The Best On-Ground Airline Experiences

Woman applying makeup in the mirror of the Lufthansa First Class Terminal lounge

If you've ever had access to an airline lounge, you may have enjoyed a shower after a long flight or cheese and crackers with a glass of house wine as you waited to board a connection. But for some international premium-cabin passengers, the experience can be a whole lot more luxurious.

Extravagant Perks

Thai Airways has some amazing accommodations. Even Business Class passengers transiting the airline's Bangkok hub can take advantage of a free 30-minute massage at the Royal Orchid Spa. If you're traveling in First Class, however, you can opt for an hour-long full-body oil massage or a combination of other treatments. When you're done, there's a private living room to relax in across the hall, complete with waiter service, and an electric cart available to take you straight to your plane after coach passengers have boarded.

For Lufthansa First Class passengers leaving from or transiting Frankfurt, there's an entire terminal dedicated to providing a memorable experience. After you enter, you're paired with a personal assistant, who escorts you through a completely empty security checkpoint and into the facility, which boasts such amenities as private bathrooms with bathtubs, a restaurant with waiter service, quiet rooms with day beds, a cigar lounge, and the most comprehensive whiskey selection we've ever seen in an airport.

There's even a case filled with bottled water from dozens of countries around the world. Then, when it's time to board, you can check out of the EU through a dedicated immigration counter before hopping into a Mercedes or Porsche in the lower level, which will take you across the airport and directly to your plane. Talk about extravagant!

Emirates is another airline with a lounge that should be on any frequent traveler's bucket list. At the airline's A380 terminal in Dubai, First Class passengers can take advantage of a lounge that spans the entire airport, with shower suites, duty-free shops, comfortable seating, top-shelf liquor, and buffets located throughout. There's also a restaurant-like area, where you can order off a menu (everything is free), and a cigar lounge, just in case you need to squeeze in one last smoke. When it's time to board, you can access your A380 directly from the lounge -- there's a boarding door connected to each gate.

Business Class passengers have a similar facility located one floor above, that's just as large but quite a bit more crowded.

Of course, First Class passengers are also treated very well when traveling on other airlines, but the three carriers above stand out for their exceptional amenities on the ground. In the US, American and United provide dedicated lounges with expanded food and drink selections when you're traveling in First on a long-haul international flight, while airlines like ANA, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Korean and Singapore in Asia, and Air France, British Airways and Swiss in Europe offer high-end spaces and services abroad.

If you're looking for a top-of-the-line experience, however, you really can't do better than Emirates, Lufthansa, or Thai. The best part? Thai's First Class award seat availability is very generous, while Lufthansa tends to release many seats within two weeks of departure, giving you an opportunity to step up from Business to First (for more miles, of course). A one-way trip between the US and Europe on Lufthansa will run you a whopping 110,000 United miles, while venturing on to Asia on Thai costs 130,000 UA miles.

If you'd prefer to fly Emirates, you can use miles from the airline's own Skywards program, or you can use Alaska's Mileage Plan, with First Class awards starting at just 90,000 miles each way.