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Editorial: New lounge is needed amenity at the airport

Buffalo Niagara International Airport is finally getting a terminal lounge, fitting nicely into its multimillion-dollar, multiyear expansion project.

The BNIA, which earned the best satisfaction score among medium hub airports in North America in a J.D. Power study, is the gateway to the world from Western New York and Southern Ontario. The absence of a terminal lounge to business travelers is stark.

Frequent travelers are accustomed to unexpected delays. Airport lounges provide a respite from chaotic schedules, offer work areas and wireless internet connections.

These spaces can provide a range of comfort and amenities, from free alcohol, snacks (some high-end lounges offer full dining experiences) and showers at some locations.

Airport lounges have increasingly become open to the average flyer willing to pay an entry fee. Parents with young children should welcome the option as a place to sit and rest. Some airport lounges offer reclining chairs for mom and dad, and a play area for the kids. The amenities can stretch further to salon and spa treatments. Business travelers would be happy with a quiet place to plug in a laptop.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said the $1.6 million renovation of the former lounge in the airport’s west concourse will be “modern, open and filled with light,” and will offer views of the airport’s runways. It will take over the former lounge which in its last iteration was known as the Admiral’s Club operated by American Airlines. It closed in 2015.

The new lounge also comes with a new lease agreement with ALD U.S. Holdings Inc. of Plano, Texas, a subsidiary of a British company affiliated with Priority Pass. Travelers may be familiar with the world’s largest independent access program that has more than 1,200 lounges. Priority Pass lounges tend to be easygoing and comfortable – more than satisfactory for business and leisure travelers.

Pascal Cohen, the airport’s senior marketing manager, said ALD will offer the lounges to travelers who pay a membership fee or who purchase a $40 day-use pass. Customers with high-end credit cards can access the lounge as part of membership benefits.

Besides providing what is becoming a standard amenity, the authority gains $855,000 in revenue “or 12 percent of the gross revenue (whichever is greater) in a five-year lease for the 2,892 square feet of space.”

Work is expected to begin around Dec. 1. The targeted opening target of Feb. 1 could change, but at least travelers know plans are finally underway.

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