The Impact of Airline Club Changes

By : Josh Linder

February 27, 2014 05:00 AM

As an avid traveler, I witness industry transformation every time I fly.  While most of the ongoing change is forward progress benefiting travelers of all types and ages, some decisions have made my journeys more challenging.


The most recent is a change to airport club lounge pricing and admissions policies.  This especially struck a chord as I am a long-time American Express® Platinum Card® holder.



This change will likely have three results: 


  • Smaller crowds.  Presumably this is the underlying purpose of the plan, to improve paying club members’ experience and reduce the growing lines at lounge bars for food and premium beverages.
  • Increase in higher-value customers in the airport terminals, especially those traveling with families.  This could drive additional food & beverage purchases and retail sales from those who would have otherwise received free or discounted drinks in the airline lounge.
  • Crowded physical re-booking spots and telephone banks during irregular operations.  This will be an unintended consequence, since many same-day changes and re-routings are handled by agents in the club lounges, who have staff experienced in handling these situations for high-value passengers, thereby increasing loyalty.


While this could frustrate frequent travelers who are left in the general airport terminal, it creates an opportunity for airports to market to these higher-value customers and improve the passenger experience.  They should focus on creative retailing on premise and through mobile and digital marketing channels to attract these additional passengers to their retail stores, restaurants and services. 


Increasing signage and providing interactive maps could also mitigate the increased passenger traffic while increasing purchase opportunity for goods and services at the same time.


Also, airports should place greater importance on family- and business traveler-friendly spaces.  While charging and Wi-Fi spots have seen an increase in recent years, family relaxation areas have been sparse.  The trick is making these places entertaining yet profitable.   A great reference for this type of concept is Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.


Lastly, for irregular operations and re-bookings, airports should consider increasing common use kiosks throughout the terminals to manage the agent lines.


To learn more about how airports can think like a retailer and sell more, download this free webinar.  Or, for more information on how to improve the passenger experience, please download this free white paper.


*Photo Courtesy: American Express Centurion Lounge