The 15 Sumptuous Airport Lounges You Wish Were Your Final Destination
How to make the worst part of travel far and away the best part of your trip.
What if your layover—bear with us—didn’t suck? We know. That’s about as possible as a United flight going smoothly. But there’s a growing cadre of eye-popping luxurious airport lounges out there that are determined to shatter the horrible reputation layovers have (rightly) earned. These exclusive hideaways offer necessary solace from the fury of everyday air travel, featuring cigar bars, whiskey bars, wine bars—all the bars. There are high-end spas, with heated eucalyptus towels. There’s even one “Fantasy Flow” shower, whatever that is. So, without further ado, here are the 15 airport lounges that make air travel feel like a vacation. And for tips on how to get to all these sumptuous airport lounges on a bargain, here are 15 Genius Ways to Maximize Airline Miles.
Al Safwa First Lounge, Hamad International Airport
You might think you’ve stepped into a museum at this lounge, with its refined décor and furnishings—and in fact, it features installations of fine art and artifacts sourced from Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art. A sense of luxurious tranquility pervades everything here, including the 250-seat restaurant, serving an Arabic-infused menu, à la carte dishes, and premium drinks. It features a Vitality Spa with nine treatment rooms, a Jacuzzi, and a relaxation room. For a breather before or between flights, this is the place to be.
Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa, Abu Dhabi International Airport
This features its own cigar lounge, with nine top varieties of cigars, paired with single-malt whiskies and Cognac. At the Six Senses Spa, you can get a massage, or go for a 15-minute complimentary style and shave. Etihad has its own fitness center (with Technogym equipment and yoga mats) for those looking to break a sweat, and a “Relax and Recline” room, featuring Poltrona Frau leather chairs and a soothing video wall for those looking to chill out.
“Etihad’s first class lounge offers a truly amazing experience that perfectly balances ostentatious luxury with first-rate hospitality and service,” says Lou Haverty, a travel blogger at The First Class Travel Guide. “Between the restaurant, bar, cigar lounge, spa, and gym, the experience is so unique that, if you’re not careful, you might miss your flight.”
Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport
Lufthansa doesn’t just offer a first-class lounge, but an entire terminal, located in a separate building next to the Frankfurt Airport—and it’s all about the personal touch. Travelers drive right up to the terminal and pass their keys to a valet parking service. A personal assistant gets you what you need (“Would you like a relaxation chair? A glass of wine?”) and keeps an eye on when your next flight will be.
You can stop by the wining and dining area for food from a Michelin-starred chef. Or, you can have a smoke in the cigar lounge while sipping one of more than 120 different whiskies from the bar. One of the cool seasonal services offered here: From November to April, they will store your winter coats if you are heading to warmer climes, saving you the trouble of dragging a heavy coat to your Caribbean island destination.
“Possibly the closest experience to flying on a private jet like a rock star or dignitary,” says Haverty. Perhaps you could stop there after you’ve traveled the autobahn, which is one of our Twenty-Five Adventures Every Man Should Have.
Qantas International First Lounge, Sydney Airport
Of all the airport lounges, Qantas stands out for its choice of décor: the statement piece is a 98-foot, 8,400-plant vertical garden greeting travelers as they arrive (both because it looks nice and it helps to purify the air). The dining is top-notch, with seasonal menus drawing on fresh ingredients from around the world by celebrity chef Neil Perry of Rockpool. An elegant bar serves up craft cocktails, in addition to a genuinely impressive wine list. There’s a spa where massages can be booked as well as plenty of private areas and meeting rooms should you need to get some work done.
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul, Ataturk Airport
You can book your own suite here, complete with a business center, TV, and bed. The lounge offers shower facilities where you can freshen up, as well as massage services to limber you up ahead of a long flight. The food is great, too, infused with Turkish ingredients and cooked by world class chefs.
And you can’t forget the fun. The lounge features an on-site golf simulator, video games, billiards tables, and a Scalextric track that makes you feel like you’re racing through the city’s many stunning spots. Kids are covered, too, with on-site children’s play areas overseen by supervisors, allowing you to take a break before hopping on the plane.
GVK Lounge, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai
This lounge is divided into three strata—First, Premium, and Business—all of which offer plenty of luxury before your flight, including a spa and shower area, library, and food massages. It offers the opulence of a high-end hotel with friendly, personal service.
British Airways Galleries First Lounge, London Heathrow Terminal 5
This lounge can compete with any 5-star boutique hotel, fitted with elegant chandeliers and luxurious furnishings, along with an impressive art collection. Guests can enjoy waiter service (with legitimately great meals) and take advantage of the private cabanas or private dining booths if they want to keep things low-key.
It connects to the Arrivals Lounge, which includes Elemis Travel Spa, where you can get a “Power Shave” or and “Aviator Facial” (complete with “sonic cleansing and high-power actives”), to have you looking great for when you arrive. You can also spring for a back massage to have you feeling relaxed ahead of a long flight.
“If you are taking that Sunday overnight flight to get to a business meeting in London Monday morning, you can’t beat Heathrow Airport’s BA Arrival Lounge and its massage therapy shower stall,” says Si-Yeon Kim, chief risk and compliance officer for American Express Global Business Travel. “It beats the jetlag right out of you and prepares you for your Monday morning meeting.” And since London is one of The 20 Cities You Have to Visit Before You Die, all the more reason to visit this lounge.
Cathay Pacific Lounge, The Wing, First, Hong Kong International Airport
In this massive airport, The Wing lounge from Cathay Pacific, in Terminal 1, is a serious refuge. It includes shower suites with two-way wardrobes—so your clothes can be pressed while you shower—as well as five cabanas, each with a large bath and rain shower. The Haven restaurant showcases both Western and Asian dishes—whether you feel like Hong Kong dim sum or an upscale charcuterie plate. If you’re just looking for something to drink, the exclusive champagne bar gives you the chance to select from a number of premium bottles. And of course, there’s a great business center too (with phones, printers, and high-speed internet) should you actually want to get some work done.
American Express Centurion Lounge, Miami International Airport
Speaking of award-winning chefs, this lounge offers food from Miami’s own James Beard award winner Michelle Bernstein, not to mention cocktails created by esteemed mixologist Jim Meehan (author of The PDT Cocktail Book).
“The food is amazing,” says Terry Carter, CEO of luxury brand Travertine Spa Collection. “At the Centurion Lounge while waiting for a flight, I can sip on champagne and enjoy braised short rib.”
Visitors can get a massage or a manicure at the exhale spa, or get some work done in one of the dedicated work spaces. It’s a distinctly Miami space, with artwork by Rock Paper Photos highlighting music and entertainment moments from the city. For more great advice on how to eat well while traveling, here are The Best Foodie Vacations in the World.
Finnair Premium Lounge, Helsinki Airport
When in Finland, you should enjoy a Finnish sauna—that’s one of the many perks of this high-end lounge, which also includes private shower suites, gourmet snacks, and an impressive food and beverage selection. There’s a dedicated Relaxation Zone if you need to catch up on your rest, and hot breakfast available beginning at 6:00 a.m. each morning.
EVA Air’s The Infinity, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Taiwan-based EVA Air offers several very cool lounge concepts in their headquarter airport, including The Garden, with lush foliage and fresh Taiwanese cuisine, and The Star, with snacks and coffee in a setting meant to evoke a relaxing sunset. But The Infinity is the standout, with twinkling lights that make it feel like a mellow evening in a futuristic world, and freshly prepared Chinese and Western dishes along with themed shower rooms (themes include “Metro Forest,” “Star Drops,” and the suspiciously named “Fantasy Flow”). The best part: The Infinity has its own robot butler.
Air France l’Espace Première First Class Lounge, Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris
They make life easy in this lounge, from immediate service the moment you step out of your car (at Terminal 2E), with a porter helping you with your bag, to a simplified boarding process when it’s time for you to get on the plane. In between, you can order a glass of wine at the moodily lit bar, grab a snack from the impressive buffet (complete with French pastries and cheeses), or order from the freshly prepared menu of French cuisine.
It also includes a Biologique Recherche center (a fancy name for a spa) where facials, massages, and other treatments are available. And if you are planning a trip to Paris, be sure to see which luxury hotel we recommend you stay at.
Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York
“This lounge brings the Manhattan flair to you without stepping foot outside the airport,” says Carol Mueller, vice president of marketing for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. “It offers everything from massages and facials to a Bumble and Bumble salon and pool tables.”
They’ve also got showers and private rooms if you need to refresh.
Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai International Airport
Visitors will find convenience and connection here. For the former, there’s boarding directly from the lounge, letting you step right on to your plane when it’s time to go. For the latter, there’s an upscale Cigar Bar or the Le Clos Wine Cellar (overseen by expert sommeliers who can guide you in selecting the best bottles).
If you’re more concerned about resting and getting refreshed, they’ve got shower spas with luxury toiletries, as well as dedicated quiet areas with chaises lounge, blankets, and pillows.
“Not to mention this lounge recently underwent an $11 million refurbishment that took nearly two years to complete,” says Mueller.
Thai Airways Royal First Lounge, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
The spa in this airport lounge is on par with one you might find in a 5-star hotel, with spacious treatment rooms and quality amenities. Fans of Thai food will also be pleased with the menu, which includes favorites like Massaman curry, Tom Yum Goong, and Thai grilled beef (along with dishes like coconut fried shrimp at the buffet). If you’re less about eating and more about resting, they’ve got nap rooms and shower suites, too. And for more great luxury travel destinations, here are The 10 Most Jaw-Dropping Luxury Hotels in the World.
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