Airport lounges – worth the price of admission?

Written by admin on October 13, 2009 – 4:39 pm -

Do you think you need access to airport lounges? If so, why? If you need to ponder the question, you’re probably not a frequent traveler, who’s been bumped from planes or missed connections. It’s unlikely you know the interiors of airports as if they were second homes.

Those traveling in business or in first class internationally don’t need to join a club. Paying big bucks for plane tickets usually entitles them to a guest pass. It’s the least an airline can do to show its gratitude. It may not sound like a big deal. But, for passengers with connecting flights and a lengthy layover, these retreats can be godsends.

Some clubs/lounges are clearly better than others. For example, I haven’t been overwhelmed by the Red Carpet Clubs in the U.S. The ones is Asia (for that matter anywhere but in the U.S.) are so much nicer.

There are some airport clubs, where no one would be devastated, if they were stranded for the night. These clubs come complete with hot and cold running food, lounge chairs where someone can sleep (some even have a sleeping room) and a large selection of libations. Lucky passengers can have a free massage then continue on to their next destination in a more relaxed, Zen-like, state.

If you’ve decided to join a lounge, what would you like to find?

The following are a few suggestions on my list. Please, feel free to add more.

- peace and quiet
- enough area in the lounge so passengers don’t feel as if they’re sitting on each other’s laps
- separate areas for children
- good food and good beverages; alcoholic ones should be free
- an extensive assortment of newspapers and magazines – in different languages
- large flat-screen TVs with different broadcast channels. Not everyone wants to watch the news or sports
- a business area with computers, printers, copiers and even a fax
- plenty of plugs including multi-standard ones; there should be a collection of electrical cords and adapters that may be used in the lounge
- free WiFi

Moving right along:
- well maintained washrooms and showers available for passengers with a long layover or who want to clean up before proceeding to the next destination
- sufficient amenities in the event travelers can’t put their hands on a toothbrush, etc.
- quiet areas that are designated for people who want to sleep in a lounge chair, chaise or massage chair where cell phones are forbidden
- Band-aids and simple medications (e.g. Tylenol, Tums) for heart-burn and headaches, so club members aren’t forced to leave the premises to find a pharmacy

Club members voice that they want personnel staffing the clubs, who are qualified and are authorized to provide VIP service, can answer questions and solve problems.

Additional things on travelers’ wish lists:
- Priority check-in facilities for passengers and their luggage
- Announcements at boarding time in the lounge so people aren’t forced to continually check the airlines’ monitors

Some say the ultimate perk (other than better-than-usual customer service) would be having a door on the outside of the security perimeter that leads directly to the screening area. And a special exit area for club members to use when boarding flights – so they aren’t forced to wait with other passengers.

What would provide you the incentive to part with hundreds of dollars to become a club member?

Realize, there’s nothing wrong with sitting in an airport’s concourse (most have WiFi) and new restaurants and bars inside the departure areas are finding that captive travelers spend real money eating and drinking because it’s a good way to fill time.

If you belong to an airline club, which ones do you consider the cream of the crop? And which clubs do you think are the worst?

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

It's A Brand New World

Written by admin on June 13, 2007 – 3:54 pm -

In mid-June, the city of Paris introduced free WiFi connections. There are 260  Municipal WiFi Connections where you can take your laptop and work away. Imagine being able to surf the Internet while sitting in the Luxembourg Garden, other parks, museums, libraries and so many more locations.  Surfers are no longer delegated to sitting in McDonald’s, the first place in Paris that offered free on-line access.  But, if you’re in a park, be certain your laptop’s battery is fully charged.

There are numerous cities in the US and in Europe that are WiFi-enabled and more than friendly. There are an increasing number of free Hot Spots in the US and many paid and free WiFi Connections throughout the US and the world, including Japan, Asia and the majority of cities in the EU. It’s amazing when you consider that not so many years ago, people depended on faxes and overnight mail delivery, if they were really pressed.

This relatively instant interconnectivity has dramatically changed the way business can be done. People can and do cyber-commute. “File-sharing” is the norm in companies so that numerous people can work on the same project around the clock. One Washington, DC lawyer I know doesn’t even tell his clients when he’s gone to Paris. His cell phone has a DC area code and he answers it night and day. The Philadelphia set a goal to be the first US city with free WiFi.  The city’s mayor felt it would be important for both the private and public sectors, attract tourists, and enable students to compete in a more level playing field when it comes to academic studies. With the development of computers that cost less than $100 each, perhaps it’s feasible. ”Wireless Philadelphia” has completed testing its wireless service in a 15-square-mile test zone and plans to expand access to the city’s 135- square- mile radius by the end of 2007.

But, that’s the US where many people had computers (or were been exposed to them). It’s amazing Paris has taken this extremely aggressive Internet connectivity initiative considering personal computers were a rarity among the French who, not so many years ago, were addicted to the Minitel.

FranceTelecom distributed millions of free “dumb” terminals in lieu of phone books. Anyone with a phone line could access a phone number and other services such as train schedules. As a result, the Minitel was often considered an impediment for a fast deployment of the Internet in France as it already provided safe and easy online access for many useful services without requiring personal computers.

There are (marginal) advantages of the Minitel over the Internet: it doesn’t require subscribing to a service or buying and maintaining a costly personal computer, plus there are fewer security issues with respect to credit card payments and other personal information.

Also, because the Minitel follows well-defined standards, there are hardly any compatibility problems that often crop up with Internet services.

Some contend that thanks to the Minitel, the French are used to doing transactions online and have embraced the Internet since it offers more value and convenience than its predecessor. Plus, the cost of computers and other hardware have dropped and consumers can buy them on-line, at electronics stores, and in nearly every hyper-marche.  FranceTelecom has essentially phased out the Minitel after France’s Internet czar degreed that it was time for the country to start tapping and typing into the 21 st century.

When Bonjour Paris launched thirteen years ago, the main response when discussing the Internet among the French was, “C’est quoi ca?”   Educated people, including graduates of the Grand Ecoles, with whom I discussed the Internet refused to believe it would make any inroads among the French.

Neighbors in Provence couldn’t understand why I spent so many hours sitting in front of a computer screen.  Work was done over a very slow phone line. To add insult to injury, phone bills were akin to the National debt and weren’t anything to be taken lightly.

France has come a long way since then.  High-speed Internet connections are available practically country- wide. The speed of connection in Paris is faster even than what’s normal in the US – to the point that the speed of some IP providers is essentially equal to a T-1 line.

So why should it be shocking that Paris has hopped on the cyber bandwagon?  If Paris’s Mayor Bertrand Delanoe can introduce the Paris Plage (beach), why wouldn’t he go full-steam ahead and make the city WiFi?  The city government will undoubtedly do the same when new technology is introduced.

Tourists can carry a tiny computer or PDA with them and access web sites about France on the go.  Can’t wait to see what will be next!

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Posted in Around the World |