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June 21, 2024

The best airport lounges in the world   

Arushi Sakhuja   
Talk about travelling in style! These uber-luxe airport lounges will give you make arriving early at the airport more than worth it. Premier airport lounges are redefining luxury, offering plenty of world-class services and amenities that will leave you impressed. Today, first- and business-class airport lounges are more than a place to catch a buffet and work with a great Wi-Fi connection. From spas to exclusive menus crafted by Michelin-starred chefs, cigar rooms, and yoga studios to grand decor, luxury airport lounges are being designed to cater to the crème de la crème of travellers.  
As travel surges, airlines and credit card companies are competing for customer loyalty, adding perks for frequent flyers. The flourishing industry (with a vast market) is on the rise. Lounges are working hard to bring extreme comfort and luxury to frequent fliers.   
Air France La Première Lounge, Paris
Photo courtesy: Air France
Air France’s La Première cabin is one of the most stylish and luxurious first-class flying experiences in the world. It offers top-notch services like a chauffeur, Michelin-star quality cuisine, and a luxurious experience from the moment you leave for the airport until you arrive at your destination. After a major renovation, the airline has reopened its flagship first-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle, featuring a refreshed bar, semi-private relaxation spaces and new artwork. The dining room still serves cuisine crafted by renowned chef Alain Ducasse. 
Access: If you are fortunate enough to be flying in Air France’s La Première cabin departing from or connecting through Paris, you are in for a treat. Alternatively, if you are travelling on a lengthy Air France or Delta flight that lacks La Première cabins, you can purchase access to the lounge for 500 euros ($600) or 75,000 of the airline’s Flying Blue frequent flier miles per person. The lounge is intended to provide an exclusive experience and is accessible for free to Air France first-class passengers. 
Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong
Photo courtesy: Cathay Pacific
Premium cabin flight bookings and airline elite status can provide access to exclusive airline lounges at airports around the world, which many points and miles enthusiasts aspire to visit. Cathay Pacific operates two first-class lounges at Hong Kong International Airport – The Wing in Terminal 1’s south departures hall and The Pier in the north departure hall. The latter features eight private day suites with fully equipped shower suites, an à la carte restaurant, and The Retreat, an in-house spa with complimentary massages. Designed by London-based Studioilse, the space replicates the ambience of a contemporary apartment with the use of walnut, bronze, and brass warmth, leather and mohair-upholstered furniture for tactility, and honed green onyx for its rich colour. For aviation enthusiasts, there are elegant sitting areas with floor-to-ceiling windows providing gorgeous views, and a distinctive, horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar with a pale green onyx top for the see-and-be-seen scenesters. The mid-century-inspired restaurant serves classy continental fare, including the airline’s signature spicy dan dan noodles. For those seeking peace, there are eight-day rooms and shower suites in The Retreat portion, as well as a small spa offering complimentary mini treatments like facials and foot massages.  
 Access: Admittance to the first-class lounges is available to first-class passengers flying on Cathay Pacific or other Oneworld alliance first-class flights, as well as Cathay Gold members and Oneworld Sapphire members flying a Oneworld airline. Oneworld Sapphire members may access the lounges regardless of the class of ticket they are travelling on. Cathay elite members may also earn Cathay Pacific lounge passes for themselves or to gift to friends and family members. 
Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai
Photo courtesy: Emirates
The Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai International Airport is its terminal. The Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai International Airport spans a floor to include many seating areas, shower suites, and semi-private quiet rooms for napping, as well as a wine cellar, two cigar lounges, and an in-house spa. 
Once you enter, you can treat yourself to a wine tasting in the lounge’s cellar or relax with a spa treatment at Timeless Spa. If you need a quick pick-me-up, grab an espresso at the coffee bar or enjoy a cigar in the cigar lounge. Additionally, there is a vast selection of duty-free shops within the lounge’s arcade. The dining room provides an extensive buffet with a variety of dishes from sushi to pastries, as well as à la carte options. You can order food and drinks from any of the seating areas available. The dining room boasts an array of international cuisine, including Mediterranean dishes and a Moët & Chandon Champagne lounge. If you need to unwind, there are shower suites and semi-private quiet rooms available for napping. 
 Access: If you want to spend some time here, you’ll need to have Emirates Skywards Platinum elite status or be departing in first class on an Emirates flight. 
Al Mourjan Lounge, The Garden, Hamad International Airport, Qatar
Photo courtesy: Al Mourjan Lounge
The Hamad International Airport in Doha has recently introduced a new lounge called The Garden, which is an extension of the Al Mourjan Business Lounge. It is located at the northern end of the terminal, while the Al Mourjan Lounge is located at the southern end. The highlight of The Garden is the Louis Vuitton Lounge, which is the first of its kind in the world. The lounge provides a stunning view of the airport’s indoor tropical garden, The Orchard.
Photo courtesy: Louis Vuitton Lounge
The Louis Vuitton Lounge, designed by Yannick Alleno, features a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Alleno. The lounge is adorned with the iconic Louis Vuitton logo on the floor and even on the food. The lounge also boasts designer furniture, including low tables designed by India Mahdavi and Costela armchairs by Martin Eisler. It is important to note that the restaurant is not complimentary, unlike the food served at The Garden’s dining area.  
 Access: The Garden is exclusively available to passengers flying with Qatar Airways and other Oneworld member airlines in its premium cabins. The new airport lounge has seating for up to 707 guests and 24 quiet rooms and is open for travellers 24/7.  
Delta Sky Club, JFK
Photo courtesy: Delta Sky Club, JFK
At JFK’s Terminal 4, the new Delta Sky Club opened in July. It’s a large 14,000-square-foot area with a beautiful 360-degree marble bar, offering seasonal cocktails, beer, and wine. There are four soundproof booths available for phone calls or relaxation, a covered patio that overlooks the airfield, and an electric outlet for every seat in the lounge, which totals 250. The local chefs are featured on the menu, and currently, until September, Jewish deli favourites like vegetarian latkes, brisket hash sandwiches, and labneh parfait by Elyssa Heller, the founder and CEO of Edith’s Eatery & Grocery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are being highlighted.
Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Ataturk International Airport 
Photo courtesy: Turkish Airlines
This lounge is one of the largest in the world, spanning over 60,000 square feet and accommodating up to 765 people. Turkish Airlines offers a two-story space with various amenities for all ages. Adults can enjoy golf simulators, private suites, and massages, while children can engage themselves in a playroom filled with Legos and toys.  
 There are comfortable seating areas throughout the lounge, including individual cabins for those who prefer a quiet space to work or nap. The multimedia room boasts a wall of televisions for entertainment, and the business centre is equipped with iMacs. For those who are hungry, there are several food stations offering buffet and made-to-order specialties like pide, gözleme, and baklava. If the lounge is crowded, private shower suites are available. 
Flyers can also browse through an exhibition showcasing football memorabilia from the UEFA Champions League dating back to 2005. Top-tier passengers can indulge in traditional delicacies such as baklava, revani, tulumba, Turkish coffee, and other Turkish delights while listening to live piano music in the background. 
Access: The Business Lounge is available to business-class passengers flying Turkish Airlines or its Star Alliance partners, and Star Alliance Gold status holders flying in economy. Elite and Elite Plus members of the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program and Star Alliance Gold travellers can enjoy the Miles & Smiles Lounge. You can also purchase lounge access.  
Etihad First Class Lounge and Spa, Abu Dhabi
Photo courtesy: Etihad
Abu Dhabi International Airport is the hub of Etihad Airways, and it boasts the airline’s top-notch lounge. This lounge provides travellers with exceptional experiences, including access to a spa and a cigar room. The lounge, which is open 24/7 and spans 1,700 sq m, is designed to cater to passengers of The Residence (a three-room suite) and First-Class suites, as well as Etihad Platinum members and eligible guests from partner airlines. 
 The lounge is spacious and has 16 different zones, including a gym, a Six Senses Spa, a style and shave barbershop, and a nail salon. Visitors can enjoy Arabic coffee and dates in the open foyer, followed by a luxurious smoke session in the cigar lounge or a glass of bubbly at the Champagne bar. Shower suites are available on request, and they feature a marble vanity, a private toilet with a bidet, and Acqua di Parma products. 
 Access: The First-Class Lounge is open 24/7 and is accessible to those arriving in or departing from Abu Dhabi International Airport with Etihad Airway’s First Class or The Residence, travellers with Etihad Guest Platinum status, or by paying a fee.  
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, London


Photo courtesy: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
Virgin Atlantic singlehandedly made flying fun again when it debuted back in the 1980s. Virgin Atlantic’s flagship London Clubhouse is a great reflection of its unique ethos. The key highlight is its 45-foot cocktail bar, as well as a brasserie serving and dining room with à la carte selections (like the classic Clubhouse cheeseburger), where you can also linger over a leisurely afternoon tea. The best feature, though, is the Clubhouse’s open-air rooftop, from which you can relax and watch planes take off. Travellers can get their heart rate up on one of the lounge’s Peloton bikes before grabbing a shower or heading to the Clubhouse’s outdoor terrace with a drink to get fresh air. Your first stop, however, should be the salon and spa desk to book a first-come, first-served complimentary hair or spa treatment, so you look your best for your flight.  
 Access: To get in, you need to be flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class or Delta One, or some combination of high-end elite status with Virgin Atlantic or one of its airline partners.  
Qantas First Lounge, Sydney 

Photo courtesy: Qantas
Qantas’ First Lounge in Sydney is arguably the best in the country. The sprawling space is segmented by dramatic European oak frames that add visual intrigue to the otherwise minimalistic decor. Spanning over 21,000 square feet, the lounge boasts seasonal menus curated by renowned Australian chef Neil Perry, an impressive collection of award-winning wines, barista-made coffee, marble-clad showers, and private business suites and conference rooms. However, what sets this lounge apart from others is its day spa featuring LaGaia products.  
 Another iconic postmark of the lounge is its vast and unexpected greenery designed by tropical botanist Patrick Blanc. There’s a large vertical garden at the lounge entrance and plant-lined walls in the spa’s treatment rooms. Additionally, frequent flyers can rejuvenate their skin with a facial to counteract the effects of changing elevations. 
Access: Available to first-class fliers on Qantas, Emirates, or Oneworld partner flights. Certain Qantas, Emirates, and Oneworld elites departing on Qantas, Emirates, or Oneworld partner airline flights can also enter. If you’re not flying first, you can purchase access to the lounge or use airline miles.  
Oman Air First-Class Lounge, Muscat
Photo courtesy: Oman Air
The Oman Air’s First-Class Lounge at MCT is undeniably one of the most striking lounges on the list. The lounge is adorned with wavy golden walls and ceiling details that add to its luxurious appeal. Unlike other lounges that can be quite crowded, this lounge is usually calm and serene due to the limited number of first-class flights available. There is only one first-class flight each day to London Heathrow, and the only other destination that offers first-class flights is Salalah. The golden accents are visible throughout the lounge, including the shower suite, restaurant, and cocktail bar. You can enjoy a personalized meal or a relaxing spa treatment before your flight. 
Hours and access: The First-Class Lounge is open 24/7 and available to those flying first class on Oman Air. If you are not one of the few flying first class, try Business Class Lounge, which is accessible to business- and first-class passengers, as well as Oman Air Sindbad Silver or Gold Members. 
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