James Park discusses key trends emerging from the latest developments around the world with Aircraft Interiors International.
The executive lounge has long been a privilege that only passengers with business or first class tickets have enjoyed, but it is changing beyond all recognition. Where once such lounges traded solely on their exclusivity, with fairly minimal facilities, they are now places where travellers can meet, work, eat, chill and sleep. At the same time, new types of lounges are becoming available to a growing number of passengers.
For three weeks during summer 2012, travellers through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport were able to do something that most budget travellers can only dream of – relax in an executive lounge. Swedish furniture company IKEA created a promotional lounge, which was open to all passengers, with one of the pleasures on offer being to relax on an IKEA mattress. Although the space did not offer the full facilities of a top-class lounge, it did share at least some of the characteristics.
There was a hostess to greet visitors (and presumably regulate numbers rather than, as is normal, keep out those without the correct ticket type). And there was a range of spaces for various activities. The 220m2 lounge included comfortable seating, televisions and nine bedrooms where passengers could sleep before their flights. There was also a children’s play area with several qualified assistants.
The Paris lounge was a gimmick – although doubtless a welcome one. Similarly, the three specially designed Suvanto lounges at Helsinki Airport, also open to all, were created as part of the city’s role as World Design Capital in 2012, but with an aspiration for them to continue afterwards. These lounges showcased furniture by Finnish designers and had specially designed places for recharging electronic devices. These temporary interventions represent a larger trend. Private lounges, which were once the sole preserve of premium ticket holders, are now becoming available to more travellers. Jason Bruges Studio, mainly known as a lighting designer but also involved in all sorts of installations and interiors, won a competition in October 2012 to design a lounge for San Diego International Airport that will open soon. The New Media Lounge will be open to all and will be a permanent fixture. The space will be all about relaxation, with seating that seemingly rises out of the ground, referencing the nearby rocky scenery – but far more comfortable. Large lamps will hang from the ceiling with flight information relevant to each passenger projected on to the shades. The lounge will be a non-commercial environment where passengers will be able to scan their boarding passes, recharge mobile devices and ‘interact’ with the room, with experiences related to local wildlife and the theme of migration.