AUSTIN (KXAN) — Steps are in motion to bring a new type of lounge for travelers to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
This “shared-use” lounge would allow anyone who pays a day-fee to access it and would offer the same amenities members receive at lounges owned by airlines.
Bryce Dubee, a Public Information Specialist with the city’s Aviation Department, explained that this lounge will work similarly to ABIA’s Delta Sky Club Lounge except that you won’t have to be a member or have a certain number of points to go in.
To enter the lounge, you can just buy a day-pass when you go to the airport, Dubee explained.
The city began accepting proposals in March 2019 for what’s known as a common use or shared-use lounge.
The proposed lounge is around 8,000 square feet and located on the mezzanine across from Gate 16 at ABIA’s Barbara Jordan terminal. ABIA asked for designs that “showcase the Spirit of Austin” and also offer high-quality food, drinks, and airport amenities.
A City PowerPoint explained that lounges like this can attract passengers regardless of their airline and increase revenue for the airport.
City documents show that a city evaluation team scored five different applicants who were applying to run this lounge. The team awarded the highest score to MAG US Lounge Management LLC.
MAG runs a brand of this kind of lounge called “Escape Lounge” where people pay $40-45 per day to go inside. American Express Platinum Card Members get a complimentary entry for themselves and up to two guests at these Escape Lounges. MAG has lounges in the U.S., Canada, and in the U.K. including in cities like Minneapolis, Oakland, and Ontario.
The Escape Lounge website tells airports who choose their services, “you are cementing your airport’s reputation as the go-to airport for discerning passengers.”
MAG’s plan calls for meeting rooms as well as a nondenominational prayer room. City documents say the lounge will be divided into zones named after Austin areas like Rainey Street and South Congress Cafe.
“The traveling public will enjoy a food menu created by a local Austin chef using local purveyors,” city documents describing this lounge said.
Austin’s Airport Advisory Commission met on Jan. 14 to authorize the agreement with MAG after the city’s recommendation, but Dubee said the commission ultimately took a neutral position on the contract with MAG.
The vote on this contract was originally scheduled to be on Austin City Council’s Jan. 23 agenda but Dubee said the item will instead go before the council Feb. 20. Dubee explained this will allow the city some time to work through the protest filed by the second-place bidder.
KXAN obtained a letter sent by the second-place bidder, Airport Lounge Development (ALD) to the city on Jan. 12, continuing their protest against the scoring process. For example, ALD objected to the way the city handled the evaluation of competing businesses for their ability to meet federal Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) standards.
ALD claimed that the city’s emphasis on higher rent proposals without factoring in the value of local ACDBE equity ownership would hurt locally owned minority firms.
There is a big business opportunity on the table for whoever is awarded the contract, plenty of people spend money when they go to ABIA.
According to documents in the RFP for this lounge, ABIA has millions of passengers (15.4 million in 2018 at the Barbara Jordan terminal) and significant concession revenues come in per passenger. The gross concession revenue ABIA reported in the 2016 fiscal year was $65.3 million, $74.9 million in 2017, and $90.5 million in 2018.