Skyport planning third luxury lounge for airport
Bermuda Skyport played matchmaker for the joint operators of the new executive lounges at L F Wade International Airport.
TAV Operation Services Ltd and Graycliff Divans Bermuda Ltd have formed the joint venture TAV-GD Operation Services Ltd to operate the two Primeclass-branded facilities.
Graycliff operated the executive lounge at the old air terminal.
Company president Aaron Smith, who operates Graycliff with co-director Glen Wilks, said: “We took an interest in the new airport lounges and were intending to bid but it struck us as a fairly sizeable opportunity, and it had some elements that we felt would best be managed through a partnership.
“The nature of it required a lot more resources than we could do on our own.
“When we told Skyport that, they said, ‘Well, we have an international vendor that is also interested in a local partner’. That gave us the first introduction to TAV, and we worked on it from there.”
Güçlü Batkın, the Istanbul-based chief executive officer of TAV, said: “Naturally, we tested each other and we found we see things in similar ways.
“As we progress the partnership, we see more similarities and we are very happy.”
TAV operates lounges in 20 countries and 34 airports. The lounges here are the 64th and 65th it has opened.
The island is the third North American lounge location for TAV, which also operates Primeclass lounges at New York’s JFK and Washington’s Dulles airports.
Mr Batkin said: “We were looking to grow our presence in North America, and thought that Bermuda and the region was a good fit. Its base of leisure traffic is premium traffic.”
The TAV boss and Washington-based Thibaut Rouzaud, the company’s regional operations director for North America, attended the official opening of the lounges earlier this month.
Mr Smith said: “Thibaut’s team in the US has helped us with everything from hiring, sourcing equipment and products, to menu creation.”
Mr Wilks said: “TAV’s global experience and expertise created a synergy between the two entities and made a lot of sense.”
He added: “These guys have figured it out to a fine art.”
Mr Rouzaud said that the Primeclass brand features in other leading city airports including Paris and Barcelona, adding: “We are bringing an international brand to the Bermuda airport, and Skyport appreciated that.”
Vancouver-headquartered Smart Design Group designed the spaces, consulting with the joint operators throughout the process.
Mr Smith said that Skyport provided the fit-out of the lounges and managed their construction, which was handled by Bermuda’s Greymane Construction.
He said: “I am a lounge user, and I have not seen a lounge better outfitted than these ones.”
Mr Batkin added: “It is one of the top, top lounges we have, with premium service levels and food and beverage products.”
Mr Rouzaud said: “The design of the bars are the masterpieces of the lounges. It fits very well with the Bermuda spirit.”
He added: “We were able to partner with the Bacardi brand for both lounges.”
Of the finished product, Mr Smith quipped: “Thankfully, we didn’t have to write the cheque.”
Florida-headquartered GCG Group — which has an operation here as well as in 23 locations across Latin America and the Caribbean — takes care of the food in the lounges.
Mr Smith said: “I had the chicken stew, and it was like mom used to make. They are fresh, cooked meals.”
Marion Ritchie is the general manager of the two lounges.
Three staff from the old airport lounge have joined the new operation, and three additional employees have been hired.
The lounges are operating on a reduced hours’ basis because of the light flight schedule.
But Mr Smith said: “When the normal flight schedule comes back, we will expand our operations and serve passengers for a lot more hours.”
Mr Batkin added: “With increasing traffic, we will definitely need more people.”
Mr Wilks said that supply-chain issues and the impact of Covid-19 pushed back the opening, meaning the lounges missed some higher traffic travel periods.
But he added: “You have to open sometime.”
The US lounge can accommodate 66 guests in 2,605 square feet, while the international lounge has capacity for 89 guests within 3,864 square feet.
Amenities include meeting areas and showers.
Passengers can enter with airline passes, loyalty cards and corporate affiliations or purchase a pass for $49.
Mr Wilks said: “The lounges are accessible to all of the travelling public.”
Mr Smith said TAV’s extensive international lounge network can be accessed by downloading the “Lounge Me” app from Google Play or The App Store.
He said that Skyport has plans for a premium arrivals lounge, adding: “We would like to run that lounge too. I think that’s a real differentiator.
“We are talking about the 1 per cent of travellers — celebrities, and the well-to-do.”
Mr Rouzaud said that an arrivals lounge would provide a “360-degree experience” for travellers to the island and have a “significant impact on the travel experience in Bermuda”.