Airport lounges are being transformed. Once these lowly enclaves were merely the quiet space where passengers could while away the hours between flights away from the madding crowd. However today’s lounges are a vital part of the frequent traveler’s total airport experience with state-of-the-art premium ground services.
The Business Traveler team around the world has been on the road checking out what’s new in airport lounges. Here’s the latest crop.
Los Angeles International Airport
American Airlines has officially opened the latest of its revamped Flagship Lounges, with a 14,500-square-foot-facility at Los Angeles International airport. The lounge is available for business and first class passengers traveling on international flights, or on nonstop transcontinental services to New York’s JFK.
What’s It Like? The lounge features showers, quiet rooms, a hot and cold buffet station, and a “chef action station” for freshly made-to-order dishes. In addition those traveling in first class can access the Flagship First Dining area, for a full service tableside dining experience.
American Airlines opened the first of its new Flagship Lounges at New York’s JFK in May last year, and has since added locations at Miami and Chicago O’Hare.
Air France Business Class
Paris Charles de Gaulle
Air France has opened a new business class lounge in Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Terminal 2E Hall L. The lounge is a flagship of the new design, which will be introduced progressively throughout the Air France network, and is intended to embody “well-being, French cuisine, design and digital,” according to the airline.
What’s It Like? The new 34,000-square-foot space offers a new Clarins lounge and spa, new furniture and design, a new concept open “show” kitchen and a detox bar. Further enhancements will see a VIP room, bar by French designer Mathieu Lehanneur with free cocktails during “happy hours” and a new children’s area, all set to debut by July 2018.
Passengers with lower tier status in the Flying Blue program (Ivory and Silver) may also access the lounge for €45 ($56) per person, per visit.
Lufthansa has officially opened its new lounge at Milan Malpensa, located in Departures Area A, Terminal 1.
What’s It Like? According to the airline, the design of the lounge will “set the way for Lufthansa Group lounges in the future.” Features of the 6,000-square-foot facility include seating for 117 guests, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the airport apron, furniture designed by Swiss firm Vitra, a central bar offering barista-brewed coffees, Italian aperitifs and finger food, dishes including pasta prepared to order from an open kitchen, and a Coffee Corner at the entrance to the lounge.
Houston George Bush
Terminal D at Houston isn’t short of lounges, but finding the Centurion Lounge is not exactly intuitive, despite all the signage. The lounge is accessed via an elevator behind a duty free shop. The elevator takes you down to a mezzanine level and at the end of a long corridor you will find the lounge.
What’s It Like? The lounge is a big space, split into several distinct areas. The decoration on the walls is of suitcases, which works well, and this continues behind the well-stocked bar. The restaurant had a delicious selection of food, and a great bar with a cocktail list, wine list, beers on tap as well as bottled beers. It was the sort of place which, were it not for the rather bright lighting, could have been the bar of a four-star hotel.
Moscow Sheremetyevo International
For passengers flying through Sheremetyevo International in Moscow there are a number of lounge options. In Terminal D these include two very similar lounges – Jazz and Blues; the latter is accessed by taking the elevator to the fourth floor. The lounge is open to anyone traveling business class with Aeroflot, and also Aeroflot Bonus Gold or Platinum cardholders; Elite Plus Bonus cardholders of any SkyTeam Alliance partner airlines; Priority Pass, Diners Club members or for payment.
What’s It Like? The lounge is long, so to get your bearings turn left and walk past the kids play area to where the business work area and the Mercedes-Benz lounge, which has a couple of tables but nothing else special. In this corner there is the first drinks station with several choices of wines and spirits. Around the corner eventually you’ll come to the main body of the lounge which doesn’t have very many seats, and even fewer power points.
The main food area has a wide choice including hot and cold food and more drinks including beers and soft drinks. There is free WiFi in the lounge, but because of regulations, you have to register a phone to receive a text which then allows you to enter that code to access the Internet.
During the course of the afternoon the lounge becomes busier, and the noise levels rise. So although flights are called from the lounge, it’s best to keep an eye on the screens.
London Heathrow T3
Emirates’ lounge was renovated and expanded in October 2015 and can now accommodate 400 guests. The lounge is located airside in T3 at area E, near gate 7. It’s the only lounge at T3 from which passengers can board the aircraft directly. Business and first class passengers can enter for free, as can Emirates Skywards gold or platinum members. Blue and silver members can pay for access.
What’s It Like? Up a spiral staircase, the lounge is a vast, U-shaped space with numerous areas furnished with posh artwork, potted plants and glossy coffee tables. Armchairs line the space, each with a power point, offering passengers the option to work in privacy, watch the news, or recline while overlooking the runway. Wifi is free.
There is also a business center as well as men’s and women’s shower facilities. The food and beverage offering is impressive, with a dedicated dining area at the back of the lounge and well-stocked bars at intervals throughout. The back wall of the canteen is reserved for hot dishes, offering tureens filled with a variety of choices, next to baskets of warm bread rolls. A freestanding station is dedicated to cold dishes, and there’s a dessert station as well.
Hong Kong International West Hall
Plaza Premium’s West Hall lounge is the operator’s newest at HKIA (although the East Hall lounge recently reopened following a major facelift and slight relocation). The facility is located on level 7 close to gate 40 of the West Hall adjacent to the Thai Airways, Emirates and United Club lounges.
As with all of Plaza Premium’s lounges, access is available on a pay-per-entry basis to travelers of all classes on board all airlines. Alternately Priority Pass has three membership tiers – Standard, Standard Plus and Prestige – which come with a certain number of free stays to any lounge in its network, depending on your tier. Select credit cards will also give travelers complimentary access to the lounge.
What’s It Like? The lounge is broken into four main sections, each modern and pleasantly designed from an aesthetic standpoint. However, the layout of the lounge itself is rather thin and meandering, and it’s easy to miss things.
The F&B options at the lounge were very good and despite the crowds, the efficient staff ensured there was a plentiful supply. Dishes at the main buffet island in the center ranged from Chinese to Western. The “marketplace” area also has three stalls offering bread with peppers and grilled cheese, noodles, and healthy options such as salads. There’s also a separate food area offering a wider selection of dim sum, plus a snack bar behind the main entrance.
Vancouver International Airport
Skyteam has officially opened its latest airport lounge at Vancouver International airport.
The alliance’s seventh branded lounge worldwide, and first in the Americas, is located by gate 53 in the new Duty Free area of the international terminal.
What’s It Like? The 5,700-square-foot lounge features two separate wings, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and facilities including seating for 128 guests, showers, a dedicated business area and a TV room. Food and beverage includes a noodle bar, buffet offering dishes such as West Coast smoked salmon, microbrewery beers, and wines from local vineyards.
The lounge is open to Skyteam Elite Plus members, as well as business and first class passengers traveling with Skyteam member carriers. The Vancouver facility joins existing Skyteam lounges in Dubai, London Heathrow, Hong Kong, Sydney, Istanbul and Beijing.
Iberia Velazquez Lounge
Madrid Barajas International Airport
Iberia has unveiled its revamped Velazquez lounge within Madrid airport’s T4 satellite building. The lounge is open 24/7, and is located by boarding gates S in the satellite terminal at T4, which serves all long-haul Iberia flights.
What’s It Like? The refurbished lounge is now 25 percent larger and can accommodate up to 500 guests. Features include USB charging points at lounge chairs and dining tables, and an “open work area where meetings can be held while awaiting flights.” Tablets in the buffet areas display the lounge’s food and beverage menus, with guests able to choose between a conventional sit-down restaurant concept or self-serve hot and cold buffet.
The vinotheque offers 22 Spanish wines – 13 red, eight white and one rose, and there’s a new Health Point area opening soon, “for customers seeking the most wholesome food.” Other facilities include six shower booths, a rest area with chaise-lounges, and a children’s entertainment zone.
London Heathrow Terminal 5
Plaza Premium has opened a new lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5 located on Level 2 of the departures area next to gate A7. The new lounge Plaza Premium’s sixth at Heathrow, and is open to all travelers for a fee starting at £40 ($50) for two hours.
What’s It Like? The 5,000-square-foot lounge offers hot and cold food, a fully serviced bar, high speed Wifi, shower facilities and newspapers and magazines. The multi-purpose facility is open from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily. American Express platinum card holders can use the lounge for free, though it appears that Priority Pass card holders cannot.
Plaza Premium has also announced plans to open an 83-bedroom Aerotel hotel in Terminal 3 next year.
Cathay Pacific Lounge
Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 4
When Cathay Pacific moved from its former home in Terminal 1 into Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 at the end October, the carrier opened its first dedicated lounge at Changi, located on T4’s Mezzanine Level.
What’s It Like? The new lounge is similar in design to the carrier’s The Pier first class offering in Hong Kong, but the Singapore lounge won’t feature separate areas for first and business class passengers. With a seating capacity for approximately 200 people, the airline says it’s the largest outside Cathay’s home base of Hong Kong. The facility offers what is described as a “living room” environment, with natural woods and greenery along with colorful artwork from local artists.
Fans of the airline’s popular Noodle Bar need not fret, as there will be a branch offered at the new Terminal 4 lounge. The bar’s signature Dan Dan Noodles will be offered, as will Singapore Laksa.
Privium Airside Lounge
Amsterdam Schiphol has opened a new Privium Airside Lounge within the airport’s revamped Holland Boulevard. The lounge is located between Piers E and F, past security in the non-Schengen area of the terminal. The new facility joins the existing Privium Club Lounge, located at Departures 1.
What’s It Like? The lounge offers more than 3,700 square feet of space with seating for 54 guests. Other amenities include free WiFi, and breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Décor reflects the Dutch landscape, with “beach visuals of the North Sea,” as well as works by Dutch photographer Anne Brugmans.
The lounge is open Monday to Friday between 6:00 AM and 10:30 PM, and is accessible to Privium Plus members, with guest entry also available for €25 ($31).