Plaza Premium‘s ambitions at London Heathrow seem boundless. Eager to tap into one of the hottest European markets—Heathrow passenger traffic reached a record 75.7 million in 2016—the company is yet again expanding its footprint, with the arrival of three new lounges at Terminals 3, 4, and 5.
Born in Hong Kong, Plaza Premium Group, the first and largest pay-in lounge operator with 140 locations at 35 airports worldwide, was virtually absent from Europe when it announced its first two lounges at London Heathrow airport back in 2014.
With the opening of the new Terminal 2, “The Queen’s Terminal” and the home of Star Alliance, the company introduced a departure lounge offering all passengers, regardless of airline or class of service, a stylish space to relax prior to their flight, with amenities including a substantial buffet, showers, and day rooms. Plaza Premium also unveiled an Arrivals Lounge, expanding the popular concept to arriving passengers, with a convenient location outside of customs and security.
With planned openings in Terminals 3, 4, and 5, Plaza Premium makes a bold move that will allow the company to serve every passenger terminal. More significantly, the operator is saturating the relatively young arrivals lounge market, cementing a leading position for the years to come.
Opening late march 2017: a new Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at LHR Terminal 4
Scheduled to open late march 2017, the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow airport Terminal 4 will offer all passengers—regardless of their airline and class of service—the ability to enjoy a shower and a meal upon arrival, for a fee. Various packages at different price points will include the use of private relaxation rooms, showers, or spa services.
The lounge will feature a seating area for 75 customers, 25 shower rooms, and a bar: an impressive footprint for an arrivals facility, which underscores Plaza Premium’s future dominant position as the only Arrivals Lounge operator at Terminal 4. In contrast, every other terminal is home to airline-operated arrivals lounges: United Arrivals Lounge in Terminal 2, American Airlines Arrivals lounge and Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge in Terminal 3, and British Airways Arrivals Lounge in Terminal 5.
The Arrivals Lounge, located outside customs, will complement the Plaza Premium departure lounge located inside security.
In addition to a breakfast offering, the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge will include the operator’s “Flight Club” dining concept, which debuted at Kuala Lumpur International Airport late 2015. According to Plaza Premium, “Flight Club showcases an enticing menu of western and international cuisines, with the emphasis on the use of herbs and seeds, from rosemary to oregano, and from chia seeds to flaxseeds, creating a range of visually enticing and healthy dishes blended with natural and colorful ingredients. Informative display of mural boards about herbs and seeds are also strategically featured within Flight Club to educate travellers about better dining habits, enabling their indulgence in a luscious yet educational culinary experience that is unique to the airport.”
The Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow airport Terminal 4 is expected to welcome Priority Pass members, granting holders of several premium credit cards complimentary access.
Plaza Premium takes over the former Delta Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3
The short-lived Delta Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow airport Terminal 3 ceased operations in September 2016, concluding a brief experiment by the Atlanta-based carrier. Delta, who did not operate a Sky Club departure lounge at London Heathrow, nor other arrivals facility worldwide, ran the lounge for two short years, before outsourcing the service to their partner Virgin Atlantic. Delta’s premium passengers may now use the Virgin Atlantic Revivals lounge, also in Terminal 3.
The space will have remained vacant for less than a year. Plaza Premium is moving in, and is preparing to open the only pay-in Arrivals Lounge at Terminal 3 by the end of 2017. The club will feature 11 showers, comfortable seating, and hot food.
With an American Airlines Arrivals lounge and a Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge just around the corner, the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge will cater to a more limited audience than its counterpart in Terminal 4, but Plaza Premium has demonstrated its ability to distinguish themselves from the competition with unique amenities.
The Plaza Premium difference
Arrivals lounges are relatively rare worldwide, and not as popular as the ubiquitous departure lounges. Yet they serve an important role for passengers arriving early in the morning, who may choose to maximize sleep onboard by skipping breakfast, with the promise of a hot shower and a nutritious breakfast on the ground upon arrival.
In particular, passengers arriving from the East Coast of the United States endure painfully short overnight flights, often followed by full a day at work in London. The clubs allow travelers to start their day refreshed, and catch up on work ahead of their hotel check-in time.
Airlines often balk at opening arrivals lounges—they’re expensive to operate, with often questionable return over investment. London stands out as an exception, with such intense competition that Heathrow airport has the greatest concentration of arrivals facilities worldwide.
Yet, airlines envision their clubs as a haven strictly for morning arrivals—a place to have a shower and breakfast. The clubs close early in the afternoon, serve only breakfast, and are designed to encourage short stays. They’re also strictly reserved for premium passengers, and off-limits to club members and most elite passengers.
Some lounges offer special perks—the British Airways Arrivals Lounge boasts luxuries such as infinity bathtubs and an Elemis spa, while the United Arrivals Lounge features cooked-to-order breakfast items—but none offer extended opening hours, alcoholic beverages, complete business facilities, or pay-in access.
That’s where Plaza Premium comes in. With generous opening hours, easy access for all visitors even without a boarding pass, hot food all day, a full bar, and amenities such as day rooms and conference rooms (at Terminal 4), the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounges deliver a much more complete suite of services.
Plaza Premium envisions their Arrivals lounges as meeting places, a haven to relax in complete privacy, an opportunity to take a shower mid-afternoon, or even a gathering place for dinner and drinks in the evening. Passengers may also use the clubs if they arrive at the airport ahead of check-in time, and visitors can wait for passengers in comfort. It all comes at a cost, of course, but one that’s typically reasonable through Plaza Premium’s partnership with Priority Pass, Lounge Club, Diners Club, and the Arrture loyalty scheme.
Coming up: a new Plaza Premium Lounge at Terminal 5A
London Heathrow Terminal 5, the airport’s largest and busiest terminal, and the main home of British Airways, has long been the exclusive domain of the British career. Mid-2015, global aviation services company and lounge operator Swissport opened Aspire Lounge and Spa, the first independent lounge at the sprawling hub. Despite relatively limited amenities, the club quickly became so popular that it occasionally has to turn down visitors.
Plaza Premium will enter the arena late 2017 with a new departure lounge in Terminal 5, conveniently located in the main building (also called Terminal 5A.) Few details have emerged yet, but the club is expected to mirror the Terminal 2 and Terminal 4 facilities, with ample seating, a hot buffet, a bar, showers, and rest and relaxation areas.
Bright horizons ahead for Plaza Premium
Beyond its aggressive move at London Heathrow, Plaza Premium group is continuing to expand worldwide, with numerous planned openings as far as King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The company is also expanding its airport and transit hotel business segment, and multiplying agreements with major airlines. Plaza Premium has also joined a loyalty scheme to reward frequent customers with free lounge visits.