'Happiness defines success'

Published: Monday, October 19, 2020

Imagine yourself having offices in more than 170 locations in 46 of the busiest international airports in 23 countries run by more than 5,000 people from all over the world, serving more than 16 million travelers annually.

It’s a busy life that entails a lot of travel, innovation, prudent decision-making, passion for business and serving people, and a dependable team you can rely on to run your operations smoothly.

Behind this success is Song Hoi See, the Founder & CEO of Plaza Premium Group, who is credited for establishing the world’s first independent paid airport lounge open for all travelers in Hong Kong more than two decades ago.

Today, Plaza Premium Group operates premium lounges at some of the busiest airports in the world, including Dubai Airport (DXB), Beijing Daxing International Airport, Heathrow Airport, among many others.

“A lot of people measure success on how much money they have. But for me, I measure it with happiness,” Song, a Malaysian investment banker turned entrepreneur, told Air Cargo Update.

That belief has transcended to his first own business venture which continues to grow despite today’s global challenges.

Song said finding happiness in whatever you do and appreciating the little things in life such as spending time with your family, talking to people, traveling, reading, etc., defines success.

Case in point: His first business venture. It was born out of his frustration in not having access to a private lounge at airports whenever he travels at economy class, making his job difficult.

“I used to be an investment banker. Because I hold a senior position, I always travel in business class and the company pays for it,” Song shared. “But when I started my own company, I travel in economy class because every cent has to come from my own pocket. I realized then that the lounges are only for those who travel business class or for frequent travelers with so much miles. I’m neither one of them.”

Back in those days, about 25 years ago, there were no emails and communications are done via fax. Some traveling businessmen would even bring fax machines with them and suffer the embarrassment of stealing electricity at a public airport just to send important documents immediately.

Song said about 85% of people travel on economy class and the idea of offering a private lounge at the airport for this market dawned on him. Happiness for all travelers and the rest is history.

In the post-pandemic era, Song is reinventing protocols in private lounges for all travelers, focusing on hygiene, safety and social distancing in the new normal. Part of which is investing on digitalization and innovations.

“During the quiet time, we have been driving digitalization in full speed as part of our business transformation. We are convinced that going digital is the key to unlock success post pandemic, and offer convenience, comfort and agility to our customers. Meanwhile, we also grasp at this golden opportunity to revolutionize the future of travel and re-engineer customer experiences,” said Song in a public message enjoining the support of the airport and travel ecosystem to rebuild the industry in the new normal.