Winnipeg Int'l Adds Common-Use Lounge

Thomas J. Smith
Published in: 

Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) is partnering with Plaza Premium Lounge to add a common-use lounge to its lineup of customer services. Scheduled to open in April, the 3,200-square-foot facility is the Manitoba airport's first lounge without a specific airline affiliation.

Project: Common-Use Passenger Lounge
Location: Winnipeg (Manitoba) Richardson Int'l Airport
Operator: Plaza Premium Lounge
Lease Agreement: 10 yrs
Size: 3,200 sq. ft.
Build-Out & Finish Contractor: Three Way Builders
Designer: Kinney Chan & Associates
Lounge Capacity: 80 people
Entry Fees: $40 for 2 hrs; $50 for 3 hrs; $70 for 6 hrs
Amenities: Tended bar; hot & cold food; private work pods; general seating area with electrical outlets for charging electronics in each seat

YWG awarded a 10-year lease for the facility to Plaza Premium, a common-use lounge operator based in Hong Kong, after meeting with various other management firms. "We formed this venture as a partnership from the get-go," explains Pascal Bélanger, the airport authority's vice president and chief commercial officer. "Plaza Premium checked all the boxes in terms of the type of high-quality service and atmosphere we wanted for customers of the airport."

The lounge overlooks YWG's entry atrium, with three floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Liberal use of wood, metal and glass give the lounge a "five-star finish" with a very open feel, explains Brent Bowes, the operator's Toronto-based vice president of business development. Cost to finish the space was reportedly in the "high six-figures." 

Lounge amenities include a tended bar, a dinning area with hot and cold food, private work pods and a general seating area with electrical outlets for charging electronics at each seat.

Total capacity is about 80 guests.

A central location allows the new lounge to serve domestic and international customers alike. Segregated transborder passengers, however, do not have access to the facility due to the location of YWG's U.S. Pre-Clearance facility. "Of our 3.7 million passengers, half-a-million go transborder; so the vast majority of our customers will have access to the lounge," Bélanger details.

Entry fees to the lounge, which include food and alcoholic drinks, are $40 for two hours, $50 for three hours and $70 for six hours - consistent with Plaza Premium's other Canadian locations, notes Bowes. Visitors who belong to certain airline or other loyalty programs do not pay separate per-entry fees.   

Division of Duties

YWG approached construction of the independent passenger lounge differently than other tenant spaces within its three-year-old terminal building. Instead of turning an empty shell over to Plaza Premium, the airport hired a contractor, Three Way Builders, to perform interior build-out work. 

Plaza Premium's Hong Kong-based architect, Kinney Chan and Associates, designed the space; and then hired YWG's build-out contractor to install wall and floor coverings, move in furniture and add final decorative touches.

"The look and feel of the lounge is driven by Plaza Premium," Bélanger notes. The airport took the unusual step of assuming the lead role during "hard construction" because Plaza Premium is an international operator that had not worked in the Manitoba market before, he explains. 

"We had a greater understanding of the requirements and challenges because it's our building," Bélanger elaborates. "We also have detailed knowledge of the building codes. It made sense to divide the work this way."

Managing the bulk of construction for the project demonstrates the airport's investment in the long-term success of the lounge, he adds. 

An Independent Option

When plans began for the new Plaza Premium Lounge, YWG already had an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in operation; but airport officials wanted to offer customers a facility that doesn't require a specific airline affiliation or annual membership. 

"Air Canada represents about 38% of our business, leaving a wide segment of customers without the ability to get into a lounge," Bélanger explains. "That was the motivation in seeking a private lounge operator. We're always looking to improve the customer experience."

The soon-to-open facility at YWG is Plaza Premium's 12th in Canada. (The private operator also manages lounges at Vancouver International in British Columbia; Edmonton International in Alberta; and Toronto Pearson International.)   

"We have been seeking expansion opportunities in Canada," reports Bowes. "The more locations we have in Canada, the more network breadth we have to serve (our partners') customers, clients and passengers."

Currently, Plaza Premium has partnerships with American Express and other banking institutions, along with 20 air carriers, including WestJet, Transat, Air North and Alaska Airlines. The lounge operator's airline partnerships were an important factor when YWG was awarding the lease for its facility, notes Bélanger. The operator has relationships with a number of airlines that the airport would like to serve its region, he explains.

Currently, YWG is served by nine carriers - seven Canadian and two U.S. - with international service limited to the United States and Mexico.

Growing Trend?

According to Plaza Premium executives, airport authorities around the world are seeking common-use lounges. "A lounge linked to them enhances the guest experience," says Bowes. Plaza Premium began in Hong Kong 16 years ago and expanded into Canada in 2004 with a lounge at Vancouver International. These days, the private company operates 120 lounges in 29 airports.

Bowes reports the company is interested in getting into other Canadian airports and would "certainly bid" if a tender was issued. To date, the company does not have any U.S. locations but is "actively looking" for such opportunities.   


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