From its humble beginnings – we’re talking simple lounge chairs and the latest broadsheet – airport lounges have evolved beyond recognition into opulent spaces for pre-flight indulgence and pampering. Some are so plush you’ll almost forget that you’ve gone to the airport for a holiday (note I say ‘almost’!). Here, Kat Townsend reviews the best of the best and looks at what makes them so special:
Etihad Airways’ First Class Lounge, Abu Dhabi International Airport, Terminal 3
Brand new onto the scene is Etihad Airway’s First Class Lounge, with the gold tape newly cut and the cocktails freshly shaken. This lounge boasts a ‘reimagined’ lounge experience, attracting the world’s most discerning travellers. There is a tasting menu that has been designed by chefs from the gilded Emirates Palace hotel, not to mention breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes curated by a chef previously employed by the Shangri-La and Ritz-Carlton. Having discussed preferences with frequent flyers, within the design of this new lounge is a fitness room and a Six Senses Spa, to ensure you’re relaxed, buffed and pampered to the max before your holiday.
And finally, the crème de la crème of this lounge is an area that most will never see, a lounge within a lounge, kept exclusively for passengers flying in The Residence. Permanently staffed by a butler, this facility features an expansive lounge area, prayer room, library, marble-clad bathroom and shower room, and a dining area where you can enjoy a completely bespoke menu. It’s so luxurious that you’ll have to be careful not to miss the final call for boarding.
Emirates’ First Class Lounge, Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3
Still a baby at just over three years old is the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai. Located within Terminal 3, First Class passengers flying with Emirates can enjoy a plethora of amenities, including fine dining made with the freshest of ingredients. Why not relax in the Cigar Bar or freshen up in the shower spas that include everything from towels to luxury toiletries to hairdryers? What really sets this lounge apart from the rest though is that is has its own wine cellar, Le Clos, in which you will be guided by expert sommeliers through the best vintages to enjoy before your flight. Plus, once you’ve showered, had a chance to unwind, tucked into the finest cuisine and sampled a glass or two of well-aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape, you have direct boarding from this lounge so you can step straight onboard when it’s time to fly.
British Airways’ Concorde Room, London Heathrow, Terminal 5
Probably the most established of the lounges in this review, the British Airways Concorde Rooms is only available to First Class customers, or those who rack up 5,000 tier points in a year. This exclusive lounge has been inspired by the finest 5-star boutique hotels, creating a calm and enticing space that has been furnished by Italian furniture and decorated with opulent chandeliers. Private dining options await, with full waiter service. And perhaps the best thing about this lounge is the private cabanas – just remember to pre-book. These spaces are a mini hotel room-style space, with en-suite, where you can properly rest and recuperate before your flight. If that isn’t enough, everyone holding a First Class reservation will receive a complimentary 15-minute Elemis Spa treatment – talk about total relaxation.
Cathay Pacific’s The Pier, First Class Lounge, Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1
Reopened in June 2015, The Pier is available to First Class customers, as well as selected Marco Polo Club members and oneworld frequent flyers. Open from 5.30am until the last departure, this lounge has been designed with inspiring your senses in mind. Striving to be a tranquil space, as well as place to catch up with business before you fly, each area has been carefully thought out. The Day Suites offer quiet views over the runway (for all those plane geeks) and is equipped with a day bed, reading light and privacy curtains. A personalised massage treatment is surely the ultimate way to kill some time before you depart too. They offer both seasonal à la carte dining in The Dining Room as well as the option for a quick bite in The Pantry. What is great about this lounge is that it also has six secluded work suites, all of which offer iMac computers and high speed Wi-Fi. This lounge is elegant, well considered and certainly ideal for those for work.
Virgin Atlantic’s The Clubhouse, London Heathrow, Terminal 5
On the surface Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse is your regular airport lounge. Well a regular lounge that was voted ‘Europe’s leading airline lounge 2013’ that is. It offers fabulous amenities and a relaxed atmosphere, with a vibrant bar area at its heart. Delve a little deeper though and you’ll discover a world of excitement; The Den is for all you gamers and film buffs out there, with a state-of-the-art multiscreen showing the latest TV, film, news and sport. If you’re looking to unwind then head to The Lodge and Viewing Deck which boasts an ‘apres-ski’ vibe and offers incredible views of the runway and the setting sun beyond. And for the ultimate in pre-flight indulgence atop a white marble stairway is The Loft, a viewing platform with full-width sloping windows for a dramatic view of the sky above.
Whatever your next holiday or business trip flying First Class (or holding frequent flyer points), be sure to find out whether you can take advantage of these incredible pre-flight spaces. We know you’ll be grateful for that spa treatment, quick snooze, fine dining experience or even the opportunity to delve into a wine cellar for that pre-flight tipple.
Even though there is no official dress code in any of these lounges, it is always advisable to check with the airline before you go. As a guide, always dress on the smart-casual side.
Speak to one of our Flight Centre First and Business Travel Experts to arrange lounge access for your next trip.