AIRPORTS OF THE FUTURE
“I’ve travelled to at least a few hundred airports in the world but no airport is taking care of millenials,” says Song Hoi See, founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Group.
The operator of the world’s largest independent airport lounge network observes that airports have yet to fully understand the needs of this emerging-breed of consumers.
“I’ve been sharing this idea with Kuala Lumpur International Airport. We must have the services that takes care of the millenials. What are the services that the millennials want? Those who can’t afford lounge (access), you can create a lounge that combines as a co-working space.
“A space where there’s a lot of interactive digitalisation for them. A place for them to congregate and exchange opinions,” says Song during an interview on AWANI Review.
The Malacca-born entrepreneur says Plaza Premium is already looking to set up a collaborative workspace at airports. He expects to introduce the first-of-its kind concept in Shanghai.
Song also emphasises that millennials expect to eat well during their dwell time at airports. ‘The food would have to be modern, you have to create a lot of fusion food for them rather than expecting them to eat the food you usually get at airport such as McDonalds, KFC or Burger King. They are everywhere at airports. We have to create something new for them.
Plaza Premium was founded in 1998 out of Song’s desire to create airport lounges that are not limited to premium class travellers. “I was as an investment banker and because of my seniority I travel business class all the time - paid by the bank,” he says with a hearty laugh. “But after seven and a half years I decided to start my own business. I started travelling in economy.”
“That was 27 or 28 years ago when our battery laptops only lasted for two hours before we had to recharge. Plus we didn’t don’t have email; we only had fax where we had to do word processing, print out and fax it. When you don’t have a lounge, you can’t do this kind of work at the airport.
“So, I ended up stealing electricity in the public alley. Can you imagine? I used to be a senior vice president for a company and now I had to steal electricity from the public alley. It’s very embarrassing,” says Song.
“I thought that airports aren’t humane enough. Why is it the lounges that I once enjoyed was only good for commercially important persons? Or a first class and business class traveller? Why is it that economy class people don’t have (access) to that kind of facilities?
“Just imagine, only 10-15 percent travellers are in the first and business classes on a full flight. Eighty five percent makes up economy class. Why isn’t anyone taking care of them? I need only a few percentage out of that 85 percent to have the econometrics work.
“That’s the reason I started this business. I wanted to do something for the public. I wanted to make sure that travelling becomes more enjoyable more convenient.”
Headquartered in Hong Kong, Plaza Premium now manages and operates in more than 160 locations in 45 international airports, providing premium services to passengers regardless of airline or class of travel. The group also offers dining, meet and greet and courier services. Plaza Premium owns transit hotel brand Aerotel.
Watch the full interview with Song below: