Interview Linda Rijlaarsdam and Bianca Jansen: Lounge 1: No longer just a ‘waiting area’

How can Schiphol please everyone with the new lounge being planned for Terminal 1? It’s a tall order that involves a lengthy design process for which both Linda Rijlaarsdam from Consumers and Bianca Jansen from Operations are responsible. ‘By designing it together, we should get the best results for passengers.’

Lounge 1 ready to move ahead

When it was decided early last year to move KLM’s crew centre to a new location, it was clear that thousands of square metres would become available on the ground floor of Departure Hall 1. ‘Both our operational and commercial activities were demanding a lot more room’, said Bianca. ‘That’s when we started thinking about ways to use this unoccupied space for renovating Lounge 1.’ According to Linda, the number of Schengen passengers using Departure Hall 1 had risen sharply in recent years. ‘Our capacity to handle them all was significantly below standard.’ Since the last renovation had taken place in 2004, this was another reason to update the look of Departure Hall 1, so that’s when we thought: what about a complete makeover?’

Hundreds of requirements

Bianca works as a process developer at Schiphol Operations. In this position, she keeps an eye on the project’s design and construction: ‘In other words, my job is to make sure that the new lounge will satisfy all the requirements set by Operations.’ And there are quite a few. Bianca: ‘We’re very demanding. For instance, we want passengers to be able to get to their destination in the airport instinctively, without having to look at too much signage. The location of the texts on the signs is also important. And the transfer clusters where the airlines help passengers with their connecting flights should operate even more effectively.’ And, she admits, ‘These are just some of our hundreds of requirements.’

A relaxing place to spend some time waiting

Linda, in charge of area development, has her own ideas when it comes to creating the new lounge. As she puts it, ‘Where Bianca’s focus is mainly on the operational facilities, I’m more involved with the commercial aspects. Concession and retail facilities, sanitary blocks, cash dispensers, massage chairs, etc. In other words, everything that makes waiting for a flight and catching it as pleasant and relaxed as possible for passengers. Close cooperation is essential: we’re making use of every bit of our expertise to ensure that Lounge 1 provides our passengers with the best travel experience possible.’

Arriving and departing flows

An important change in the new Lounge 1 will be a separation into three groups of passengers: arriving passengers, departing passengers, and transfer passengers. ‘I’m really proud of this plan’, said Bianca. ‘Right now, this departure hall is a kind of single-track highway where everyone is scrambling through one other with all their stuff. As of next year, departing passengers will take a different route from the arrivals. The retail area will keep these flows apart by providing a natural separation.’ . Linda: ‘People will then be walking more or less in the same direction with more space for everyone. The retail facades will thus serve to head people to where they want to be. Construction will start next year with completion of the lounge set for 2022.

Less stress at the airport

Eliminating stress is an important design element for both Linda and Bianca. Linda: ‘The stress involved in getting around in an airport has the usual ups and downs. Coffee ahead of time: relaxing Checking in: stress. Time to do a bit of shopping: relaxing. Getting to the right gate: stress. What we want is for people to feel more relaxed throughout the whole process. This was behind our idea to split up the lounge into four zones. It starts with the ‘welcome’ zone that passengers enter after going through security. This is where they can visit the toilet, read a newspaper while drinking some coffee, keep track of the status of their flight, and see which gate they will go to. Next, they can choose between going to the ‘explore’ zone to shop, or to the ‘relax’ zone to get a bite to eat and relax. Later, when it’s time to get to their gate, the passengers move on to the ‘good-bye/welcome’ zone at the farthest end of the lounge

Dutch without the windmills and tulips

The style of the new lounge will be fairly timeless. ‘It won’t be in-your-face Dutch, but you’ll still know you’re at Schiphol’, said Linda. ‘Clogs and windmills aren’t appropriate anymore for our modern airport. Instead, we’ll focus more on Dutch art and design. In other words: Dutch designers, Dutch principles, but no clichés.’ Another thing she thinks is important is having materials and new seating furniture that isn’t ponderous or pompous. ‘We don’t want people to feel small here. Actually, it’s Schiphol’s human scale that makes us special. Other airports devote less attention to this.’

A nice place for both passengers and staff

Not all the decisions about retail and other facilities have been made yet. Linda: ‘We already know that a number of business partners in Lounge 1 will be returning - the successful ones. But we also want to please passengers with some new ones that will be better suited for the time when the new lounge will open in 2022. We’ll soon be meeting with our business partners to see how we can accomplish this.’ She emphasizes the importance of involving other stakeholders in these decisions. ‘We have to align the needs of both the commercial and operational functions. One example of this will be making sure that the public seating areas will be convenient for passengers making use of our commercial facilities. By working together closely on a design and build project, all of us will benefit, and it’s also a lot more efficient that doing things separately.

Completed: a sustainable lounge by 2022

Renovating Lounge 1 will start early next year. Meanwhile, Linda, Bianca and their colleagues are still working on the design. Linda: ‘The preliminary design is almost done. We’ll start on the final version in April. This will be followed by a technical design, but we’re leaving this up to Zenber, the architectural firm that won the tender. They’re going to help us create the best possible design for the lounge and also do this as sustainably as possible. This will include using more plants as well as reupholstering and reusing furniture to keep everything as environmentally friendly as possible.