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How will airport lounges operate in the future? A real life example from the Aspire lounge in Zurich

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There has been much speculation about how airport lounges will operate in the future, especially with social distancing measures in place.

(I am beginning to think that the reason British Airways is not rolling over elite status is to dramatically cut the amount of people who would be eligible for lounge access.  We couldn’t blame them if they took that option.)

Here is a real life example.  Aspire re-opened its Zurich Airport lounge on Friday, following the lifting of restrictions in Switzerland.

Aspire Lounge Zurich open

This is what Aspire is doing:

“The Zurich Airport Lounge will reopen with a reduced capacity to ensure at least a 2-meter physical distance in-between all tables and seating areas throughout this lounge.”

“There will also be a maximum limit of 2 guests per table upon re-opening.”

“All employees working at the lounge will be provided with and will wear personal protective equipment including gloves and face masks. Staff levels within the lounge will be reduced at opening to avoid crowding as much as possible.”

“A new and more frequent cleaning schedule has been introduced at this lounge using effective disinfectants. This includes surfaces, especially high contact services being cleaned even more rigorously and frequently.”

No buffet service will be provided at the Zurich Aspire Lounge upon reopening. All food and beverages will be served by a waiter via an aircraft meal trolley until further notice.”

The only food available will be cold snacks.  Your options are:

  • A selection of “mini” sandwiches
  • Mini appetizers (glas)
  • Vegetable dip
  • A selection of sweets

It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but at least airport lounges are now opening again and are serving some food and drink.  One upside of the reduced service is that the cost of access is reduced to CHF 20.

You can find out more about the Aspire Zurich lounge policy on the Aspire website here.

Aspire Lounge Zurich open

Getting airport lounge access via a UK credit card

As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:

The Platinum Card from American Express

Two free Priority Pass cards (one for you, one for your supplementary Platinum cardholder, each admitting two – so a family of four gets in free) giving access to every lounge in the Priority Pass network – search it here.  You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

You get a Lounge Club card loaded with two free visits to any Lounge Club network lounge – see the list here.  The list is slightly shorter than the Priority Pass list, but not by much.  Additional visits are charged at £20 per person.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  No annual fee in Year 1.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

You get a free LoungeKey card allowing you access to any property in the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although regular travellers will find it cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card (adults only, of course).  The card has an annual fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

Comments (55)

  • Kip says:

    Presumably if all the amenities of business class are not available then you would expect to see a reduction of fares? Effectively all you’re paying for is a better seat.

    • John says:

      Or for the same seat, in Rob’s beloved club europe

    • Peter K says:

      But surely fares are based on what someone is willing to pay, not what it costs to provide?

  • Andrew says:

    I would imagine that BA will keep their lounges closed for as long as possible, citing social distancing issues, but of course saving them money.

    • Lady London says:

      Whatever makes you think British Airways that moneygrubbing corner-cutting employee-exploiting company would do that?

  • AJA says:

    I disagree with Rob that BA will cull it’s number of shiny card holders to reduce passenger numbers in their lounges. What I see happening instead is restricting lounge access to business class passengers only but enhancing benefits for shiny card holders in some other way (eg more bonus Avios) to incentivise people to attain / retain status.

    I think the era of buying the cheapest economy ticket and getting access to the lounge via your status is over. You may still get access if you buy a fully flexible economy ticket.

    I think BA will need to extend status purely because every other alliance has done so and it will want its members to fly again. I think BA is being extremely cautious in its approach and will do the minimum it can get away with without risking passengers defecting to other airline alliances.

    • John says:

      Your post is somewhat self-contradictory. BA needs to extend status to get its members to fly again, but there won’t be any benefits from having status?

      If status only gets you extra avios, then I won’t bother. Spending £1000 on a “TP run” to get 100000 extra avios is hardly worth it

      It would need to be a oneworld-wide agreement if they were going to remove lounge access, but all alliances would need to do it otherwise they would lose customers to the ones which didn’t.

      • AJA says:

        I don’t know what they will actually do. I wish I did. I wasn’t saying that the extra Avios is what they will offer, it was more as an example of something BA might do. As for OW agreement I think that is happening in the background. I wouldn’t rule anything out, including culling the numbers, but I just don’t think they will. It’s my opinion. You don’t have to agree and I might be totally wrong in my assessment, but equally so might Rob.

      • Optimus Prime says:

        They could decide to remove lounge access from those travelling on Avios tickets if they don’t have status. Isn’t Qatar doing something similar already?

    • Rob says:

      If I was BA I might be willing to take the risk that I am running a big enough monopoly not to be too concerned about what a few thousand ex-status holders will do if I don’t extend their card.

      Remember that this might not even do the job. Gold’s will only drop to Silver and so retain access – this keeps the Club lounges full whilst emptying the First lounge (which is effectively the Gold lounge). Logically, Gold members should be rolled over – to keep them to Galleries First – whilst Silvers should be dropped to Bronze to empty out Galleries Club.

      Moving all the Gatwick flights to Heathrow is a little stupid, to the extent that you are leaving a huge lounge complex – in fact a whole terminal – virtually empty whilst T5 will remain at full capacity. Such is the need to protect Heathrow slots.

      • Andrew says:

        But remember there’s nothing that sates a soft landing is policy on the website, so it’s more a practice rather than a policy and BA could stop that practice whenever they want and no one could complain.

  • Mike White says:

    I think this is all crazy and a modicum of common sense and rowing back will be needed at some point when face can be saved. The current death rate for under-60s In UK is 0.0049%, which, if I can try to put into some perspective, it is the same probability that the aircraft will suffer an engine failure on a transatlantic flight. So hardly any. Put simply, if it is safe to fly then it is safe to fly. IF you are under 60. For those over 60 then the risk is very different at a whopping 0.29%. Combined it is 0.056% I think it won’t be long until the proverbial coffee is smelled and this whole thing is put to bed. Unfortunately, at the cost of a large-scale disruption to the world’s mobility and the aviation industry.

    • memesweeper says:

      The low rates are because we had/have a lockdown/social distancing. And the low rates still mean a > 50% increase in the death rate in recent weeks.

      Travelling doesn’t much increase the traveller’s risk. However, lots of travelling significantly increases a society’s risk. Looking at this from any individual’s standpoint then, outside of high risk groups, personal adherence to lockdown/distancing is going to insignificantly affect your chances of getting ill or dying. However, everyone’s else’s behaviour is going to make a huge difference to all of us.

    • Callum says:

      1. I would love to see where you get those figures from given they bear no resemblance whatsoever to any official statistics I can find.

      2. One of the perks of modern living is that we can also worry about things that don’t result in death. If you pay attention to what government does, you’ll notice that the vast majority of what they do doesn’t involve trying to prevent death. In fact, you’ll probably find the vast majority of your energy is spent improving your life as opposed to staying alive.

      3. Although it may frustrate you to no end, this post is the perfect example of why REAL experts take no notice of self-appointed armchair experts posting online. Though, given people like yourself are increasingly fooling the insanely gullible public and getting into powerful positions, it’s a disturbing thought that this may not be the case for the foreseeable future.

      • Joe says:

        Mike’s post is not out of whack with what experts are increasingly saying. Just do a few minutes of research on what the estimated Infection Fatality Rate (not Case Fatality Rate) is by age group and you’ll come to similar numbers. ie <1% across age groups, with a massive skew towards 0.1% or lower in those <50 without preexisting conditions. The more we test the more evident this becomes. Look at the case studies of prisons in the US or dorms in Singapore.

        The reality is that policy is now being driven by politics and not experts. I totally understand the fear – the media has not helped at all in how they have presented this. And few governments have shown true leadership but have caved to fear. We should all take some sensible precautions in life as a result of this to shield those who are vulnerable. But – the faster society can return to near normal the faster we'll stem off the inevitable second order effects of what is happening now. Continuing to perpetuate fear has already started killing people by making them avoid hospitals.

  • Andsman says:

    This two person requirement at a table creates problems for families. It’s a useful article. Shame the offerings are always going to be less.

    • memesweeper says:

      If you’re in a family group > 2, then the two person requirement at a table creates greater risks and problems for everyone in the lounge!

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    Interesting that the cost is lowered, I would have thought if anything the new arrangements would be more costly to provide, per pax?

    • Lady London says:

      Well…. their costs of providing might always have allowed this door price, just maybe previouslty they could get away with charging a lot more!

      am guessing the above so fae as their marginal costs are concerned. as regards their fixed costs I am not sure what they pay airports, what portion is fixed rent, is there a % of turnover cost paid to airport as well, etc.

  • r* says:

    Iirc, the zurich lounge only served hot food for a couple of hours at early lunch and dinner before the virus, outside of that they only had a few cold options.

  • Jason Hindle says:

    Surprised the cost is lower. I had assumed both airport lounges and restaurants would simply decrease demand (maintaining social distance) by increasing cost (maintaining some semblance of profitability).