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For some passengers, there’s no surer sign that the world is returning to normal than the reopening of airlines’ airport lounges. Most lounges closed at the start of the pandemic, but airlines around the world are taking tentative steps toward reopening just in time for the expected summer surge in leisure travel.
The challenge, of course, is safeguarding public health while still maintaining the level of service their premium passengers have long been accustomed to.
Lounges are powerful marketing tools, if not loss leaders, for airlines, making them more important than ever as flyers unleash the pent-up demand on bookings.
In one of the world’s busiest international airports, London’s Heathrow, British Airways is offering passengers traveling in Club World the opportunity of taking a nap prior to their flight in the Heathrow First Lounge. The facility currently is open to all lounge-eligible passengers, the airline’s website said.
To ensure customer safety, British Airways is providing contactless entry, hand sanitizing stations, social distancing with screens between seating areas, preordered food and drinks via “Your Menu” delivered directly to passengers, using antibacterial wipes to clean the sleep pods between passengers, and enhanced cleaning in communal areas, its website said.
British Airways has a limited number of lounges open at Heathrow airport in terminal five, as global travel restrictions ease and more lounges open the airline plans to install nap lounges at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport in Terminal 7 the press release said.
But if taking a power nap on the go is on your bucket list, keep in mind that once all lounges reopen access to Concorde Room and First lounge will be exclusively available for customers traveling in First as well as Executive Club Gold card holders and oneworld Emerald members.
In Germany, the pandemic has led to permanent closures of Lufthansa lounges in Bremen, Cologne, Dresden, Nuremberg, Leipzig/Halle and Delhi, India airports, the airline said on its website. However, passengers in Delhi are able to use the Air India lounge, it added.
Meanwhile Lufthansa said the time frame to reopen lounges is flexible and fluid with more lounges opening as more people begin traveling internationally and more countries open up. And while the airline’s lounges are not fully staffed due to travel restrictions, Lufthansa said finding staff to run the lounges is not a problem.
“There are a variety of measures that go into reopening Lufthansa’s lounges in a safe manner. Some measures include the continued requirement for masks to be worn while in the lounge, monitoring capacity to ensure that a safe distance is kept amongst lounge visitors, as well as offering food and beverage take-away options instead of an open buffet,” a Lufthansa spokesperson said.
Lufthansa has also put up plexiglass dividers in areas where passengers and staff interact, it said.
Back in the U.S., American Airlines is gearing up for Memorial Day weekend with the reopening of 27 of its lounges across 21 domestic cities and two international reopenings at the Mexico City and São Paulo/Guarulhos international airports, an American spokesperson said.
American is reopening additional lounges in locations where it is seeing an increased number of travelers and may limit offerings and capacity based on restrictions or locals orders, said American spokesperson Leah Rubertino.
Recently it’s reopened several lounges at airports in Charlotte, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami, she said.
The Admiral Club lounges will continue reopening in phases and American is continuing with the hiring process at those locations as lounges reopen, Rubertino said.
While American continues offering complimentary hot meals, the self-service areas remain closed. It’s now using disposable single use glassware and contactless menus using QR codes or scans. Travelers also have options of prepackaged snacks or signature dishes for sale, which per local restrictions can not be consumed in the lounge, the airline said on its website.
Admiral Club lounges are operating at 50 percent capacity, with foot operating door openers for touchless entry, plexiglass at service desks and reception, hand sanitizers, increased cleaning of tables and chairs as well as social distancing signage.
United currently has 11 lounges open at hubs and is planning on reopening another eight lounges by Labor Day, while continuing to monitor international travel with its international network planning team, an airline spokesperson said. Due to unsustainable levels in international traveling, the United Polaris Lounges and international lounges remain temporarily closed, the spokesperson said.
“Over the next two months, United will have 21 United Club locations open, including at least one location in each of United’s U.S. hubs, as well as in Honolulu, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Las Vegas,” the spokesperson said.
Visitors to United lounges will see a rollout of food enhancements to extend to all United Club lounges by the end of May. United is teaming up with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to enhance its cleaning techniques and rolling out electrostatic sanitation spraying, its website said.
While Delta is removing some social distancing signage to allow increasing capacity, the airline said hand sanitizers and plexiglass shields will remain in place throughout its terminal and at Sky Clubs.
“As we make more seats available onboard, [Delta Sky] Clubs will also be bringing back additional seating based on capacity needs and following local occupancy guidelines,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience office.
Beginning this month and throughout the summer, hot and cold food service will resume at Delta’s lounges, he said.
The 45 Delta Sky Clubs currently open are continuously cleaned throughout the day and sanitized at night using electrostatic spray sanitation following CDC guidelines, Lenstch said. Sky Clubs offer touchless check-ins, plexiglass shields and hand sanitizing stations, the airline said.
South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale airport will be opening a new Sky Club in June, and Tokyo will also land a new Sky Club this summer, the airline said on its website.