For most, the standard flight experience involves cramped seats, wailing babies and questionably edible food. But for the elite, flying means fine dining, spa services, nannies to tend to the disorderly children and champagne bars to take the edge off.
The airline lounge is a swanky sanctuary for the upper echelons of air travel. Once uninspiring spaces, today’s airport lounges are havens of luxury and comfort. Airlines spare no expense in offering travellers premium products, top tier food and exceptional perks (some more eccentric than others).
We’ve reviewed the cream of the crop to bring you the best airline lounges of 2018. Check into one of these and you’ll almost hope your flight is delayed.
Qantas First Class Lounge, SYD
Salt and pepper squid followed by a cheeky pavlova? Don’t mind if I do. If there’s a formula for creating the perfect first class lounge, Qantas seem to have found it. The airline’s flagship lounge in Sydney is the masterful work of Creative Director Marc Newson and architecture firm Sébastien Segers Architecte DPLG. Striking design, private suites, a spa, a 30-metre vertical garden, and a restaurant menu created by Neil Perry (of Rockpool fame) are amongst the perks awaiting well-heeled guests.
British Airways Concorde Room, LHR
The dapper British vibe is unmistakable in the British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow. Visitors enter the lounge through the appropriately monikered “millionaire’s door,” then are greeted by crystal chandeliers, private cabanas with day beds, a state-of-the art business suite and the Elemis Spa. The fine dining restaurant, and extensive champagne and wine selection, are particularly praised by passengers.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, LHR
Heathrow scores again with the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Richard Branson’s trademark flair has made the London flagship lounge one of the most original and acclaimed in the world. The Clubhouse has something to offer everyone: vintage arcade games, pool tables, tea service, big-screen televisions, space-age design, complimentary spa services, expert mixologists behind the bar and even a hair salon for last-minute grooming emergencies.
Qatar Airways Lounge, DOH
Qatar Airways is also responsible for some of LHR’s prime real estate, but the airline’s true gem is found in Doha International Airport. The Al Mourjan Business Class lounge and First Class Al Safwa lounge defy all expectations. Opulent design is everywhere, from the sweeping staircase entry, to the tranquility pond, to the designer furniture and marble detailing. The world-class facilities even include a Formula 1 simulator.
Swiss First Class Lounge, Zürich
Some airlines want you to feel just as comfortable in their first-class lounge as you do at home. Swiss’ new first class lounge in Zurich has blown this idea out of the water, providing a living room that would make your tired old sofa red-faced with shame. This centrepiece of opulence reopened less than three months ago, now offering mini suites, a club with seductive leather sofas, wine humidor, two hotel rooms, a business zone and a meeting room with a view of the runway. There is also a smokers’ lounge with its own terrace and selection of fine whiskies. Furnished elegantly by Swiss designers Vitra and de Sede, the lounge exudes an ambience of refined exclusivity, complemented by the centrepiece barista bar, at which guests can sample speciality coffees and fruit brandies. Oh and the lounge offers both an à la carte restaurant and a buffet option.
Lufthansa First Class Terminal, FRA
First-class travellers passing through Frankfurt receive the ultimate A-list treatment with Lufthansa: an entire premium terminal. The experience includes private passport control and security checkpoints, plus luxury car transfer to your plane. Perhaps the most unexpected detail is the Lufthansa-branded rubber duck, which you can keep as a souvenir if you indulge in a luxurious layover bath. The unconventional memento has become a collector’s item.
Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai
There are several First Class lounges at Emirates’ hub in Dubai; but the one in Concourse A is definitely the most impressive. The biggest First Class lounge in the world, providing seating for almost 600 passengers, its facilities include a children’s club, quiet areas, prayer rooms, showers, a business center, conference rooms, a wine cellar, and a cigar lounge. Not to mention you get direct access to gates. In terms of layout, the restaurant is star of the show, offering fine dining with a truly global selection of dishes. First Class passengers also receive complimentary 15-minute spa treatments in the adjacent spa facility, which is a nice bonus.
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, SIN
Singapore’s Changi Airport is consistently ranked one of the best in the world, so it’s no surprise that one of its lounges makes the list. The SilverKris Lounge from Singapore Airlines is spacious and welcoming, with a variety of options for a meal, rest or work. For pampering at its most over the top, passengers departing from Changi in First or Suites Class can be admitted to the ultra-exclusive Private Room.
Cathay Pacific Lounges, HKG
Cathay Pacific is the crowning glory of Hong Kong International. The airline operates a whopping five lounges in the gargantuan airport: The Bridge, The Cabin, The Wing, The Pier and The Arrivals. The main attraction is The Pier, a glass-enclosed oasis tastefully decked out in green onyx, walnut, bronze and leather. The worst part is having to decide between the fine dining, the bar, the day suites and the foot massage zone. Life’s tough: I know.
Etihad Premium Lounge, AUH
No one is surprised to find a pinnacle of luxury in the Middle East. Etihad‘s Premium Lounge in the Abu Dhabi International Airport is brimming with indulgences for discerning travellers. There’s a cigar room, the Six Senses Spa, a champagne bar and even nannies to watch the little ones. The ultimate splurge is available only to guests flying in The Residence, Etihad’s “better than first class cabin”: a special partitioned-off part of the lounge to shield you from the hoi polloi.