Singapores Changi International is consistently ranked among the best airports in the world.
JOHANNESBURG -  From beer gardens to health hubs and cosy living rooms, airport lounges today have evolved far past the glorified waiting rooms with kitsch sofas they once were. 

Euan McNeil, GM at FCM Travel said,  “At a time when traveller friction is taking its toll on travellers, airports have started to recognise that they need to up their game if they want to be the first choice for frequent flyers.” 

“Where they can, airlines and airports are creating beautiful spaces with natural light and unique touches. These destination lounges are making travel smoother and more comfortable for road warriors and should be on the radar of every South African company that wants to reduce traveller friction.”

FCM has rounded up four unique lounge experiences that could offer corporate travellers much-needed moments of tranquillity during their busy travel journeys. 
Natural Oasis Lounges 

“An open air natural oasis in the midst of the airport chaos can be the perfect antidote to traveller friction,” says McNeil. 

Delta’s Sky Clubs at JFK’s Terminal 4 and Atlanta’s Concourse F are very literally providing travellers with a breath of fresh air with their ‘Sky Decks’. The ‘Sky Decks’ are outdoor mega-patios, designed by Thom Filicia, and feel somewhat like being on a roof-deck at a metropolitan hotel. 

In Munich in Germany, the VIP Wing airport lounge also treats travellers to fresh air with an ‘open-air’ Bavarian beer garden where travellers can relax and enjoy a last sip of the Bavarian culture before continuing on their journey.

Outside swimming pools are also big plus for stressed-out travellers on long layovers. The Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana International Airport has revealed that its brand-new VIP lounge will feature an outdoor infinity-edge pool. A dip in the water puts travellers on almost the same level as the planes parked on the runway below.

And although not in the open air, one of the highlights of the new Senator Lounge at Vienna Airport in Austria are the real Austrian beech trees, which are preserved using a special preservation technique and evoke the culture of Austria. 

Cultural Immersion Lounges

Cultural immersion trips continue to gain in popularity throughout the world, and the concept has now also found its way into airport lodges. 

The SATS Premier Lounge Terminal 2 at Singapore Changi International Airport is known for immersing its guests in Singaporean culture with displays of real orchids, Peranakan porcelain and artwork depicting local scenes. The lounge hosts regular cultural events to ensure that visitors are treated to a unique experience every time they enter the lounge. 

For travellers wanting to soak up French culture, Air France recently completed the first phase of the renovation and expansion of its business class lounge in Terminal 2 (T2) at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. The renovated lounge features an open kitchen designed in the style of a Parisian brasserie. 

Cosy living room Lounges

“Airport often start to feel as the road warrior’s second home,” says McNeil. “The good news is that now road warriors can relax in ‘cosy living room’-style lounges that will feel like a home-away-from-home.” 

The [email protected] Lounge in Helsinki Airport, allows travellers to cook in a real kitchen or enjoy a drink from the wine and spirits bar. The lounge also features loft style homey seating areas that will make travellers feel like they’re in a friend’s apartment. The only difference? Here they can raid the cabinets without running the risk of ruining a friendship. 

Tallinn Airport Business Lounge at the Lennart Meri Airport in Estonia is another example of a lounge that has been designed to give travellers the feeling that they are waiting for their flight in the comfort of their own living room. 

The latest example of a ‘cosy’ airport lounge is Cathay Pacific’s ‘The Deck’ at Hong Kong International Airport, which will open its doors on March 22. The lounge promised to emulate a contemporary living room environment of understated luxury.

Health Experience Lounges

“Travellers today don’t want to eat junk food and sit still for hours on end. They want to feel rejuvenated and eat healthy foods… and airport lounges have taken notice,” says McNeil. 

Virgin Atlantic pioneered the idea of offering spa treatments to passengers in its London Heathrow Clubhouse more than 25 years ago. Since then, the airline has kicked things up a notch with its Bumble & Bumble salon, Dr. Hauschka skin-care swag, and Truefitt & Hill men’s products.

Also Air France’s new business class lounge in Charles de Gaulle features two private saunas, a relaxation area furnished with loungers and mini-suites; a detox bar with a selection of fine teas to improve health and wellbeing; and two private cabins where guests can book facial treatments with Clarins beauticians. 

At Dubai International Airport, Emirates Business Class Lounge at Concourse B, travellers are treated to a barista experience in partnership with Cost Coffee as well as a Health Hub with Voss water featuring ‘healthier’ dining and drinking options. 

Although the wear and tear on frequent business travellers cannot be fixed by offering lounge access, these modern conceptual airport lounges can go a long way in making business trips more pleasant and even fun for road warriors. 

“Preventing traveller friction and ensuring your road warriors health and well-being whilst travelling should be a top consideration in your corporate travel programme.” concludes McNeil.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE