Plaza Premium Group is a globally present organization offering airport services in airports in several countries. They’ve recently begun expanding their gaze to the U.S. market. AXN’s Shafer Ross spoke with PPG’s director of global business development, Jonathan Song, about the company’s plans looking forward.
ROSS: What can we expect to see from PPG in the U.S. in 2020?
SONG: Many people see us as an airport lounge company, when in fact, we’ve evolved over the past 20 years into an airport hospitality company that provides four different types of services: the first one is airport lounges…the second is our airport hotel brands…the third one is our meet and greet service…and the fourth one is our airport dining portfolio, with a few cafes and restaurants.
Within  alone, we’ve done a major expansion in North America. Perhaps in the U.S.A. we are not so well known, but we’ve been in Canada for more than a decade already.
Our group had made a commitment – and we have now used part of our $100 million expansion plan – to make the U.S.A. one of our major expansion markets. So, as we enter into 2020, we’re opening up our first Plaza Premium lounges in both Denver and Dallas/Fort Worth. There will be one Plaza Premium lounge in Denver International Airport (DEN), and there will be two Plaza Premium lounges in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport (DFW). We’re very excited to be showcasing to the market our award-winning brand. This is just the start in the U.S.A. for us.
We already launched our first-ever airport meet and greet service in Dallas/Fort Worth last year. That basically means we feature a seamless end-to-end airport experience from curb to gate for the guests. So, you may be arriving, departing or transiting, and we’ll have someone to escort you from end to end.
ROSS: What does the customer experience for 2020 look like? What will guests be expecting and what’s your focus?
SONG: In 2020 the key thing is customer experience. It’s extremely important that we treat everyone as if they are a VIP. Especially in an airport environment – a high-stress and high-anxiety environment – and we need to find a way to make an oasis for the passenger, so we use some of our service and facilities to be able to calm everyone.
We’ve achieved this not only with our service but through key strategic brand partnerships, like our work with Italian coffee brand Lavazza. We feature a custom-made, well-designed coffee bar where they do their customized coffee mocktails. In Dubai, we have family suites and first-class cabins. We’ve launched the first phase of our airport rewards program. We have almost 170 outlets worldwide, but how do we connect the dots between all of them? So, we’ve launched our rewards program, called Smart Traveler. That will definitely allow for a seamless customer experience across all our outlets worldwide.
Also, it’s important to work in cooperation with different brands. We can actually provide much greater experiences with partnerships. We are specialists in airport hospitality, but there are so many other specialists and professionals in other areas. We also want to add special and unique experiences on top of what we can already offer.
ROSS: To what do you attribute the growth of independent lounges in the United States?
SONG: We’ve been seeing this trend popping up in the U.S.A. for a few years. In the past, airports were seen as just transport hubs, transporting people from point A to point B, and that’s it. Then the airlines started featuring first class and business class, but 15 percent of the plane is first class or business class while the remaining 85 percent is economy class. Does that mean the remaining 85 percent don’t need to enjoy good quality airport experiences? I don’t think that’s the case.
At this stage, we can definitely see the evolution in the U.S. Now, it’s not just focusing on the business class or first class, now it’s really looking at the whole passenger experience.