Airport lounges often offer a respite from the gates and food courts of the busiest airports in the world. But how does one lounge stack up against the next? We interviewed nine frequent travelers and asked them what makes a lounge great and which airline lounges take the title of their favorites. Read on to find out which airport lounges should be on your bucket list.
Chris McGinnis, the founder of Travel Skills Group, Inc., which offers money-saving, comfort-enhancing travel advice, travels once or twice a month. His favorite is the Cathay Pacific Pier Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. “It's by far the nicest lounge in the world, and it's reserved for first class passengers on Cathay Pacific and its Oneworld partners,” he said. “The lounge feels like the residence of a very fancy friend, with beautiful finishes, designer furnishings and lighting.” There are special alcoves for naps between flights and eight-hour suites for long layovers. There’s also a five-star restaurant and a bar that serves any drinks passengers want.
Petri Tuohimaa is a graphic/web designer and photographer who does around three long-haul trips and four or five trips within Europe a year, and his favorite lounge is BA’s Galleries First in London Heathrow Terminal 5.
“While the Concorde Room is the most exclusive British Airways lounge in Heathrow because it’s reserved for first class passengers only, Galleries First is open to Oneworld Emeralds irrespective of their traveling class, and therefore is more useful as a premium lounge,” he said.
In addition to self-serve hot food, there’s a menu for ordering food, said Tuohimaa. “The lounge feels quiet and relaxed even when it’s busy. Champagne glasses are big and the champagne is endless. Showers and spa treatments are available for those who need them.”
Johnny Jet, a U.S. based travel expert who usually flies around 75 times a year to about 20 countries, is also a big fan of the British Airways First Class Lounge in London. “I can get in for free with my American Airlines executive platinum status, so I don’t even have to be flying first class,” he said. “They have showers, private bathrooms and a solid buffet, but if the items don’t do it for you, there’s a menu you can order off of.”
Nate Vallier, president and CEO of Airline Doctors, Inc., an HR and IT consulting firm, travels between two and eight segments a week on mostly domestic flights. “But when I go international, I try to hit a few countries at once, and my favorite lounge is the Emirates First Class Lounge Terminal 3 in Dubai International Airport. “The amount of space Emirates allocates for the lounge is simply mind blowing – it is the same size as the business class lounge; however Emirates highly restricts entry,” he said. “Unlike U.S. domestic clubs, there is never a hunt for a power port, a sofa, work area or comfortable chair. It’s very rare that you even have to sit near another human, since Emirates has so many seating areas and designed in a way that each area feels like its own pod.”
The restaurant is also very good, with a buffet or you can order from the menu, said Vallier. “There are also plenty of snack stations spread among the lounge, including a sommelier shop where you can taste wines from around the world,” he said. “The day spa is also quite the nice treat – unlike the Business Class lounge, you get your choice of a variety of spa treatments. I’ve had reflexology and a haircut; all were done to the level you’d expect at a Hyatt Resort spa.”
Kevin Schorr is an air service consultant based outside of Washington, D.C., who travels around three times a month. His favorite airport respite is the United Airlines Global First lounge at London Heathrow. “Some lounges have great amenities like the All Nippon Airways lounges at Tokyo Narita Airport, but they can get so crowded and noisy that it detracts from the overall experience,” he said.
“The United Airlines Global First lounge is the perfect combination of amenities, service and ambience - and great airplane views as well,” he said. “The food and drink spread is expansive and they're happy to cook fresh menu items from either the breakfast or lunch/dinner menu any time of the day. Servers replenished drinks often and are very friendly yet not intrusive. Even though the lounge was busy, it was still quiet and relaxing, a nice reprieve before a transoceanic flight.”
Harriet Baskas posts at the Stuck at the Airport blog and writes about travel for USA Today. “I'm not a regular in the lounges. I usually find the amenities and people-watching opportunities in most modern day airports more entertaining. But when heading out on a long flight and scrambling to get work completed, I'm happy to pay $35 for The Club at SEA in my hometown Seattle-Tacoma International Airport,” she said. “I arrive very early for my flight and make a day of it at the airport. Passes are just $35 and they've got an expanding network in other airports.”
Luxury travel writer Alyssa Haak had the chance to try out the carrier’s Clubhouse at London Heathrow Airport. “The Virgin Atlantic lounge was amazing, with a hair salon, a steam room, a lot of food and drinks, table games and some fantastic newspapers and magazines,” she said. “It made me wish for a longer layover. The Virgin lounge was very comfortable and welcoming. It was spacious, so you weren't sitting on top of another guest, and all their services were open and accessible.”
Larry Leung is the director at a consulting firm that studies the airline passenger experience, and he travels at least once a month. His favorite is the American Express Centurion Lounge at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. “It has amenities such as a spa, great southern food, a good selection of beverage options, open spaces with lots of seat and two big shower rooms. When it is less crowded, I feel like I'm in my own oasis in one of the enclosed seats,” he said. “The service is excellent and WiFi has a strong signal throughout the lounge. Finally, the location is ideal for connecting with international flights at Concourse D. For the time being, this is the best lounge at DFW.”
Gary Low is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of DossierLuxus, an Australian blog that reviews airport and airline lounges. His favorite is the Qantas First Class Lounge, which features a gourmet restaurant led by Chef Neil Perry, a fully stocked bar and a massive spa with an expansive treatment menu. He also likes the lounge's Australian-inspired interiors by ex-Qantas Creative Director Marc Newson.
Brad Mixner is the founder of a technology startup who traveled 100,000 miles per year at his peak with a mix of business and pleasure flights across North America, Europe and Asia. “If I were to pick just one favorite airline lounge, and there are several contenders, I would pick the Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport,” he said. “I have purposely cleared immigration and walked over from the Main Terminal simply because I think the experience is that much better than the First Class Lounges typically offered to connecting passengers.”
Being apart from the main terminal provides a level of seclusion from the chaos, said Mixner. “This seclusion also provides a wonderful sense of exclusivity rarely found at any other lounge, and it is a low-stress experience, be it security or immigration,” he said. “The dining experience seems more full-service and less hectic, with the bar offering a more robust selection and it never seems crowded, which is one of my biggest complaints about many lounges.”