Taking the travel experience to new heights

December 14, 2017 Kelsey Burgess

Airports are seemingly always crowded, and finding a semi-quiet spot to relax, recharge or get some work done before boarding is both highly valued and hard to come by. On top of that, a majority of U.S. airports have remained outdated for the past several years. That is, until now.

According to JLL Research, 2017 saw record highs in construction spending on airport facilities, hitting an estimated $4.7 billion for the year. This uptick in both new build and renovation projects has been spurred by a number of things. At the top of the list? The modern traveler.

Domestic travel is at an all-time high, and airports are feeling the pressure to improve and add new amenities and features in order to enhance the customer experience. One example of this is Charlotte Douglas International Airport, who recently unveiled its plan to deliver new public art, a focus on technology and a heightened restaurant experience.

In 2014, the average dwell time spent in airport terminals more than doubled from the previous decade. Airlines themselves are recognizing the opportunity in extending the premium inflight travel experience to the ground with the help of airport lounges.

Credit card companies are also stepping up their reward programs to offer access to independent private lounges or – in the case of American Express – opening their own lounge. This is causing a full on battle as to who can create the best airport lounge experience.

The manager of the American Express Centurion Lounge in Miami told Travel Weekly:

"Our overall goal is ensuring our customers have a haven to go to while traveling," said Rosie Parra, lounge manager. "We want these lounges to feel like a destination."

For United Airlines, its Polaris lounge sets out to be “an oasis of thoughtful design and furnishings reserved for international premium cabin customers.” Travelers can start their journey at the bar or dining area, complete with their choice of either a full multi-course meal or large buffet of chef-created small plates. They also offer relaxation spaces with nap benches and shower facilities so they can arrive to their final destination in top shape.

We are used to hearing and seeing the luxury and exclusivity of the premium passenger in the air, but airports and airlines alike are going beyond free snacks and alcohol to take the customer experience to new heights. 

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