Airports are no longer soulless mega hubs. Lounges and the intricate features provided in them can make for quite a pleasant experience. Pictured here is an artist's impression of the cultural shop fronts in the departure transit lounge at Changi Airport's Terminal 4. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Airports were designed to facilitate travel and only in the last decade has there been a substantial focus in building services and facilities to encourage longer dwell times. As a result, airport lounges have become an integral part of the travel experience.

In fact from our research, we learnt that if done well, the impression made has a direct correlation with guest satisfaction of the overall journey. In short, it’s the kind of the thing that passengers talk about alongside experiences like the check-in service, the airline seat size, and the quality of the food and beverage on the plane.

As airports evolve to meet the demands of travellers, lounges continue to use design as a means to connect with travellers. This is done by providing a sense of place, to make the experience less transitory and more in the present. Functionality, ambience and, most important, the experience makes it a good airport lounge.

Calling all passengers

We have observed that incorporating more community spaces in lounge venues has been well received among millennials looking for spaces to assemble and connect. Lounges must cater to a variety of traveller types, from corporate leisure to solo and groups, and offer facilities to each. Effective design, from furniture placement to the use of zones for families and business travellers, allows lounges to appeal to every traveller and meet their needs.

In our select pay-per-use airport lounges, we have dedicated honeycomb-shaped workstations, which are perfect for road warriors and placed away from family-friendly facilities. The dining zone is separate from the relaxation area. Whether you are working with a large or small space, it all comes down to appreciating the use of space and to ensure seamless circulation.

The devil is in the details and must be translated into design elements to build the entire experience. Warm lighting ensures guests enter a relaxing environment while a 24-hour music track that changes throughout the day and provides instant stress-reduction. Creating a sense of destination is one interesting aspect of building an airport lounge – graffiti murals at the Brazil lounge; Dubai’s city skyline painted backdrop at reception in the new Dubai lounge, or black and white photography of iconic cultural architecture in our Siem Reap lounge are all purposefully introduced to give a nod to local culture.

In sync with preferences

Sustainability is a sentiment shared by today’s travellers. Airport lounges need to be designed with sustainable approaches such as installing water taps for travellers to fill their own w bottles or using locally-sourced materials in the design to reduce carbon footprint. One of our “go green” approaches is to source most, if not 100 per cent, of food ingredients locally, in doing so we also support local brands and the community.

Global festivities and celebrations are embraced in our lounge. Anyone who frequently travels for work can tell you, business travel can be quite lonely. By doing so we can uplift what some may consider quite a monotonous/mundane experience.

Once a lounge is built, we need to sustain the momentum and through brand partnerships we are able to take the lounge experience to another level. An airport lounge can be transformed into art gallery or an exhibition venue for products or even fashion.

Travelling is a privilege. We believe the lounge journey should also reflect this. At the end of the day, we are in the business of stress-reduction as the experience in the airport can be quite hectic, and the purpose of the lounge is to offer a space to take it down a notch.

With this in mind, airport lounge operators around the world must look at its on-going efforts to elevate the customer experience and service quality through creative approaches to add value for all travelers. Travelling should be a pleasure, with no pressure.

- Mei Mei Song is Brand Director of Plaza Premium Group.