Between security lines, jammed airplanes and the befuddling 3-1-1 rule for packing liquids, air travel can be arduous, especially during the holiday season.
But on Monday, a new passenger lounge is opening at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that will offer respite to the weary traveler — for a price.
Unlike typical airline lounges that cater to first-class passengers, or to those with premium credit cards, the egalitarian Escape Lounge in Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) charges adults $45 ($40 if you prebook) for up to three hours away from the maddening crowds.
The $2 million, 5,000-square-foot lounge is located in the terminal’s mezzanine area — space previously used for storage. A picture window was uncovered to provide unfettered views of aircraft arrivals and departures, as well as the Minneapolis skyline.
Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) awarded a competitive bid to build out the space to MAG USA, which owns several airports in the United Kingdom. Short for Manchester Airports Group, MAG operates five Escape Lounges at the Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports.
The MSP lounge, located along the northern stretch of the terminal, is the firm’s first foray into the U.S. market.
“Over the past 15 years, air travel has really changed,” said Rosemarie Andolino, president and CEO of MAG USA. “We are trying to create the best possible experience for the customer.”
That includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, a full bar with beer from Minneapolis-based Indeed Brewing Co. (and others), wine, cocktails and nonalcoholic beverages. Menu choices can be upgraded — for a price — to include items such as Smoked Salmon Sliders, Shrimp and Grits, and a Sweet and Spicy Escape Burger. Artwork by Minnesota artists was curated by Robyne Robinson, the MAC’s director of Arts and Culture.
The Escape Lounge also features free high-speed Wi-Fi, charging zones for laptops, phones and other devices, a library with newspapers and magazines, and digital displays notifying travelers of their flight information. Children from 6 to 12 are charged $30 if prebooked, and $38 at the door.
Common-use lounges are prevalent in Europe, but not so much in the United States, said Tyler Dikman, CEO of LoungeBuddy, a free smartphone app that directs travelers to the nearest airport lounge, and offers information and reviews.
“The U.S. is playing catch-up in this industry,” Dikman said. (MAG USA will roll out a second Escape Lounge in California’s Oakland International Airport next June.)
The 31-year-old Dikman, a tech entrepreneur who has flown 2 million miles, estimates that there are about 700 independent lounges worldwide, only a fraction located in the United States.
“The only guarantee in airport travel is that there’s so much unpredictability,” he said. “Instead of looking forward to a trip, most people know they’ll have to put up with as much misery as possible to get to a destination, and pray that nothing goes wrong.”
A lounge experience can alter the equation, he said, noting that some airlines, such as Delta, American and United, usually permit anyone to use their clubs.
At MSP’s Terminal 1, there are now two Delta Sky Club lounges, where single visits cost $59, located at the beginning of the F Concourse and at Gate C12 in Terminal 1. There’s a United Airlines lounge on Concourse E, between Gates E6 and E8, where one-time passes are available for $50. There are no lounges in Terminal 2 (Humphrey).
Delta spokesman Anthony Black said non-Delta fliers may pay the one-time fee to use Sky Club lounges, “space permitting.” Priority is given to Delta Sky Club members and to ticket-holders.
He said the Atlanta-based airline has spent “tens of millions of dollars over the last calendar year to improve the Delta Sky Club experience.” Delta, which operates 48 lounges in the U.S., does not separately break out revenue gleaned from lounge fees.