It’s the year-end. The holiday season combined with sudden end-of-year business travel. Inclement weather in many regions throws flight schedules out of gear. Busy international airports get busier and noisier. It is but natural then that those lucky enough to shoulder their way into a well-stocked business lounge—oases of comparative calm in an otherwise crowded and bustling hub of travel activity—feel blessed indeed.
The traveller per square foot of carpet area is markedly less and the amenities definitely swisher than the more plebeian waiting areas that abound. But what makes these lounges most interesting are the different types of travellers one encounters. Come take a journey with me as we survey these inveterate “business loungers”.
The busy bees
They rush to get the lounge-specific Wi-Fi password; they don’t rest easy till they have established good e-connectivity. High on their list of must-dos are attending to pending mails, sending off reams of work which they have diligently finished on the long-haul flight, and charging their handhelds or laptops during the layover, in case they are running low on juice. Next they turn their attention to a quick catch-up of their daily dose of current affairs. There are helicopter moms too, hard at work, high on the corporate ladder—but home is where their heart really is. And the business lounge Skype-ing facilities are a dream come true. Once done, they are happy campers, or should I say loungers, for the rest of their stay in the hallowed precincts.
The shower bookers
They come in two categories. There are those who have a fetish for cleanliness, who just want to shower to get them over the fatigue of the last haul and see them through the next. The shower, then, is literally a lease of life for them. For the second, more interesting group, it is physical activity which is the real lease of life. They belong to the fitness brigade which, cooped up through the long haul, must use the airport’s handy gymnasium or, at the very least, walk briskly for a good length of time along the many terminal walkways. Happily sweaty, the shower then becomes a necessary corollary to make them feel human again. A prelude to the nice long drink, before they set out from the halfway house.
I’m hungry, feed me please
Food is on their mind, and who can blame them for it. With single-minded purpose they survey the array of eats and treats and systematically work their way through them. Beverages of choice are sampled with gusto and repeats savoured with nary a care. It is quite interesting to observe the war dances around the food tables.
They have “I’m here to be pampered” written all over them. And business lounges the world over are working hard to do just that. Think luxurious spas, cigar lounges, fully reclining massage chairs or even, thanks to the hottest and newest trends, shops inside lounges.
Don’t disturb, we snooze
Tired perhaps from a rough coach ride, this group wants its beauty sleep. It is probably the stashed away stock of precious frequent-flyer miles that gained them entry to the lounge this time around. They stalk sleep. And if they don’t get comfortable loungers, they are not averse to joining a couple or more sofas and dozing. The quiet zones or the more trendy private nap rooms housed in the lounge are meant just for them to zzzzz….
The unsure newbie
Entry gained through that precious last promotion which got him or her the upgraded travel status, the business-lounge terrain is new for them. They know too that their curiosity needs to be masked carefully lest it lead to unseemly gawking, or results in them doing something really “uncool”. A favourite trick of theirs is to pick a newspaper or magazine and a quiet corner and get on with the lesson surreptitiously from behind the paper. They are fast learners though and within half an hour or so, no one really would be able to distinguish them from the crowd.
Please recognize me
This is the badge they wear loudly on their sleeves. They could be yesteryear stars or current wannabes, the nouveau riche or just plain attention seekers. Loud tones and ringtones, flashy clothing and accessories, and a permanent need to have lounge staff at their beck and call, characterize this group. An autograph request or a selfie with the star will make their day.
The rare just-chilling types
No fuss, with a glass of wine in hand and a favourite book in the other, they let the world and transit time pass them by graciously. Some lounges the world over are now catering to this special breed, with visitors encouraged to wear woollen socks and read books, reclining on vintage sofas. One envies them their calm and uncluttered life. Or maybe it is just that they have completed their list of life’s must-dos.
One thing they all have in common though—the beelines they make for the plates when hot food is placed in the lounge. The trend is to drop everything they are doing and rush to the bain-maries. Of course, it helps that meals are catered to by celebrity chefs, making it well worth the wait.
The demographics in the lounge change with the geography and time of day. Early mornings and late evenings are bustling with business travellers, with their speech sounding like the proverbial Tower of Babel; late mornings could well see the more relaxed flyers. Afternoons may even bring a lull in the lounge.
Whatever time you choose to be at the lounge the next time, reflect on your fellow travellers, poignantly immortalized by Henry W. Longfellow: “Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,….So on the ocean of life we pass….., Only a look and a voice, then …silence.”
Hema Ravichandar is a strategic human resources consultant. She serves as an independent director and an advisory board member for several organizations. She was formerly the global head of HR for Infosys Ltd.