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Designing an airport lounge? Solitude is key


Forget shared tables, we want our own space, dammit.

Yesterday, I went to the official opening of the new American Express and Plaza Premium lounges in Melbourne International Airport. You can read more about what the two lounges offer and how you can get in, in my amazing colleague Amy Bradney-George's full news story on the launch.

There's lots to like about both lounges: it's good to have an option you can use when you're not flying with an airline that doesn't grant you access to its own lounge, and there are plenty of power outlets, which is always at the top of my list when I'm checking out a new lounge. But the thing that really grabbed me was that even though they're compact spaces (just 65 people in the Amex lounge), both make a serious attempt to provide areas where solo travellers can enjoy their solitude.

As a man who has wasted spent far too much time in airport lounges over the last two decades, one trend is clear: a huge number of people using them are travelling on their own. Not everyone gets to take their partner on work trips. And sure, it can be pleasant to chat with someone you've not seen for years who shows up randomly, but more often you're frantically trying to get a few more tasks done before taking off.

Even if your to-do list is under control, you're about to spend hour upon hour seated in unpleasant proximity to complete strangers. While you're in the lounge, it's decidedly more pleasant to avoid them. In other words: no shared table for me if I can help it.

So I was impressed that both lounges do offer what's often rare in lounges: seats you can sit in on your own, with access to power outlets, and work without being forced to sit directly opposite, or on the same lounge as, someone you've never met. You can see how the Amex lounge executes this in the picture at the top, and there's a similar approach in the Plaza Premium lounge:

I'm typing this in the Canberra Qantas Club lounge, where I've nabbed a similarly isolated seat. That's not always easy in Australian airport lounges, and if it was a Friday night I suspect I'd be out of luck.

I've also done my share of trips with family and friends, and in that context you do want a set of seats together. But providing more standalone seats helps with that too. Offer me a solo chair and I won't be glowering at you from a sofa. Win-win, as they say. Now, where's that wine?

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on

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