There are many perks to living in a mid-sixed American city like Austin where I live, but nonstop international flights are not one of them. I've never once left the country from my home base in the heart of Texas without a layover, usually in a dark and dreary U.S. airport on one of the coasts.
It wasn't until I first achieved Star Alliance Gold status that my obligatory stops along the way became less painful. At that time, I began discovering the joys of international VIP lounges.
I've never looked back.
01 of 05
Lounge Istanbul in Istanbul, Turkey
Lounge Istanbul at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey incorporates both classic and modern touches: Timeless Turkish architecture; delicious food and beverages, including classic Turkish coffee; super-fast, lounge-wide Wi-Fi, and mobile masseuses who will soothe your sore parts anywhere you choose to sit. While you need only possess Star Alliance Gold credentials to enter the lounge once you've cleared immigration and security, the most luxurious perk of the lounge is only available to business class passengers on Turkish Airlines: A private security and immigration line that's usually no more than a few people long.
02 of 05
The Wing First Class Lounge in Hong Kong
Hong Kong International Airport isn't a bad place to connect, even if you're a coach class passenger without the credentials to enter any lounge. But if you happen to be a first-class passenger on Cathay Pacific – or, alternatively, hold "Emerald" status with the Oneworld Alliance – then a truly exclusive experience awaits you just below ground level at HKIA.
Or below "The Wing," as it were. In addition to providing panoramic views of the airport and the surrounding mountains from within a beautifully decorated, private setting, The Wing lounge serves up delicious Cantonese cuisine and a full bar of wine, beer and liquor, to say nothing of the hospitality you enjoy once you show your credentials.
03 of 05
Star Alliance Lounge at LAX
Connecting in Los Angeles is typically a miserable experience, if only due to the disconnected nature of the airport terminals – I won't even mentioned their uniformly dilapidated condition. Indeed I'm optimistic, if cautiously so, that all of LAX will one day be as beautiful as the new Tom Bradley International Terminal, and that all its lounges (I'm thinking about you, Terminal 7 United Club) will be as immaculate and beautiful as the Star Alliance Lounge at TBIT.
Every detail of the Star Alliance Lounge, which is maintained by member airlines Air New Zealand, is incredibly thought-out and executed, from five-star service to award-winning cuisine to a range of wines and champagnes that'll have you feeling like you're at a steakhouse.
My favorite feature of the Star Alliance Lounge at TBIT, however, is the views. Inside the airport, the open terrace allows you to look down onto the beautiful terminal and the aircraft waiting at their gates. Outside – yes, there is an outside – the open-air patio allows you to watch planes take off, and to enjoy a panoramic view of Los Angeles.
04 of 05
The Panorama Lounge at Zurich Airport
Speaking of "panoramic," it's hard to find a better – or more aptly named – view than the one you enjoy from the lounge of the same name at Zurich Airport: If planes skirting around the impossibly orderly airport don't do it for you, the Alps towering in the distance will. There's just one problem with this lounge, really.
You see, while it's officially known as the "Swiss Panorama Lounge," the lounge has nothing to do with Swiss International Airlines or the Star Alliance, of which it is a member. If you want to enter, you'll need to purchase a day pass – kind of deceptive if you ask me.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai
It sort of goes without saying that Emirates' lavish first class lounge in Dubai would make this list, if only because, well, it's Emirates. The airline has made a name for itself by (almost) singlehandedly reviving the glamor and luxury we once associated with flying, even if its rival Etihad's "Residence" concept is significantly more opulent than its own first-class suite.
To be sure, the most luxurious element of Emirates first-class lounge, the unwritten rule of which is that you need to be a first-class passenger is the door (as in the door of your hotel or Airbnb) to door (as in the door of the airplane) chauffeur service.