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.

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  1. Danny says:

    Surely this must be the end of Priority Pass? Was already hard enough to get into many lounges with Priority Pass even when those lounges were running at full capacity. Given airlines always prioritise their own customers in lounges, its easy to predict what the impact of these new capacity restrictions will be on your chances of getting into most lounges with a Priority Pass card as soon as travel numbers pick up a bit.

    • davvero says:

      It depends how busy airlines are to begin with. If they recover quicker than it takes to remove these restrictions then lounges will be packed and there’ll be no room for PP customers, but if airlines are not busy the contract lounges may appreciate the extra income from PP and pay per entry passengers.

    • That was my exact thought too. Another reason to bin Amex Plat and use my Dragon Passes when needed

  2. davvero says:

    Last airport lounge I had access to was 20 March. Looks like the ‘new normal’ will be painful.
    Perhaps this helps answer my question in the chat thread. Of course if I time my TP running for two years of gold then hopefully things will be better.

  3. The BA Galleries lounges in T5 are pretty rammed most of the time. However if they limit numbers then this is likely to push the problem into the main concourse of the airport. Obviously depending on numbers.

    What about Group 1 building with social distancing? I can’t wait for the DYKWIA thread on Flyertalk to kick off?

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      Im glad i found BA’s secret lounge then! 😉

      • Aliks says:

        Not so secret, but £3,300 a trip should keep the hordes of charabanc tourists at bay.

  4. Steve says:

    What is the point of distancing in the lounge before you get on an aircraft and sit right next to someone?

    There is a risk with flying, those that need to fly just need to accept that. All of this is just theatre.

    • memesweeper says:

      If the main departures area is packed there’s not much point keeping the lounges half empty.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Right now social distancing in the lounge and Concourse probably works with so few travellers and makes people seem safer for the time before they are on board. Less time being exposed to people that might have it = lower risk of catching it.

      But you are absolutely right there will be zero chance for social distancing when airport footfall starts to rise. Imagine the queue to board with 2m distance between families. Mayhem.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        There will be no social distancing at airports. There is not the space to do this when boarding a plane, clearing security/customs, check in or retrieving baggage. The idea that all of these could simultaneously accommodate 2m queues is farcical.

        People will need to start evaluating risk/reward and making decisions for themselves.

        • There are lots of things they could do. Virtual queing, increased boarding times, strictly by plane section so you only stand with those you are also exposed to on the plane. Open all security lanes, check hand luggage on enteriing airport to reduce issues at security, or ban hand luggage all together. Only allow checked luggage by home/hotel delivery service. I’m hoping they won’t do much, but there’s plenty they could do…

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            A virtual queue requires the same space as a queue. People aren’t virtual. They have to be somewhere.

          • Same total space, but spread out over a larger area… If you say used four gates to queue passengers for one flight and managed when those people should move to the actual gate, it spaces everything out a lot more. Again, the point would be to keep around the same people they would be exposed to on the plane – not to maintain 2m between everyone. The same if you instruct people to wait elsewhere in airports until boarding slot has opened (You could also ‘queue’ passengers on buses, in empty restaurants etc.). The rest of a departure area isn’t normally as densely populated at the queue right before boarding… Except for Luton.

            I personally think anything like this would be overkill. But then given what has been done elsewhere in the country, it wouldn’t surprise me if some quite revolutionary airport measures are brought in temporarily.

    • To minimise the expose in the world where it’s impossible to prevent.

    • The point is to reduce the number of people you have contact with, not eliminate it. The target has never been zero (i.e. you never self isolated from memebrs of own household). As time move forward, life will necesitate increasing the number, but there will still be plans in place to limit to what is considered a priority. You may be exposed to the 30 odd people around you on the plane, but if you can cut out exposure to a differrent 50 people from the airport travel/queueing/waiting experience, you are still significantly reducing the number that could infect you or vice versa.

    • Fiona says:

      What about the safety of those working there?

  5. The non-Schengen Crown Lounge at Schiphol is open but the only things available are the coffee maker and the still/sparkling water tap.

  6. Tommi says:

    “will wear personal protective equipment including gloves”
    I’m baffled that some people think gloves are a good idea – are they really replacing them with new ones as often as you should be washing your hands?

    • Gloves are good where someone is required to clean their hands so regularly that it would become painful to do so. As you say it requires frequent replacement

      • BrightonReader says:

        Depends what they are doign when wearing them as well

        If it just doing one job constantly such as pouring and handing over drinks then gloves are effective.

        But if a glove wearer is doing that then wiping a table down and picking up napkins etc then the risk of cross contamination is increased.

        Separation of clean and dirty tasks will become more common in the future. So in a restautent you might have one person only serving plates but another only collects the dirty ones

        • They should have been doing that all the time….

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Exactly. It’s bizarre how everyone is going OTT when really what they should be reinforcing is good hygiene processes that should have been in place since day 1.

            I would welcome more Hand sanitiser wall units (and them being refilled) in high footfall areas/spaces and hand soap dispensers actually full of soap with running hot water.

      • I’d imagine you’re also less likely to touch your mouth with a glove on.

  7. Fenny says:

    A limit of 2 per table sounds like a family of 4 will need to use 2 tables. Why do families need to sit apart? They are all likely to have the same level of infection already.

    • Doubt Zurich gets many families vs business people.

    • Because the parents need a break after two months of lockdown!

    • I don’t think many families, who would have lounge access for the whole family, are travelling at this time.

  8. Lady London says:

    slightly relevant for Zurich after an overnight flight on LX from DXB a few years back I used the Swiss Arrivals lounge there and it was very nice. Decent coffee, small contiental breakfast and a shower. Perfect for getting you on the road again after an annoyingly short night flight.

    • BrightonReader says:

      Not beenthere in ages but when I was there it was just a waste that they had a massive bar in the LX lounge complex with taxiway views serving cocktails etc that was also the smokers area meaning non smokers were basicaly denied having any sort of made or poured drinl.

      Has that changed?

      • Czechoslovakia says:

        Sadly, as a smoker, yes. The A gates lounge has undergone a 12 month refurb. Opened in the autumn if I remember correctly. The old smokers bar is now a quiet zone. The main lounge has gained an on demand kitchen with chef who’ll cook 1 of 2 meals fresh to order for you. Us smokers have been relegated through a side door to a outdoor cage, overlooking the toilet entrances….

  9. 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.

    • 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?

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

    • 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.

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