A traveler’s journey begins on the ground, and the airport experience is part and parcel of that vital first impression of his or her chosen carrier. Realizing this, airlines are picking up on the need to offer premium services right from the very start with state-of-the-art and efficient ground services.
Thus airlines have transformed their lounges almost beyond recognition. Gone are the simple pit stops of the past with little more than a seating area with basic food and beverages – today’s lounges represent a microcosm experience of the carrier brand itself, with the help of new technologies, graceful interiors and a wider range of services.
Name of lounge and airport: The Wing, Hong Kong International Airport
Location: In between Gates 2 and 3 on 6/F Departure level
Date of last renovation/opening:The carrier’s signature lounge, which first opened in 1998, has recently completed a major refurbishment, unveiled in February of this year, and designed by London-based architects Foster + Partners to maintain the classic Wing feel while introducing some refreshing elements.
The feel: The First Class lounge features natural materials in black, white and warm wood tones that maintain the minimalist design and Cathay Pacific’s specially designed pod-like Solus chairs, which provide individual travelers with a convenient space of their own.
Food and drinks: Catering services at all of Cathay Pacific’s HKIA lounges are provided by The Peninsula hotel, thus ensuring high quality and consistency. The First Class Lounge features a newly-introduced Champagne Bar, while
the popular dining area called the Haven has been more than doubled in size.
The Noodle Bar, Coffee Loft and the signature Long Bar with its fantastic views of the runway, have been retained. Plus, there are self-serve buffets on both Level 6 and 7.
Technology: All six of the workstations on Level 6 are equipped with iMacs, printers and fax machines and throughout the lounges, Wifi Internet access is complimentary.
Standout Features The dining outlets and the Solus chairs.
Access: In addition to business and first class passengers, this lounge is available to Marco Polo members of silver tier and above, as well as oneworld alliance members of sapphire tier and above.
DELTA AIR LINES
Name of lounge and airport: SkyClub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport
Location: International Terminal F, level 2
Delta Sky Clubs were winners of the Best Airport Clubs and Lounges in the Business Traveler Magazine 2012 Best in Business Travel Awards.
Over the last 24 months, Delta has opened or renovated 13 clubs across the Delta system, featuring elements of the new Delta Sky Club design. Needless to say, Delta has a passle of SkyClubs at the Atlanta Airport, at least one or two on every concourse.
However the spacious new SkyClub in the state-of-the-art international terminal on Concourse F that opened last May is of special note for a couple of reasons.
It has a main entrance and a second one that takes you directly to the shower section. The bar area has plenty of seating and offers complimentary beverages or a premium menu with signature cocktails.
Most notable, however, is the Concourse F SkyClub, along with the new lounge in Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, are to be the debut venues for the airline’s first-ever outdoor airport terraces, called The Sky Deck at Delta Sky Club.
The new space in Atlanta will be adjacent to the Sky Club in Concourse F and will open this summer. At JFK, the space is a rooftop terrace at the club in the airline’s new $1.2 billion expansion of Terminal 4, scheduled to open May 24.
Technology: WiFi access is complimentary.
Name of lounge and airport: First Class Lounge, Dubai International Airport
Location:Terminal 3, Concourse 1
Date of last renovation/opening: This lounge, opened in 2011, is the airline’s second first class facility at Dubai airport.
The feel: To maintain consistency with the renowned first lounge, this new facility features a similar design, Italian marble flooring, plush leather armchairs and, of course, the gold-plated Rolex wall clocks.
Measuring over 11,000 square feet, the lounge offers a quiet zone with eight recliner chairs, shower facilities, a business center with 10 workstations, a spa and a complimentary shoe-shine service.
Food and drinks: There is a 24-hour buffet section as well as an à la carte dining option available all day serving gourmet meals and a selection of fine wines, in addition to a separate bar.
Technology:Free WiFi access throughout.
Standout feature: The recliner chairs.
Access: First and business class passengers and Skywards Gold members.
Name of lounge and airport: Qatar Airways Premium Lounge, Heathrow Airport
Location: Terminal 4
Date of last renovation/opening: This lounge, which opened in January 2012, is the carrier’s first outside its Doha hub.
The feel: The facility exudes a contemporary and luxurious charm yet still feels distinctly Arabic. Although it deliberately resembles a “boutique hotel or private members’ club,” the lounge also draws inspiration from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. In order to ensure high-quality service, the carrier has recruited staff from five-star hotels and restaurants. Other amenities include private showers, a business center and power sockets for every seat.
Food and drinks: The Global Brasserie kitchen, which features a live open kitchen, and a delicatessen and signature martini bar.
Technology:WiFi is available, and the shower facilities consist of heated floors and mirrors.
Standout featureS: The décor and the martini bar.
Access: Exclusively for business and first class passengers of Qatar Airways.
Name of lounge and airport: Swiss Arrival Lounge, Zürich Airport
Location:Arrival Hall 2, next to customs
The feel: The lounge, measuring 8,300 square feet, maintains the carrier’s elegant minimalist feel with simple black and white tones and a distinctive limestone wall. Its greatest draws are the services and amenities rather than its look and feel. The facility consists of 20 shower suites, three hotel-style bedrooms (including one with a private bathroom) for those who cannot check in to a hotel yet, 10 workstations, free Internet access and private telephone cubicles.
Food and drinks: A spacious bistro-style area serves hot and cold dishes and a range of fresh juices, coffees and other beverages.
Technology: There is a discreet and efficient ironing service offered to the shower suites; passengers can place their clothes in a cabinet, close the door and press a button for the clothes to be ironed. Within minutes, the crisp clothing returns and an indicator in the shower informs the passengers that their items are ready.
Standout feature: The private bedrooms.
Access: First and business class passengers, frequent flyer members with Frequent Traveler status or above, and Star Alliance Gold members.
Name of lounge and airport: United Club, Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Location:Terminal 2, just across from Gate F4.
United unveiled its new lounge model with the renovated United Club at Chicago O’Hare. The 13,300-square-foot lounge’s design is the prototype for future openings and renovations. The lounge features a spacious bar area, redesigned furniture with more workstations and power outlets. The space has seating for 300 guests, and the design incorporates elements of the company brand and the world of aviation.
Members will continue to get complimentary snacks, beverages and WiFi. The lounge is the first of the new facilities United will be introducing worldwide. The airline will spend more than $50 million this year to renovate 51 United Club lounges.
Name of lounge and airport: The Virgin America Loft, LAX
Location:Past security in Terminal 3
The Virgin America Loft is the airline’s first lounge in the US. It offers such amenities as a cocktail bar and dining experience, power outlets and complimentary WiFi.
The lounge’s design reflects the Virgin America cabin with mood lighting and contemporary furnishings.
Virgin America’s Elevate program’s Elevate Gold and Elevate Silver members get a few complimentary passes each year. Passes may be bought when checking in online or at the airport at check-in for $40. Passengers traveling on Virgin America’s partners may also purchase passes.
Name of lounge and airport: JFK Clubhouse, JFK International Airport
Location:In the A-Concourse, above gates A4 and A5.
Date of last renovation/opening: The lounge opened in March 2012, replacing the previous landside offering.
The feel: Officially described as “Understatedly Uptown, Unmistakably New York,” the JFK Clubhouse lounge features flashy golden cylinders hanging from the ceiling, a cloud-shaped cocktail bar, a red ball sofa and a curtain of steel rods within an area called “Central Park.”
In addition to the jazzy seating in Central Park, Virgin has introduced “person-sized round cavities” lined with wool that allow individual travelers to relax. To step up the game a little more, the lounge also houses a hair salon and spa with hairstylists from the famous New York brand Bumble and Bumble.
Food and drinks: Guests can order food or beverages from anywhere in the lounge, or choose to eat in the more formal brasserie dining area that offers à la carte meals, desserts and fine wines.
Technology:The concierge team at the lounge offer phone-charging services.
Standout feature: The hair salon and spa.
Access: The lounge is for Upper Class passengers and Flying Club Gold members.
Premium passengers and frequent flyers usually have fantastic lounges to go to, provided either by the airline or an airline alliance.
But broader changes in the airline industry are also driving a new look at lounge services. “Airlines are returning to profitability,” says Graham Richards, director of operations at Airport Lounge Development, Inc., specialists in independent lounges. “And so they’re being much more judicious around questions of how they spend their capital.”
In addition, airports are developing a keener sense of their role as destinations in their own right, Richards says. “More lounge space is becoming available through airline merger and consolidation. Many airports are involved in renovations to their terminals and looking at where the revenue is coming from. And that may not come from setting aside a lounge space for each airline.”
Thus independent lounges – those that are available on a pay-as-you-go or annual fee basis – are becoming more common in airport terminals around the world.
PLAZA PREMIUM LOUNGE
This independent lounge operator had its first opening at Hong Kong International Airport back in 1998. Today, the network consists of 60 locations at 17 international airports in China, Malaysia, Singapore, India, the Maldives, Oman, Canada and, of course, Hong Kong.
All of its lounges offer food and beverage buffets with à la carte menus for the more premium customers. All lounges also have shower facilities, private rest areas, free WiFi access, workstations with computers and printers and spas (although treatments cost extra).
To access these lounges most guests pay for each visit, with rates varying for each lounge. However, the group now also offers annual passes in Canada and Malaysia. Some airlines that do not have lounges at a given airport partner with Plaza Premium to offer complimentary access.
Airspace Lounges can be found at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport with a third scheduled to open soon in JFK Airport’s Terminal 5. The JFK lounge will be near Gate 24 and airlines such as JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and Aer Lingus.
Airspace Lounge allows any airline passenger to enter with the purchase of a daily entry pass, which starts at $20. Membership is not required. Once inside, customers can enjoy complimentary food and beverages, complimentary wireless Internet, power outlets at every seat and workspaces.
These lounges have partnerships with American Express to offer certain cardholders free access.
Currently available at four airports, “The Club at…” concept is open to all passengers without an annual membership fee. Just purchase a one day pass at the reception desk. Entry includes free snacks and drinks, newspapers and magazines, TV, telephones, computer work stations, and Internet / Dataports and WiFfi access.
So far, The Club is available at DFW, Raleigh-Durham International, McCarran International in Las Vegas and Mineta San José International Airport.
The Club partners with Priority Pass and Diners Club International.
Launched in 1992, Priority Pass today has an expansive network of 600 lounges in 300 cities around the world. The lounges offer all the basic amenities, including WiFi, food and beverage buffets, shower facilities, beds and workstations.
Unlike Plaza Premium, Priority Pass only works on a membership basis, and to make use of their lounges travelers have to sign up beforehand. There are three types of membership: standard, which costs $99 a year and allows guests into lounges for an additional cost of $27 per use; standard plus membership ($249), which offers members 10 free uses of any lounge within a year, with members charged at the standard rate of $27 from the 11th visit onwards; and prestige membership, which costs $399 annually and gives guests unlimited use of all lounges for a year.
OLD IS GOLD
These lounges are not new nor have they recently undergone refurbishment, yet they’ve stood the test of time and are still favorites among frequent travelers.
Name of lounge and airport: Galleries Club Lounge, Heathrow Airport
Location: Within Terminal 5A, which is dedicated to British Airways and consists of a total of six Galleries lounges.
The feel: This lounge is the largest of the Galleries in T5 (spacious enough for 830 passengers), and is part of a three-lounge complex that also includes the Concorde Room (at the top of the lounge hierarchy) and Galleries First. The Galleries Club lounge may be at the bottom of the hierarchy but it is no less impressive, boasting such amenities as a quiet area for snoozing, a 20-seat movie theatre, a children’s play area, 20 shower suites, two separate work areas at each end of the lounge, universal power sockets and free WiFi Internet access throughout.
The large Galleries complex also sports an Elemis Spa for First and Club World passengers and Gold Executive Club members, with some complimentary treatments. There is one main food bar – dubbed Chef’s Theatre – as well as a small café and a Silver Bar with a Swarovski crystal chandelier.
Standout feature: The cinema.
Access: First and Club World (business) class passengers as well as Gold and Silver Executive club members.
Name of lounge and airport: Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt Airport
Location:The dedicated terminal is located close to Terminal 1
The feel: The entire facility takes luxury to a whole new level, offering first class passengers exclusive facilities and services. The terminal has its own check-in desks, security checks, a duty-free store and even a personal assistant who takes care of immigration, ensuring that discreet-minded passengers can go from their own car into the lounge, then on to the aircraft by chauffeur-driven car, without having to pass through the main terminal at all.
The lounge, located within this terminal, offers guests a quiet escape with daybeds, private shower facilities (inclusive of bathtub), a cigar lounge and work stations as well as free WiFi throughout. There is a separate area that serves fine wines, hot and cold dishes from a buffet, or an à la carte menu. Also, a bar offers a selection of more than 86 whiskeys.
Standout feature: The entire concept of a dedicated terminal.
Access: Exclusively for First Class passengers and HON Circle members.
Name of lounge and airport: Qantas First Lounge, Sydney Airport
Location: Terminal 1, past immigration on Level 4
The feel: This lounge, designed by the renowned Marc Newson, brings together contemporary elegance and a relaxed ambience. Even before entering, guests are greeted by a refreshing “rainforest wall” set against stark white interiors, while inside the lounge is decorated in Italian marble, oak wood and funky patterned carpets.
Dedicated concierge services are offered in partnership with Sofitel Hotels, which can help guests with tasks such as making a restaurant reservation or ordering a car pick-up at their destination. Other facilities include a spa (also featuring the “rainforest wall” to create a sense of tranquillity) with complimentary services, a fully equipped business center, a library with board games, shower suites and complimentary WiFi access.
The lounge serves an à la carte menu created by celebrity chef Neil Perry, alongside fine wines and a self-serve buffet. It also has a bar where guests can order dishes from the à la carte menu.
Standout features: The concierge service and spa.
Access: The lounge is open to first class passengers on Qantas, British Airways or other oneworld flights, Frequent Flyer Platinum level members or oneworld Emerald tier members and above.
— Alisha Haridasani
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