How many SLOW Lounge visits will you qualify for?
My husband and I both travel frequently for work and the SLOW Lounge offers a little bit of respite from the general chaos and mayhem of airports, so we tend to maximise our usage most months.
The FNB initiative with Comair to provide access to the SLOW Lounge as part of its rewards programme has been a victim of its own success. Currently the SLOW Lounges see 50 000 FNB customers on average per month and they are experiencing capacity issues, especially at OR Tambo. There were rumours earlier this year that Premier customers were going to get the chop and only Private Wealth and Private Clients would have access to the lounge, but clearly that would have been a PR disaster.
The decision was made to cut the number of visits across the board, with more emphasis on reward levels.
If, like our household, SLOW Lounge access is one of the main reasons you have an FNB Premier, Private Client or Private Wealth card, then the changes to the rules from January 2017 are going to bite and you need to get clever with the way you use the lounge.
Move from monthly to annual limit
One of the main changes is to give annual rather than monthly visits. This doesn’t make up for the fact that someone on a Premier account with level 2 rewards will go from two visits a month to just six visits a year – but it can provide some flexibility in terms of usage.
If you did not travel every month then those monthly visits were wasted, while you may have a month where you travel several times and exceed your visitation limit. The annual rule would have been very useful for our family of four this December as we will be travelling together and could have accumulated 4 or 8 lounge visits on an annual basis to use for the trip.
It is also important that you check your FNB Banking App to see how many visits you have left before you enter the lounge, because if you’re over your limit, you’ll be charged R250 for the visit.
Use your Business account for visits
Having analysed the lounge usage patterns, Chris Labuschagne, CEO of FNB Credit Card estimates that in the Premier category the changes would affect only 1.5% of their SLOW Lounge customers; a bigger effect will be felt in the Private Wealth space of around 4.2% of customers. Here customers need to get smart and use their FNB Business card to access the lounge, as Business customers’ visit limits remain unchanged ‒ Business Platinum customers receive 24 visits a year and Business Black card-holders get unlimited visits.
2017 expansion plans
There are plans for expansion of the SLOW Lounge at OR Tambo International Airport to increase the domestic lounge capacity by around 40% in 2017. Although I couldn’t get FNB to commit on record, they will be assessing the situation once the expanded capacity is in place, and if there is an opportunity to increase visits, this may be considered.
They are also partnering with Comair to open a SLOW Lounge at Lanseria Airport in 2017, which is also expected to alleviate the pressure on OR Tambo. Many Comair customers say that they would switch to Lanseria if there was a lounge available there.