While airlines focus on amplifying their in-flight offering, the creation of luxurious flying experiences is moving beyond the skies. Luxury travellers see airport time as dead time, but now companies are embedding luxury services into airports to ease the limbo of waiting for flights. Here are three ways luxury travel is going the extra mile:
1. Destination Departure Lounge
Terminal hotels are undoubtedly practical, but a new breed of luxurious airport hotels, such as The Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport, are changing the game. For a membership fee of £5,641 it allows members to skip the chaos of traditional departure halls and access services such as private dining, entertainment facilities and BMW rides to their plane.
This year, the terminal partnered with luxury hospitality brands, including Four Seasons and The Ritz-Carlton, to create lounges designed to the hotels’ aesthetic; offering complimentary access to high-spending guests, as well as additional perks once they arrive at their chosen hotel. United Airlines will also soon operate a branded suite, with paid-for entry limited to business and first class flyers.
Time lost in departure lounges is one of the reasons for airports struggling to be seen as attractive destinations, a problem that Virgin’s upcoming Departure Beach promises to address.
Located in Barbados, Virgin’s beach-side airport lounge is exclusive to customers of its premium package holidays. Providing a complete bypass of the airport’s departure lounge prior to boarding, with on-site check-in, shower facilities and food and drink, all included in the £20 day rate.
Invite-only and membership based spaces create invaluable brand loyalty with those willing to spend the most.
2. Next-Level Hospitality
Airport hotels and restaurants have long been associated with sub-standard quality and exorbitant prices. Now brands are attempting to justify these costs by providing unique hospitality offerings to lure the most curious experience collectors.
At John F. Kennedy airport in New York City, developer MCR is reviving the TWA Flight Centre, an abandoned iconic terminal and architectural landmark, into a cutting-edge hotel.
With a 1960s design, the TWA Hotel aims to put a nostalgic twist on the frequently uninspiring airport hotel. Guests will be offered an in-room martini bar, mid-century furniture and a fleet of vintage cars to transport them to their terminal. When the project is completed in 2019, the TWA Hotel will feature eight restaurants, six bars and an in-house museum.
Meanwhile, at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Terminal C introduced Tsukiji Fishroom, a high-end alternative to the average sushi takeaway.
Using fish flown in several times a week on United’s non-stop flight from Tokyo, top sushi chefs prepare the fish before packaging it for customers to take away. ‘By sourcing from and working directly with a supplier at Tsukiji market in Tokyo, we ensure a level of sushi not seen before in an airport,’ said Nate Appleman, vice-president of culinary at OTG.
3. Dialing Up Duty-Free
With airport spending predicted, by GlobalData, to increase by 27% to £36.7bn by 2021, airport retailers are seeking other ways of enhancing their appeal, such as offering exclusive travel-retail items. Given not everyone can access these stores, it makes an ideal spot for exclusive product drops.
Cartier has tapped into the lucrative market of Chinese duty-free retail shoppers through a collaboration with Hong Kong-based travel retail specialist, DFS Group. Backed by a campaign fronted by Chinese actor Deng Chao, Cartier has developed a collection of luxury watches offered only in the jewellery brand’s airport retail spaces.
Luxury alcohol brands are also using duty-free retail as a way to showcase their exclusivity, coaxing high-spending collectors to specific airports in order to make their purchases.
Vodka brand Crystal Head Vodka has partnered with duty-free giant Dufry to make its limited-edition bottle, designed by artist John Alexander and hand-decorated by craftsmen in Milan, solely available in selected US airports.
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