Design-savvy passenger journeys that start at the airport

Guest Author by Guest Author | Feb 13, 2020

Written by Mei Mei Song, Brand Director, Plaza Premium Group

Airports are in the business of stress reduction; today’s airport is designed not only to reduce stress levels during travel but to also entice travellers to spend more time in the airport as part of their passenger experience. Travellers expect the same level of service excellence when they visit independent airport lounges and in-terminal airport hotels as they do from daily customer experiences. Apart from delivering consistency in food quality, customer service, branding, and hardware, it is also crucial to look at design elements which positively impact the overall passenger experience.

Celebrating a sense of place for passengers

Airports have become an integral part of the passenger journey and as a result airports must showcase a sense of the destination. Drawing from the culture of the location is part of the design DNA in these examples:

A gin bar built in the lounge at Heathrow Airport paying homage to the gin culture
A striking feature wall by local graffiti artists in the lounge at Rio de Janeiro – Tom Jobim International Airport
A triangular shaped rooftop accentuating the high ceilings – with inspiration from Khmer architecture in the 50’s and 60’s – at Siem Reap International Airport lounge
Hand painted backdrops featuring the destination city’s skyline at the lounges in Dubai International Airport
Hand painted backdrops featuring the destination city’s skyline at the lounges in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Dual tone photographs that ornate the walls depicting Chinese culture at an in-terminal airport hotel at Beijing Daxing International Airport
The Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport lounge focused their overall design theme on the iconic Colosseum

A creative approach to structuring these airport lounges and hotels provides not only a memorable experience for travellers but also a taste of what the destination location can offer upon visiting.                                       

Harmony between an airport’s design and functionality

With design, functionality is key and innovation is a must to draw in passengers. In an airport where real estate is premium, ensuring the spaces are dynamic and flexible is the foundation to success. A bar isn’t necessarily only to serve drinks, it can also double up as dessert counter, coffee or tea counter. To serve time-starved travellers, express services are useful – where people can grab a good cup of coffee and a croissant, conveniently parked near the entrance.  

In addition to express services, community spaces are also something travellers have responded well to. The Library Lounge at Aerotel Rio de Janeiro transit hotel is a space used by guests looking to connect and relax. Both airport lounges and hotels must also look at facilities and amenities catering to a variety of traveller types, from corporate to leisure, solo to groups. Effective design, from furniture placement to dedicated areas for families and business travellers, allows the design to meet different travellers’ needs.  

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Airport sustainability is key

From the materials used, to the practices that are implemented, sustainability is a major concern for many travellers. But this cannot be done overnight. Sourcing locally for materials helps decrease the carbon footprint, and also allows for more information to be gathered on the local geography bringing a sense of place to the overall design. An example of working towards local design includes the implementation of water filter stations in the lounge at Langkawi International Airport for guests to fill up their own reusable bottles.

Zoning and a passenger’s personal space

Today travellers expect to stay connected at every point of their journey. Universal power sockets and USB ports, high-speed Wi-Fi, and dedicated workstations are a must-have. Because we all want to be connected all the times, zoning is very crucial. Building workstations too close to the main lounge area where guests are looking to relax is not ideal.  Same goes for dining areas and relaxation zones. This can be challenging when working with a small space. A solution to this is the honeycomb-shaped workstations inspired by the ergonomic shape of a bee hive, a design that has provided travellers with a personal workspace.

Taking the airport experience to the next level

Designing the interior is just one piece of the passenger journey. As airports continue to expand and enhance capacity for the growing travelling public, partnerships are key when building or expanding airport architecture ensuring all check points of the journey are considered in the overall experience. Airports must continue to blend creativity and unique experiences with functional and seamless travel to meet the demand.


Mei Mei Song oversees the brand development and the customer experience. In addition to spearheading the repositioning of Plaza Premium Lounge, leading the launch of airport transit hotel, Aerotel, and developing the refined and elevated lounge concept Plaza Premium First, she is instrumental in developing the dining brands in the Airport Dining portfolio and airport meet-and-greet services Allways.  Mei Mei is also a member of the group’s Steering Committee that drives the commercial and development strategy of Plaza Premium Group.


The article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.

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