Q&A with Justin Banon, director, Priority Pass

Q&A with Justin Banon, director, Priority Pass

What are the membership benefits with Priority Pass? 
When we launched in 1992, we were the first company in the world to offer airport lounge access to travellers, regardless of the airline or class of ticket. To this day, we provide access to the largest number of lounges of any programme, with more than 1,000 lounges globally and our network continues to grow. Our Members can take advantage of complimentary pre-flight food and drinks, as well as enjoy quiet, connected spaces to work or relax in.

In recent years, we’ve taken steps to further improve our service, launching Digital Membership Cards and the Priority Pass app, backed by 24/7 customer support.

These benefits are examples of how we are investing heavily, particularly in digital technology, to ensure our Members always have a seamless and hassle-free travel experience.

We are also extending our Member benefits beyond the lounge. From launching partnerships with restaurants at Gatwick and Sydney airports, to offering sleep pods in Dubai.

Priority Pass has done a lot of research around business travel, how has this informed your strategy towards business travellers and the promotion of your product?

The most important thing for Priority Pass is understanding the needs of our Members, both those flying for leisure and business travellers. The research we undertake enables us to find out what they expect from their airport experience so that we can offer additional benefits.

Frequent business flyers, for example, are placing increasing value on the ability to find a sanctuary in the airport, with 40 percent looking to relax in a peaceful and convenient environment.

We continually provide feedback to lounges to ensure they meet the ever-evolving needs of travellers. As a result, we’re partnering with lounges which offer free Wi-Fi and spa treatments and dedicated meeting and workspaces.

How has Priority Pass embraced the growing demand for a digital airport experience?
With the rest of our lives so influenced by technology and digital innovations, it’s important that the airport experience is not left behind. Airport operators and partners need to continuously innovate and deliver the best digital experience possible for consumers, and we are no different – innovation is central to our future.

Our research has found that half of European travellers believe that digital boarding passes and e-tickets make the airport experience much easier. The launch of our Digital Membership Cards enable seamless access to airport lounges through a mobile device, and our new mobile app also gives Members easy access to information about our global network of lounges. We’ve seen great feedback on these initiatives and have many more enhancements planned for the future. In our Digital Pulse Survey from last year, 90 percent of customers were pleased with the launch of our new Digital Membership Card, while 86 percent were positive about the mobile app.

 

What initiatives do you have in place to encourage travellers to see the airport as a destination in itself?
Over half of travellers (56 percent) now arrive early to take advantage of things like Duty Free shopping, discounts at luxury retailers, dining and lounge experiences. Terminals across the world will continue to transform to appeal to travellers and become destinations in their own right.

From our perspective, we want our Members to have a positive travel experience from the moment they arrive at the airport. While some Members are solo frequent flyers, many are travelling with other people. That is why we allow our

Members to invite their families, friends or colleagues to enjoy the lounge experience with them; taking advantage of the peaceful environment and complimentary food and drinks.

The addition of features like sleep pods and spas, and offers on car hire all help improve the overall travel experience and perceptions of airports.

Are there any areas of the world that you are looking to expand in?
We’re always looking to expand our network globally. Last November, we passed the milestone of 1,000 lounges worldwide, after adding 130 lounges to our network in a year.

In the past 12 months, across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Asia, we introduced 198 new lounges to our program. This breaks down as 47 new lounges across Europe, 21 in Africa and 12 new lounges in the Middle East. We also responded to a surge in demand to open an additional 19 lounges in Russia, including the opening of prominent lounges in Vladivostok and Novosibirsk. We also added 61 lounges in the Asia Pacific region, including 28 lounges in China – our new lounges in Chengdu and Zhengzhou are proving particularly popular.

We opened new lounges in the growing economic hubs of Indonesia, Taiwan, Myanmar and Cambodia, as well as in New Zealand and Australia, all catering for the growth in business and leisure travelling in Asia. We opened 29 lounges in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, plus a further 17 lounges in the US in strategically significant locations such as Boston.

What can we expect to see from Priority Pass over the coming year?
Hitting 1,000 lounges in 2016 was a big milestone for us and in the coming year we’re going to continue this momentum. 2017 also marks our 25th Anniversary, so it is particularly special for us.

We’ve begun the year with new initiatives where we’ve broadened the Priority Pass offering to include benefits that can be enjoyed beyond the lounge, such as introducing access to seven new restaurants in Sydney Kingsford Smith International airport and three at Brisbane International through our partnership with airport dining experts Airport Retail Enterprises.

In the US, we’ve added The House Spirits Distillery at Portland International Airport to our program, a craft distiller that produces award-winning products in-house. Priority Pass Members can also enjoy options such as sleep pods at Dubai International and Minute Suites relaxation suites in Atlanta, Dallas Fort-Worth and Philadelphia airports.

 

Jill Sayles
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Jill Sayles
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