Priority Pass Outlines Its Health & Hygiene Guidelines As Lounges Begin To Reopen

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Most of the worldwide Priority Pass lounge network has been closed for the past few months as the pandemic brought travel to a standstill, but with some signs of travel restarting in various pockets around the globe, more and more lounges are starting to reopen their doors.

With more and more people returning to the skies, Priority Pass has now published details of the guidance it is issuing to the lounges in its network as it tries to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to keep staff and passengers safe. I’ve republished the details below and, in some instances, added my own comments alongside them in bold.

GOL Premium Lounge Rio de Janeiro
GOL Premium Lounge Rio de Janeiro

Lounge Staff

  • Increase training for every staff member regarding the Health and Safety protocols within the lounge.
  • Closely monitor staff health. Any staff showing any symptoms of Coronavirus should not come to work and follow local government guidelines on when to return.
  • On arriving for a shift, staff can change clothes and/or thoroughly clean before commencing work.
  • Provide appropriate PPE to all staff, which they must always wear when performing their duties.
  • Ensure kitchen processes follow local food hygiene standards and staff wear appropriate equipment (I’d hope that this was standard practice whether or not there was a global pandemic)
  • In airports where there are no airport-led health measures for employees, implement temperature or other health checks as per local authority guidance.

Lounge Welcome Area

  • Implement appropriate queue floor-markers to ensure safe distancing
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer at the check-in desk for guests and staff
  • Registration staff should regularly clean or sanitize their hands. If gloves are used, these should be regularly replaced and carefully disposed of. An alternative, in order to reduce wastage and environmental impact is for staff to wear gloves but frequently wash their hands with the gloves on (the last suggestion appears to make the wear of gloves pointless)
  • Reinforce good hygiene practices to guests using signs/visual displays/ TVs as appropriate (this will be easier said than done!)
  • Highlight any specific COVID-19 related measures in place, along with any suspended services
  • Install Perspex screens at welcome desks or introduce the use of clear face shields

a room with chairs and tables

Lounge Floorplan & Seating

  • Look at high-density areas where people congregate – high-traffic corridors, areas in front of bar or serving areas – and identify measures to limit people congregating
  • Look at furniture layout and identify ways to meet local government guidelines but also maximise use of space and allow groups of travellers who are travelling together to sit together
  • Introduce a seat allocation service whereby the receptionist identifies space in the lounge for each new guest or group of guests. This may assist with capacity management by ensuring that guests are utilising spaces that are appropriate to the size of their group (this will impact guests in two ways: Firstly and negatively, lounges will declare themselves “full” a lot sooner than normal and, secondly and positively, this will stop passengers from taking up considerably more space than they need).
  • If you cannot implement a seat allocation service, operate a clear table policy, and place signs on tables which have been cleared, cleaned and sanitised, so guests can easily identify which tables have been cleaned

Moving Inside The Lounge

  • Use signs to reinforce the specific local social distancing guidance and COVID-19 related hygiene etiquette that should be followed in the lounge
  • Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer and tissues for guests throughout the lounge
  • Make waste bins readily available throughout for guests to use. Staff with the appropriate PPE should empty them regularly – never allow to overflow (this should be standard practice anyway)
  • Place signs in all restrooms reminding guests to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Reduce movement in the lounge as much as possible (Unless lounge agents are going to force people to sit down by threatening them with ejection if they fail to comply, I don’t see how this is going to be enforced).

Food & Beverage Service

  • Introduce a collection-point option for food and beverages, operate a queuing system for guests that adheres to the local social distancing guidance
  • For bar service, attendants should be especially aware of which surfaces are clean and which are potentially contaminated. For example, it would be a bad idea to clear a used glass from a guest and then hand a full, clean bottle to a new customer
  • Replace self-service food and beverage stations with a solution whereby staff with appropriate PPE serve guests food and drinks directly (I suspect a lot of lounges will simply not offer food)
  • Operate a clear table policy, where tables are to be cleared and sanitized and left clear after each guest leaves (this should be standard practice)

Aspire Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

Lounge Amenities

  • Close children’s play areas where they exist. Can they be replaced with additional seating to make better use of capacity (This is a double-edged sword. It may discourage parents from bringing their small kids into the lounges or it will just mean that we’ll see small kids rampaging all over the lounge rather than having them congregate in one area).
  • Review shower facilities where they exist and if they cannot be cleaned and sanitized appropriately, then close them (What kind of shower cannot be cleaned and sanitized?)
  • Remove print-media (No big loss)
  • Replace print media with digital media access on guest’s personal device (This may turn out to be a nice improvement).

Lounge Cleaning & Environmental Standards

  • Increase the number of cleaning shifts and issue staff with appropriate PPE
  • Use cleaning products recommended by local health authorities as being effective against COVID-19
  • Clear and disinfect guest areas once empty before allowing new guests to occupy (With a bit of luck this will become standard practice even when there isn’t a pandemic)
  • Disinfect all high-traffic areas daily, and thoroughly clean the entire lounge regularly
  • Plan and implement a policy for managing guests who show signs of COVID-19 inside the lounge (Job one would be to remove them!)
  • Keep air conditioning on throughout the day and set frequency of air recirculation to at least five times a day if possible
  • Switch air filtration systems to 100% outside air

Contactless Journey

In addition to the guidelines we are recommending changes to the way in which partners can process visits through the devices. These changes will reduce the need to pass the device and plastic cards between the lounge staff and passenger.

How does this affect our Partners?

The end to end visit processing will be completed by the Lounge staff and the passenger will not touch the device. After the scan or manual entry:

  • Lounge Staff will write the flight number from the passenger boarding card on the signature screen. The device will no longer be passed to the passenger to sign for the visit
  • The Lounge staff must then show the passenger the device screen with the visit details
  • The passenger must then verbally agree the visit details and the Lounge staff will “Accept” the visit on behalf of the passenger. Again, the device is not required to be passed to the passenger for acceptance
  • A receipt will only be printed if required for lounge records

It’s interesting that lounge staff aren’t being advised not to touch passenger phones or boarding passes. I will not be letting anyone touch either of mine for years to come! 🙂

Plaza Premium Lounge Rio de Janeiro (International Departures)
Plaza Premium Lounge Rio de Janeiro (International Departures)

Bottom Line

A lot of what’s written in this guidance is common sense but at least it sets down standard guidance for lounges around the world. My biggest concern about all of this is that Priority Pass has no real control over what the lounges do and what measures they take (this is why this is all called “guidance” and not “rules”) so I have no doubt that we’ll see big variations between what various lounges choose to do. Some will be good, some will be ok and there will always be some who pay minimal attention to the guidelines set down and there won’t be much we, as guests, can do about it. Walking out and going elsewhere (or sitting at the gate) is probably all that we’ll be able to do.

Will you be visiting a lounge the next time you fly or will you choose to wipe down a chain in a secluded gate area and wait for your flight there?

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