"I brought in Michelin star chef Jason Atherton to serve the best in fine dining."
With the growing trend of premium airport lounges, stressful air travel has become a thing of the past.
And if you’re flying out of London Heathrow, you can count on their VIP services team, headed by Priya Malhotra, to deliver luxury and privacy with a personal touch.
Arriving at Heathrow VIP in 2014, Priya came from a rich background of marketing in the banking industry. She specialised in targeting high net worth clients across the globe through key partnerships with art galleries, luxury brands and more.
We catch up with Priya to discuss her passion for providing bespoke luxury services and managing a diverse team to serve a high-end clientele.
When and why did you join Heathrow VIP?
“I joined Heathrow VIP in 2014 from the Barclays Wealth team. I was looking for a new challenge having been at Barclays for a number of years.
“Heathrow was an exciting move for me, because it was a different industry and offered me the change to be quite creative with the service.”
Can you tell us about your previous marketing experiences in the financial services industry?
“I worked in all areas of marketing. Luxury, private and investment banking events, and PR were a focus; sponsorships and partnerships were a crucial part of this.
“Working in this area meant I was able to work with numerous global luxury brands all over the world and in some of the most prestigious locations.”
What does luxury customer service mean to you?
“This means making every part of our service world class, and tailoring the VIP experience to suit each client’s individual needs.
“This is why we call our passengers 24 hours in advance to ensure we cater to this – each time they fly. Every lounge also has a dedicated butler on hand to provide an excellent service.”
What is a typical day for you as the Head of Heathrow VIP?
“No two days are the same! A typical day can vary from tasting new dishes for the menu, to attending events in London to meet new potential clients, or choosing art for clients to enjoy when they visit our suites.
“I can go from writing the business plan for the next five years, to overseeing a photoshoot or coming up with creative business development ideas.”
How big is your team? What is your people management style to ensure targets are achieved?
“We have a team of 96 that support the VIP service, including concierge, chefs, butlers and drivers.
“My management style is direct but supportive. I want my team to know that I expect them to provide a world class service, and I give them continuous training to improve the ways in which they do this.”
What are some of the toughest client requests that you have encountered and how did you deliver them?
“I can honestly say our clients are not difficult! They are gracious and very much enjoy the service we provide.”
How do you inspire the team to consistently provide high quality and bespoke services for your clients?
“Through my commitment and hard work, I believe I set a clear standard to my team through my work and the relationships I build, which set a benchmark for them.”
What do you love about your job, and what is your least favourite part?
“I love the variety of my job and the excitement of meeting new clients from across the world, particularly when they share great feedback about the service.
“My least favourite part is the early mornings! I get up at 4am to drive from Warwick to be in early as this is when I am most productive – before other people begin their day!”
What is the most significant difference you have made at Heathrow VIP?
“When I joined in 2014, the service was mainly used by the Royal Family, diplomats and Heads of State. I have grown our client base significantly across the globe and brought in Michelin star chef Jason Atherton to serve the best in fine dining to our clients.”
What do you think are the key skills and attributes for those who want to join the hospitality sector?
- Self-motivation (to set higher standards than yesterday)
- Attention to detail
- Relationship building
What do you do to relax? What are your hobbies?
“I enjoy going to the gym, and working away the stress of the day. Reading spiritual and philosophy books help me unwind after a long day.”
What is your favourite…
- Film? Fight Club.
- TV Show? Scandal or Suits.
- Food? Watermelon or Cheesecake.
- City? New York.
A truly bespoke and premium travel service is not only about upscale dining, glamorous lounges or state-of-the-art gyms.
It is about providing a hassle-free experience for all clientele, ranging from business leaders and diplomats to affluent families, by taking away the logistical arrangements to create a relaxing and pleasant journey from the moment they leave home.
Heathrow VIP, having witnessed exciting and important changes since Priya came on board, will no doubt continue to evolve into one of the best VIP services in the world.