom these areas give airlines to express their brand: “Most other areas used in airline transportation, such as the aircraft cabins and communal terminal spaces, have strict standards and rules. This limits opportunities to create a unique experience. As lounges are relatively independent from other entities and regulations, they present a fertile playground for us,” he says. Shashank Nigam, CEO of consulting firm SimpliFlying, who has advised over 40 airlines and airports around the world, says the trend is not surprising given the power of a lounge to build engagement with customers. “A lounge that exudes the personality of the airline brand goes a long way in building the relationship between airline and passenger. An immersive experience in the lounge can set the tone for a differentiated experience in-flight and beyond,” he says. The right brand experience Certainly this is the goal for Virgin Atlantic, whose brand and customer engagement director, Reuben Arnold, says that a good brand experience goes beyond simply fulfilling a customer’s basic needs, in the same way that in the retail sector retailers and shopping centres are striving to deliver unforgettable experiential offers. “Our Clubhouses allow customers to work or rest in a relaxing environment, as they would do if they didn’t happen to be waiting for a ABOVE: Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Clubhouse, Heathrow plane. They can also eat, have a haircut or massage at our spa, shoot a game of pool with friends or simply hang out at the bar. Ultimately, they choose how they want to prepare for their trip. This is what makes our lounge experience unique and we know it acts as a key differentiator,” he says. At Turkish Airline’s opulent Lounge Istanbul at Atatürk Airport, a wide range of experiences are available, including a pool table, piano, movie theatre, business centre, library, massage and shower facilities, and even bedrooms for long-distance international passengers. Arnold says that for Virgin Atlantic creating the right brand experience is not about asking passengers what they want. “We tend to avoid asking passengers directly. They are often able to clearly articulate their functional needs but our role is to help interpret their more unconscious needs and create surprising new experiences,” he says. “Had we asked customers if they needed a pool table or a hair stylist in the business lounge, they would probably have said no. But we know that these extras create a real sense of differentiation for us and passengers love them and value the difference we offer,” he adds. A good brand experience goes beyond simply fulfilling a customer’s basic needs RIGHT: The Star Alliance Lounge at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal BELOW: The Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse Very Important Partners In creating brand experiences various airlines have learned the value in partnering with other VIP brands to further reinforce premium brand credentials. Dr Ali Genc, senior vice president of media relations at Turkish Airlines, says that working with other VIP brands is key for Turkish Airlines. “We are trying to work with the best experience providers, such as gourmet entertainment company Do & Co in our lounges and Porsche Design for amenity kits in our cabins. We are planning other brand alliances for passengerterminaltoday.com more valuable lounge experiences in the future,” he says. Drinks brand tie-ups are popular since they build on a feature already present in most airline lounges. In 2011 vodka brand Grey Goose teamed up with Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow to create the Grey Goose Loft for Upper Class customers, with a service that the partners claimed rivalled the best cocktail bars in the world. Similarly last May British Airways partnered with premium drinks group Pernod Ricard to open a Glenlivet Whisky Bar and Snug in the airline’s executive lounge at Glasgow International airport, following a major refurbishment project. The drinks group has the space for at least three years and has already hinted that other brands could be introduced. Spa brand tie-ups are also popular. At British Airways a partnership with Elemis has seen the Elemis Travel Spa open in three of its Galleries lounges at London Heathrow Terminal 5, while in Abu Dhabi Etihad has a partnership with Six Senses spa to offer spa facilities in its premium lounges. MARCH 2014 | Passenger Terminal World
  4. 4. LOUNGES 37 LEFT: TAM Airlines’ 540m2 lounge at São Paulo’s Guarulhos International, Terminal 2 customers who want too many different facilities into one space. “Currently, I think most of these people are thrown together in one space, which may not work well and create an unpleasant experience,” he says. In December 2013 Singapore Airlines unveiled its new lounge concept at Sydney International and now plans to roll it out to 15 of its SilverKris lounges in a US$100m (£60m) investment over the next five years. Yet perhaps surprisingly its focus group research showed that what customers really wanted was a design modelled on the elements of a home, with living room, dining room and kitchen spaces that offer the chance for flyers to relax while feeling that they are in familiar surroundings. Targeted branding Michael Crump, partner and director at aviation branding and design agency Honour Branding, has been involved in lounge designs for everyone from British Airways to the Great British Lounge at Terminal 1 in London Heathrow, and more recently for Saudi Airlines’ Riyadh and Dammam first, business and domestic lounges. He says that airlines should not only meet the requirements needed for fliers to relax, work, eat or socialise but should also differentiate their offer by short and long haul to ensure all needs are met. “For customers flying short haul the lounge experience is often still part of their working day as they commute for day meetings or back to the office,” he says. “As their dwell time is short their needs are about connectivity, ability to work and the chance to grab food or drink. Long-haul customers’ needs are very different. They may still need to work but their mindset is very different as they prepare themselves for a long flight and require more relaxed seating, more substantial food and more distractions to help them unwind.” Airlines that offer tightly targeted lounges such as the six Galleries lounges that British Airways has for its different customer types at London Heathrow Airport’s T5 can therefore give the best brand experience. The £60m flagship Galleries lounge concept opened in 2008 and includes the Concorde Room, the First Class lounge, three Club lounges and an Arrivals lounge – all of which take their inspiration from boutique hotels around the globe and are the biggest complex of airline lounges in the world. The most exclusive of these, the Concorde Room, has been designed to host up to 156 of the airline’s first-class customers and specially invited guests with a bar, restaurant, concierge desk and discreet boardroom. British Airways opened the latest incarnation in the Galleries concept in Cape Town International in December 2013. However, Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman and US travel, hospitality and leisure leader at Deloitte, says that too often airlines don’t properly think through their offer, cramming too many passengerterminaltoday.com BELOW LEFT: British Airways’ Concorde Room at Heathrow T5 BELOW RIGHT: Productivity pods in Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris Lounge at Sydney Airport Meeting changing needs Although customers may not outwardly care about the brand experience as such, the experience itself is key, believes Crump. Get it wrong and customers will react, he argues. “Social media has made the inside of lounges more transparent and the experiences they have are now more live and immediate, reporting daily drops in service and new designs as they come on stream,” says Crump. At Virgin Atlantic, Arnold says the airline works hard to reinvent itself to ensure it keeps up-to-date with trends and is delivering something new. “We are constantly re-examining the Clubhouse experience to ensure it remains fresh and continues to meet customers’ changing needs,” he says. He says the airline also works hard to surprise its regular customers. “We change our menus frequently and always try to reflect new and exciting food concepts. For example, we recently introduced a new British tapas concept in our Heathrow and New York Clubhouses off the back of the emerging food trend we have seen in the UK. We also keep the food offer fresh by regularly working with partners to create special pop-up restaurants within the lounge, again to reflect new culinary trends,” he says. The market is continually evolving and, although first- and businessclass customers are the natural market for such lounges, the concept is also feeding through to the mass market. For first- and business-class Out of the box Designer airport lounges are an expensive investment – increasingly airlines are seeking alternative ways to make an equally strong brand impression. Turkish Airlines uses sports partnerships to great effect: “Our sponsorships for events and organisations help us to create unique experiences,” explains Dr Ali Genc, senior VP of media relations at the carrier. “For instance we had a mini golf area to remind customers of our sponsorship of the Turkish Airlines Open golf tournament,” he says. In December the airline opened its latest lounge – not in an airport but within the German football team Borussia Dortmund’s stadium. The lounge reflects Turkish Airlines’ International Lounge at Istanbul Atatürk Airport and resulted from the airline’s role as Premium Airline Partner for the team. Meanwhile Emirates has a VIP lounge at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium that resembles the cabin of a Boeing 777 serving the Dubai-Madrid route and can host up to 200 guests during match days, with space to relax, eat and drink, and watch the game. MARCH 2014 | Passenger Terminal World
  5. 5. 38 LOUNGES RIGHT: One of the five Lufthansa lounges at Frankfurt Airport, Pier A-Plus passengers, a lounge is part of their expectations from an airline with space allocations differing depending on the class of customer and the services they offer – such as table restaurant dining, spas and treatment rooms. The economics don’t really work for economy customers, say the airlines, but some smaller airlines, such as Bangkok Airways, provide lounge access for all, and Virgin Holidays provides a pay-to-use lounge called V-Room for its holiday customers travelling in economy or premium economy. Airport, airline cooperation There seems little doubt that lounges are an invaluable part of the branding process for airlines, but maximising their benefits requires both airport and airline to work together – something that can get overlooked. “For some the ultimate lounge experience is where you can board your aircraft from the lounge. The BA Concorde experience used to do that at JFK and LHR, and Emirates does it at LHR Terminal 3 and Dubai Airport when boarding the A380,” says Crump. He says Lufthansa has also surprised. “It has achieved great success working with Frankfurt Airport to create its own dedicated terminal experience for first-class passengers – where within 60 seconds of entering the terminal you can be seated in the lounge with a personal assistant helping you check in and escorting you to your car, which will take you to your aircraft,” he says. But Weissenberg believes airlines can go one better in creating a truly memorable brand experience that isn’t just about immersion but personalisation – creating a custom experience for travellers tailored as closely as possible to their needs. “Travellers also want personal experience. So wouldn’t it be great if you had a layover where you get off the plane, are escorted to the lounge to be greeted and served with your favourite meal and a glass of wine? Then when you are finished you can work at a desk until it is time to be escorted to your next flight. You might prefer a massage followed by one of the latest movies. That would create loyalty,” says Weissenberg. Such a concept may sound a little far-fetched at the moment, but in a world where driving customer loyalty is more than ever about personalised service and truly knowing the customer it may well be the concept that offers the next great change in airline lounge design. Passenger Terminal World | MARCH 2014 Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge AIRPORT: Frankfurt Airport, Terminal 1 OPENING HOURS: 6:00am to 10:00pm SIZE: 726m2 The latest lounges to open their doors to passengers Brand experience: Features Canadian artworks, furnishings by Canadian designers, a spa inspired shower area with Canadian Escents spa products, bistro-style dining and German and Canadian wines, beers and spirits. Also features a quiet zone with reclining pods equipped with personal satellite-fed TV screens, USB ports and Sony noisecancelling headsets, a business centre equipped with individual flatscreen Dell PCs, colour laser printing and scanning, and complimentary wireless high-speed internet access throughout. Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris Lounge AIRPORT: Sydney Airport, Terminal 1 OPENING HOURS: 5:00am to 7:00pm SIZE: 775m2 Brand experience: This lounge is part of a SG$100m (£48m) investment programme to upgrade all of the Singapore Airlines’ airport lounges around the world. The new design concept by ONG&ONG aims to provide a sense of ‘being home’ for customers. The lounge reflects the airline’s Asian heritage through a batik design screen in the foyer as well as selected art pieces placed inside that have been locally sourced from Singapore. The lounge features tailored personal spaces, productivity pods for working, armchairs, and a selection of food and beverages offering iconic dishes from Singapore. Star Alliance lounge AIRPORT: Los Angeles International Airport, Tom Bradley International Terminal OPENING HOURS: 9:15am to 00:30am* SIZE: 1,675m2 Brand experience: Features an open-air outdoor terrace with panoramic views of the northern runway, as well as fire pits and a water wall, a bar area for socialising, a library space, a den, a study and a media room. Eight shower rooms are also available. The lounge is equipped with wi-fi and offers printing, fax and copy services. The design of the lounge has a contemporary take on 1950s and 1960s LA architecture and features many locally sourced products and furniture, such as its ceramic tile feature walls that were created by local artisans. *times may change depending on Star Alliance flight schedules passengerterminaltoday.com

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