By Bob Batz Jr.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — The Club, a Pittsburgh International Airport lounge that can be used by passengers on any airline who pay $40 for a day pass to do so, opened this month in its permanent home on Concourse C across from Gate C52.

The “shared-use” lounge, one of 17 operated at a dozen airports around the country and in London by Airport Lounge Development, opened this past June in a temporary location at Pitt International near that spot. The new space, between Bar Symon and Kidsport, is 1,800 square feet and offers passengers premium alcoholic (spirits, wine, beer) and nonalcoholic beverages and food and snacks for no additional fee; charging points, electrical outlets and a computer with printer; and a variety of reading materials and plush seating. The spaces are named Replenish Zone, Productivity Zone and Relaxation Zone.

The lounge also has its own restrooms. The walls hold a few flat-screen TVs, one of which lists pending departures, as well as big Pittsburgh photographs by local artist JP Diroll. There’s seating for 41 and a maximum capacity of 109.

Local chef Kate Romane, now of Black Radish Kitchen, is an ongoing consultant on some food served at the lounge. Her menu items include a sandwich of prosciutto cotto, caraway onion, arugula, smoked gouda and rosemary honey mustard; a salad of radicchio, spinach, bibb lettuce, pancetta, sheep’s feta and seasonal vinaigrette; and hot dishes including meatballs with red sauce.

The morning buffet at this month’s opening offered breakfast items from eggs and bacon to make-your-own pancakes and espresso drinks.

Passengers already using the space included Nick Walker, a scientist in technical sales who enjoyed a quick breakfast by the big window looking out onto the tarmac on his way home to Chicago. The American Express app on his phone had alerted him that this lounge was here and available to him as a free credit card benefit. The Club lounges are accessible to people with Priority Pass, Lounge Key, Lounge Club and Diners Club International, per the rules of those programs.

Walker, a frequent flyer and lounge user, said, “This is nicer than most,” in that all the amenities are free. He and his colleagues often hang out in lounges when they go to an airport together but travel on different flights. “Very few (airports) have places where you can get work done and plug your computer in comfortably.”

The idea behind independent shared-use lounges, which have been more common in Europe and Asia, is to offer first-class comforts to all passengers, said James Zackey, marketing manager for the Plano, Texas-based Airport Lounge Development. It’s continuing to add new ones, some of which offer showers and walk-up bars (in Pittsburgh, servers bring customers drinks).

While he did not disclose numbers, Zackey said the temporary Pittsburgh lounge has been very busy. As at the company’s other lounges, most users are from Priority Pass. “Our day passes are a small percentage of what comes through.”

But independent shared-use lounges are a trend that will continue to grow, as U.S. airports look to offer more services to passengers who increasingly expect them and also add “non-aeronautical” revenue, according to ALD’s senior vice president, Nancy Knipp.

Airline-run lounges, such as the American Airlines Admirals Club, cater to their own top customers who pay (dollars or miles) for annual memberships. (Some Admirals Clubs, but not Pittsburgh’s, offer day passes for $59.)

The Club aims to be more democratic. In fact, AAA Discount Rewards members get a $6 discount on the day pass. A 10 percent discount is available for groups of 10 or more.

Zackey said all passengers are welcome to visit the space before buying a pass.

The lounge is open from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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