Opinion by Bhavya Kukreja, general manager of public relations and marketing communications for Plaza Premium Group

Covid-19 has greatly hampered travel, resulting in the shutting down of most airport lounges. However, with travel resuming gradually, many lounges
have started to reopen and are restructuring their operations.

Many travellers who were regular at these lounges whether for business or for personal travels, saw these as their shelter while waiting for their flights. One can easily enjoy exclusive, warm spaces with delicacies and other services, whether through their air ticket, card’s loyalty programme, or otherwise through the pay-in-lounges.

Airport lounges have always offered an elevated travel experience where travellers get to unwind in comfortable and luxurious spaces during their transit or before/after their trips, and also get access to free wifi, complimentary food and beverages and much more.

Around 60-70 per cent footfall has returned now. Travellers are keen to travel, although their expectations from the lounge operators are very minimalistic such as having high standards of safety and hygiene. As a matter of fact, the majority of the travellers feel safer than ever before at the lounges as here the norms of social distancing, safety and hygiene are followed extensively.

Wearing masks, face shields, moving furniture and following social distancing, contactless check-ins, training staff members to adhere to guidelines and limiting or restricting the seating capacity in the lounges are some key measures implemented. Even as some of the services in the lounges may be closed, one can expect to see these airport lounges become more hygienic, sanitised and less crowded in the recent times, ensuring a stress-free and elevated travel experience for business and leisure travellers in the ongoing scenario.

Apart from these, it is also a requirement for the guests to be wearing masks at all times except for when they are eating food or drinking. Individually pre-portioned food items are being served at self-service food counters while smart self-ordering systems are available at the customer’s disposal. On the other hand, travellers must also cooperate and follow safety measures being adhered at every lounge before finalising their stay as even if the lounges promise alterations in view of the pandemic, it doesn’t make them all completely safe.

The current scenario has also greatly impacted consumer behaviour along with that of various brands and clients. Even though one can never be fully prepared for unanticipated future situations, brands should make sure that they deliver their promises and provide heightened services rather than pretending to be fulfilling them as any customer would be willing to spend more for such assurances.

At the same time, lounge operators are also propelled to take due precautions and meet their quality measures in light of the current pandemic, not just for their consumers but also for their employees. This is why for various brands today their USPs have been altered from being “comfort” and “luxurious” to “hygiene” and “worry-free”.

Even when these “good” practices have been adopted, these will eventually lead to a long-term psychological shift in the way normal day-to-day things are done. Subsequently, it must be noted and ensured that as Covid-19 unlock unfolds, every lounge must be prepared to address consumer’s upcoming queries or questions along with taking ample measures to safeguard the traveller’s wellbeing. With this, the only question that arises is who all would be able to keep these up?