OK, so, you have booked your 15+ hour flight in business or first class to somewhere far away and you are en route to the airport. The suspense and anxiety build as you get closer. You’re in traffic, not sure about how long the security lines will be, if there are any flight delays, etc.
Most people don’t like going to the airport because of the high stress level getting there and the crowds greeting them. The airport can be, at a minimum, one of the most crowded and unsettling experiences one can have while traveling.
Why not take advantage of the premier, premium business and first-class lounges available with most airline carriers today? These lounges can be havens of tranquility away from the unruly masses and hustle and bustle of the common airport areas.
Experiencing the comfort and relaxation of an airline lounge is well worth the visit. The trend is clear: Airport lounges are redefining themselves as enjoyable destinations for elite travelers.
There are different levels of quality with “executive” lounges these days. Some can become so crowded with travelers and their children that there is nowhere to sit. Too many possess glaring lacks of basic amenities such as comfortable seating or decent varieties of food options beyond peanuts, popcorn and draft wine. You’re better off at the KFC takeout downstairs on the departures level. Lower quality executive lounges are found mostly in busy U.S. and European airports.
On the other hand, premium lounges, only accessible to first- or business-class travelers, are found in larger international airports in the U.S., Asia, Middle East and parts of Europe.
There are several creature comforts that are offered at premium airline lounges. Some people rate them higher than others but, from my experience, one of the most important features is the availability of open space. You want to have the option of secluding yourself away from the noise and chatter and enjoy the comfortable seating, lounge chairs and individual alcoves of private spaces.
Other enhanced amenities found at some of the world’s best airline lounges are showers, nap rooms and massage rooms. Many airlines send chauffeured limousines to pick you up from your home and deliver you to private airport entrances.
During my travels, I have found the best airline lounges in the U.S. are: the United Club at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) Terminal E; the Delta Sky Club at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Concourse C; and the AA Admirals Club at Terminal 4 and newly opened United Club at Terminal 7 of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
These lounges are newer and offer the above-average basics in open space and food selection. Warning: They can become crowded as access is not specifically limited to first- and business-class travelers.
To really enjoy the ultimate premium and first-class airline lounge experience, consider some of the world’s best that are located in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. If you can gain access to any of these world-class lounges, chances are you will be blown away by the accommodations, food and drink varieties, abundance of open space and private areas, hot showers, massage rooms and spa treatments. Trust me, you will become so ensconced in your personal experience, you won’t want to hear the call that your flight is boarding.
Some of the notable lounges in the Middle East include the Qatar al Safwa Lounge, in Doha, and the palatial Emirates A380 First Class Pier, in Dubai that occupies an entire airport level of its own with direct boarding access to your Emirates flight.
Two Quantas first-class lounges in Australia—one in Sydney, the other in Melbourne—are large and comfortable. In Europe, Lufthansa goes over and above the top with their two lounges in Frankfurt and Munich. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has “The Wing,” and the Pier First Class Lounge is where you can experience all the niceties of international comfort. In Southeast Asia, Thai Airways has an exotic first-class lounge and spa at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
So really, waiting at an airport doesn’t always have to be an uncomfortable experience. To sample some of the best airline lounges, you may have to “pay to play,” but creative use of airline bonus points, frequent flier miles and booking the right fare class can afford you some of the most relaxing and enjoyable airport visits you can imagine.
Brad Dwan is Managing Director of International Energy Sales, Inc., a manufacturer’s representative that represents mid-level manufacturing companies based in the USA, assisting them in expanding their global businesses.
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