In 2021 and 2022 Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific opened their first and business class lounges at London Heathrow even though they were not operating flights to and from the British capital.

It was worthwhile because their spaces are popular with passengers flying on Oneworld alliance partners American Airlines, British Airways and Finnair, who use the same terminal. Every time a passenger walked up, Cathay Pacific raked in £30-£100 ($38-$125) depending on whether access was granted to first or business class facilities. Nice!

For many frequent flyers, airport lounges are almost sacred spaces. They know and care about what each one has to offer. Cathay Pacific had an excellent reputation for tasty dim sum, comfy seats, snazzy decoration and speedy wi-fi. That many passengers choose to go there rather than their own airline’s space is testament to good design and attention to detail.

But how can the airlines, airports and third-parties who design and operate lounges today use data to figure out how their existing facilities are performing, how to make them better and how to use them to capture passengers from rivals?

The answer lies in understanding and using several different data sources together. Information about frequent flyer programmes, class of service, club memberships and on-the-day data about how people use different parts of the airport can be combined to get a detailed view of exactly how different lounge guests value each part of the experience.

Combining all these data points is tricky, and until recently on-the-day data about specific passengers that could be linked with other sources was hard to come by.

At Surveyapp we have developed the Survey Kiosk, powered by iPad technology to conduct detailed, real-time passenger research. The data generated by our kiosks can be combined with other sources to answer three open questions about lounge performance. Read on to find out how…

How does travel profile influence how passengers perceive a lounge?

Not every passenger going into a lounge has the same travel profile. There are seven main groups:

  1. First or business class passengers
  2. Frequent flyers with economy or premium tickets holding lounge access privileges
  3. People travelling with an airline’s partners, entering under alliance rules
  4. Paid-up members of a lounge access club like Priority Pass
  5. Passengers who pay for access on the day
  6. People offered lounge access as a service recovery “apology” from an airline or airport
  7. Airline staff on duty travel, although many airlines do not allow this.

Not every lounge serves every possible group.

It is important that lounge managers understand how each group values the lounge because their different revenue profiles indicate the lounge’s contribution to airline and airport revenue.

First and business class passengers pay the highest ticket prices and airlines may pay a premium to airports for access to fast track and lounge facilities. But if it turns out that they do not value the lounge highly, for example because they tend to arrive shortly before flights, the operator may prefer to spend its budget addressing the needs of people who fly economy class frequently enough to earn lounge access instead.

These can be quite different. For example eastbound flights from North America to Europe tend to operate during the hours of darkness. Passengers with plush business class beds may want to sleep all the way and eat their meal in the lounge before boarding. A shiny-card holding economy passenger on the other hand may prefer a space to work or cocktail service, knowing that eating a meal on the plane will fill an hour on a tough red-eye.

Surveyapp’s Survey Kiosks are ideal for understanding how different types of passenger experience the lounge. If passengers are invited to scan their boarding passes, their frequent flyer status or class of service can be matched with their answers or even reconciled against an airline or airport’s own database of frequent flyers.

Operators who use this information effectively can deploy their budget for lounge development to target not only the people who will appreciate it the most, but also the people who will both appreciate it AND spend a lot of money on travel with that airline or through that airport in the future.


Where and when do passengers choose to spend money at restaurants & cafes rather than eating complimentary catering in the lounge?

Lounge users often enjoy the complimentary catering in the lounge. The vast majority of visitors already paid for this as part of their ticket or lounge entry price. But sometimes they go to restaurants and cafes in the terminal where they have to spend extra money. Why they might do this is important? There are four reasons.

First, frequent flyers might be bored of the lounge offer and seeking variety outside. Such passengers might represent a minority of people but a high Proportion of visitors, so the matter must be addressed. Based on visit frequency data for the people who come into the lounge the most, the operator might consider changing menu rotations.

Some passengers might find the lounge options not to their taste. If these passengers represent a minority of visitors there is little the operator can do about this. But if there are significant numbers and they are concentrated at certain times of the day a new option might be made available. This. might happen if an airline’s flight leaving at that time connects to a certain destination characterised by a specific food preference.

If the lounge regularly runs out of food and drink, that is an important problem that the operator must fix. And if the catering is simply poor quality they will need to consider the economics of making things better in the context of exactly how much the operator earns for each admission and the lounge’s overall value proposition.

Surveyapp Survey Kiosks are ideal for figuring out which if any of these issues are relevant for lounges today. Simple questions lead to more detailed investigations, so a passenger highlighting food as an issue can be asked exactly why this was the case.

Survey Kiosks can also scan boarding passes, allowing airports to understand when passengers with lounge access complete a survey at a restaurant or café rather than the lounge. The Surveyapp data can be reconciled with other data about ticket class and frequent flyer status to understand the dynamics behind catering choice in more detail.

Are lounge sponsorships working?

Lounges are an important part of airline and airport business models. It is well known that they attract passengers and help sell seats that would otherwise go unsold. There are five other ways that lounges can generate revenue:

1. Sponsored digital/non-digital posters, screen savers and interactive screens
2. Drop boxes for business cards offering a sponsored prize draw
3. Table-top magazines and brochures
4. “Experiential zones” where passengers can see things like a new suitcase or phone, drink a cocktail or eat a cake – often manned by the vendor
5. Sponsored wi-fi.

Each of these generate revenue for lounge operators. But go too far and they can degrade the passenger experience. People will not be happy with a seat shortage due to a guy selling pianos.

Surveyapp Survey Kiosks are ideal for reckoning whether the balance between sponsorship revenue and passenger experience is about right. Results obtained from surveys at times when sponsors are in the lounge can be compared with ‘regular’ times.

Passengers can even be asked directly whether they enjoyed trying a sponsor’s cakes or reading their magazines. Sometimes passengers might report that there are too many sponsored magazines selling yachts and not enough general reading and newspapers. All helpful information for the lounge operator to use when ordering next month’s supplies.

Once again, combining the Surveyapp data with other insights, such as frequent flyer tier or class of service shown on a boarding pass scanned by the Survey Kiosk, can help airlines and airports understand exactly which type of passengers are responding well to sponsorship. This data can help support pricing strategies for sponsorship opportunities as well as avoiding sponsorships which may be unsuitable.

We always love to talk about how airports can use data. You can get in touch with us:

oliver AT Surveyapp DOT io
savio AT Surveyapp DOT io

Image credits: Unsplash

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