Full Service Gyms Are Coming To U.S. Airports

Here’s something I love the concept of, though I’m skeptical of the sustainability of the business model.

The only airport gym I know of in the U.S. is in the American Airlines Admirals Club at DFW, and even that is just a mini-gym with outdated equipment. Still, getting some cardio in is a nice way to kill a long layover. There are some hotels attached to airports with gyms as well, but I’m not sure that counts in the same way.

American-Admirals-Club-Dallas-DFW-06

But could there be a business model to opening independent gyms at airports? Roam Fitness thinks so.

A new company wants to open gyms at U.S. airports

Later this month Roam Fitness will be opening the first full service gym at a U.S. airport. They’re opening this gym at Baltimore Airport, and have big expansion plans. I’m not sure how much faith I’d put in more gyms opening, because as of now they’re “talking” to airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh about adding gyms, and “have [their] eyes” on about two dozen other airports.

Roam-Gym-2

Roam Fitness will have an 1,175 square foot gym at Baltimore Airport, and travelers will have access to cardio equipment, stretching space, free weights, medicine balls, stability balls, a TRX system, and yoga props. There will also be private bathrooms and showers with towel service. The gym will be open daily from 5AM until 10PM, and is located between Terminals D & E.

Airport-Gym-1

What’s the pricing like?

At the moment Roam Fitness has promotional pricing, given that they’re just opening:

  • A one day pass will cost $25 (though will cost $40 eventually)
  • A three day pass will cost $100 (though will cost $115 eventually); I’m not sure I follow the pricing here, as four one day passes are the same price as a three day pass through the current promotion
  • A five day pass will cost $165 (though will cost $190 eventually); same as above, the pricing doesn’t make sense
    • A yearly pass will cost $500 (though will cost $600 eventually)

These passes are valid at “all Roam Fitness locations,” though as of now they don’t have any concrete plans beyond their first location.

Roam-Gym-1

Is their business model sustainable?

I think the concept is great for travelers, and I’d love to see more gyms at airports. However, I suspect the reason we haven’t seen a company pursue this much in the past is because I just can’t figure out who exactly they’re going after, at least at their “retail” pricing.

I could see this maybe working at a major international airport where people have long connections, but Baltimore Airport just doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, it’s a hub for Southwest, but Southwest is great about timing their schedule so that travelers rarely have long layovers. If you want to get in an hour work out and shower, you’d need at least a two and a half hour layover to be on the safe side. So:

  • Are they targeting business travelers who live in the Baltimore area and want to get in a quick workout before their flight? Given the pricing, I’d think most people would rather stop at their “normal” gym on the way to the airport, rather than pay $40 for a pass.
  • Are they targeting business travelers who are visiting Baltimore? If so, it seems like they’d be better off visiting the hotel gym before going to the airport.

So I guess my point is that $40 is a lot of money for a single gym visit. I could see this working if they had a real captive audience at an international hub where people frequently have very long layovers. However, that’s typically not the case in Baltimore. So are they hoping people will show up at the airport 90 minutes earlier than they have to in order to visit the gym, or?

I could also see a membership making sense if they had two dozen locations around the U.S., but I’d be shocked if we ever see that, and if we do, it will be years before that happens.

I’m not sure if there’s a way they could do this, but it also seems like a win-win if they joined Priority Pass, even if there was a co-pay of some sort (I suspect the last part probably violates Priority Pass terms). I’d certainly pay $10-20 to visit a gym before a flight if I had time, but spending $40 when I could just use a hotel gym before seems silly.

Bottom line

I love the concept of airport gyms, but it just seems like a tough concept to turn into a successful business model. Their pricing is reasonable given the cost of renting space at airports, but perhaps that’s the problem; there’s just not a way to price an airport gym visit in a way that’s a win-win, at least on a big scale.

Do you think the Roam Fitness business model could work? How much would you pay to visit an airport gym?

(Tip of the hat to @T_Waits_4NoOne)

Comments

  1. “Given the pricing, I’d think most people would rather stop at their “normal” gym on the way to the airport, rather than pay $40 for a pass.”

    Thats tricky timing. Much better do it after security once you know exactly how much time you have.

    I’d love to see these at international hubs (FRA, DXB, NRT/HND, HKG, etc etc) where there’s a lot more time to kill on a layover but not enough to go into the city.

  2. On the Future Locations circle ad, the have the middle circle ATL but the picture is of PIT. just saying.

  3. I think you’re looking at this in the wrong way. I think they’re looking at airport lounges and saying there’s a group of people who would rather work out than sit around and drink beer and respond to emails. if you compare to the airport lounge pricing, and if I’m going to buy a day pass at one of these two places, which is more economical?

  4. Goodlife Fitness, one of the largest Canadian fitness club chains, has a location at YYZ Terminal 1. However, its located landside, rather than airside, and I get the sense its primarily targeting employees who work at the airport, rather than travellers. That said, anyone with a Goodlife network membership can make use of it.

  5. @ serkeltik — Oh, I totally agree, but: a) there’s a reason Baltimore Airport doesn’t have many lounges b) and how many people are actually paying for day passes to lounges, rather than gaining access through other means

  6. Fascinating. I have never used an airport gym, per se, but love the fact that I can go to the Westin DTW before my flight and use the gym with pool and hot tub and then shower before the flight. It’s only like $15 or something similar. True, I could also stop at my gym on the way, but there is something pleasant/relaxing about doing it right before the flight, rather than before a drive through traffic, etc. By then I am no longer as relaxed. (And for those transiting, it’s ideal, too.)

  7. Honestly, I see this crashing and burning. If they really wanted to make this work, they should do this in a place such as JFK or LAX where this a ton of connecting traffic.

  8. Can’t see it working at a domestic airport without longer layovers. 40$ is also way too expensive. I did use the Gym once at the ORD airport Hilton during a longer layover. It is 20$ and you get 5$ discount being a Hilton elite member. Most people working out there seemed to have been airport or airline employees (they did also offer large discounts for ORD employees for a yearly membership).
    I could see it working if they can attract enough airport employees but doubt the business model will work for travelers.

  9. I would love to be able to get in a workout during a layover. I would even go out of my way to schedule an extended layover if it meant I could hit the gym right before getting on a 14 hour flight. However, I strongly question whether anyone would want to take advantage of a gym while in transit on some domestic itinerary. A Roam Fitness may work in major hubs like ATL or DEN. But Pittsburgh? St. Louis? I just don’t understand this company’s thinking.

    I was puzzled that Qatar and Etihad didn’t stick a full service gym in with their grandiose lounge setups. Most of us (guys working in the Middle East) would have far more use for a gym than for some elaborate spa or stinky cigar lounge.

  10. Would love to see a well known gym brand (say Equinox or Gold’s) partner with a US airline to put a branded gym inside the lounge (think branded stores inside Nordstrom’s / Macy’s / etc.). That would be a win-win, since the type A’s most likely to use the gym while traveling are those utilizing an airport lounge and the airline lounges have the biggest footprint in most airports.

    Could add an extra tier to lounge membership to include access to the gym and otherwise people could buy one-time passes.

  11. Just this morning I noticed a directional sign for the Fitness Center at LAS Terminal 1 AA area. Never noticed it before, and didn’t have time to check it out, but I was intrigued. Although I’m not sure LAS is he best airport for people looking to get in a quick workout.

  12. Just pointing out no one calls it Baltimore Airport. While the official name is long people just call it BWI, for Baltimore Washington international. I’m too lazy to type the entire nane.

  13. The gym idea won’t work in SFO and LAx since terminals are not connected to each other. I would like to go if I have a long layover at the airport, but I will be just too lazy and stay in the lounge instead..

  14. The price is ridiculous and if hotel gyms are any indication of this future concept, most of the time the equipment is not club quality. It might work in larger international hubs if the price were more reasonable and the equipment and facility were first rate. Can’t wait for your review! In the meantime, I’m happy to just get out of the lounge and take a brisk walk around the terminal.

  15. The price point is steep – the most I’ve ever paid for a day pass at a gym was $25, and that was at Gold’s Venice, the most famous gym in the world.

    On the other hand, their website does say that the price includes clothing rental (although it doesn’t include underwear, which means if you don’t have a spare pair with you there could be a funk-factor at work if you really work up a sweat. But the website says that the BWI location will only have four shower rooms, which could be a problem when you have people on set schedules.

    It’s a nice idea, but the logistics are daunting.

  16. Hi Lucky, your original writing, “and is located between Terminals D & E”, misses an important piece of information whether it is landside or airside. As we know BWI isn’t know for connected concourses, your phrase could mean both. Interested readers have to do additional search to find that it is indeed airside (in their words, “behind security”). I guess that makes A LOT OF difference in terms of the business model and how people perceive it, so maybe adding that critical piece of information into your writing can help future readers?

  17. if this idea catches on it could become another credit-card perk. I hope it does. I’ve used the gym at the DFW Admirals Club a few times. I’m in and out in an hour with a 30 – 45 minute workout and shower.

  18. If the pricing was reasonable, I could definitely see this working at airports like SIN, DXB, HKG and IST, but Baltimore and Pittsburgh? Uhh probably not. Atlanta at least sounds more reasonable, since it’s a major transit hub.

  19. This is a business model that can be validated rather quickly.
    Most of the large airports always have space available for a starting short lease and all the equipment needed could be leased.
    Staffing would be minimal and cheap.
    The facilities could be easily modified for the water and hvac needed and the price would be comparable to any downtown refit.
    It all boils down to getting feet thru the doors in the first ninety days and the cool factor. Regular domestic business travelers would not use it regularly since we already detest airports to begin with.
    Can the model be attached or made an extension of existing facilities for a percentage of revenue ?
    Most of the leases would be capacity rated meaning the floor space becomes more expensive as longer leases and build out tenants come on the scene.
    Airport floor space can be very liquid.
    I would not invest in the concept.

  20. I wonder what the clothing rental situation would be like, because nobody wants to stuff freshly sweaty clothes into a plastic bag and stick that into their suitcase…. That would not be fun to reopen upon arriving at their destination. I think what I would prefer to see are treadmill & stationary bike desks in the business centers areas of existing airport lounges.

  21. There’s a Goodlife (Canadian chain) gym at YYZ. It was great to be able to use it on a long layover there a couple of summers ago.

  22. Saw this gym while passing through BWI a while back.

    This gym would be better off if it were at a hub and if it is cheaper.

  23. Thanks for the article, The price is ridiculous and if hotel gyms are any indication of this future concept, most of the time the equipment is not club quality.

  24. As the kind of guy that really enjoys traveling, but also needs to work out on a daily basis (the endorphin rush is a great stress reliever), I would love to see gyms in airports. The best example to follow would be that of Toronto, which has a Goodlife Fitness right inside Terminal 1 (before security). This facility has excellent equipment and locker room facilities that are even better than your typical major national gym chains, let alone most any hotel gym. YYZ Goodlife can be accessed via a regular multi-club membership or day passes (I believe it was $15). When I told the staff I was visiting from LA, they were quick to point out that Goodlife has a reciprocal access agreement with 24 Hour Fitness. This gym caters to an interesting mix of people – aviation staff, people that work at businesses near the airport, and travelers like me. Since I was flying from Terminal 3, I certainly appreciated the fact that this gym was before security.

    I can absolutely see this concept working if gyms are located before security (so that local residents who are not flying can use the facility, as well as travelers using other terminals) and tied in to one or more major national chains like Gold’s, LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, etc.

  25. As I sit in the horribly boring St. Louis airport for a 3 hour delayed flight to Des Moines (don’t ask, I really didn’t want to make this trip), I would kill to have a gym here.

    Honestly, I don’t care about the business model. Airports are horrible places for those of us that struggle with our weight. The only thing to do is eat and drink, especially when you have gone through all your emails and “to-do’s”.

    For any delay over an hour, the airlines should be required to provide you free pass to the gym. Write it off as “encouraging traveler well-being”. If cities want to regulate the size of soda someone can buy, then the same municipalities should be required to put their money where their mouth is and build something to encourage it. Especially in those cities like Baltimore, New York, and Chicago – where if more than a 1/4″ of snow falls, the workers fail to do their job and the entire transportation infrastructure falls apart.

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