- Airlines are adapting their premium lounges to the new realities of pandemic flying as their top travelers remain largely grounded.
- Each airline has its own approach but all are centered around health and safety first followed by a gradual ramp-up of the amenities that flyers expect.
- We visited the airport lounges of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines to see how the lounge experience has changed.
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Access to airport lounges is a top perk for frequent flyers and those who pay top dollar to sit in the premium cabins of an airliner.
The exclusive spaces not only offer a reprieve from a terminal’s hustle and bustle but come stocked with complimentary food and beverages, comfortable seating options, and free WiFi, at the very least. Their allure is also enough to entice travelers into spending hundreds on annual memberships or credit cards that offer access, while giving them a reason to head to the airport early.
As any lounge manager will confirm, it wasn’t uncommon in pre-pandemic times for a flyer to arrive countless hours before their flight just to take advantage of all the lounge has to offer. American Airlines’ Flagship Lounges and United’s Polaris lounge, for example, offered complimentary sit-down dining with multi-course meals to eligible patrons.
But the pandemic has changed the mandate of these lounges, especially as the business travelers and wealthy international jet setters that once filled the spaces have largely been grounded due to forces outside of their control.
The airline lounge now serves as merely another place to wait before a flight. However, as we settle into what will undoubtedly be a protracted recovery for aviation, airlines are examining their lounges differently and are slowly bringing back or modifying the luxuries flyers once enjoyed.
Here’s what it’s like to visit an airport lounge during the pandemic.