Airport lounges: Pre-flight respite

3 Nov 2023 by BusinessTraveller
United’s Club lounge on Denver airport’s B Concourse (image from https://www.united.com/en/AW/newsroom/)

We explore the latest crop of airport lounges around the world where you can relax, recharge and refresh before boarding.

United Club Lounge, Denver

United Airlines opened its largest airport lounge in September with the unveiling of a 3,250 sqm facility on Denver International airport’s B Concourse, which overtook the carrier’s 2,800 sqm Newark Terminal C3 lounge, opened in 2022.

Located near Gate B44, the lounge offers more than 600 seats across three levels, with facilities including a feature bar with ten local and craft beers on tap. The design has been inspired by Denver’s urban areas, with concrete flooring, exposed ceilings, locally sourced furnishings and artwork such as a mural by visual artist Charlo Garcia Walterbach, and a sculpture made out of skateboards.

The B Concourse lounge joins a 2,200 sqm A Concourse facility, which was unveiled in August close to gate A26. Inspired by the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and designed to feel like a ski lodge, the Club features two fireplace lounges, seating for 400 guests, two premium bars, as well as a game lounge.

United says it will also add “an additional revamped club location” at the airport in 2025, bringing the carrier’s total lounge footprint at Denver International to more than 9,000 sqm.

Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge, San Francisco

Air Canada opened its 28th airport lounge in July, with the unveiling of the carrier’s Maple Leaf Lounge at San Francisco International. The 165-capacity lounge is located in the airport’s Terminal 2, and features an outdoor terrace with views of the runways – a first for the airline.

Facilities include shower rooms with Molton Brown toiletries, private workstations, a VIP room for up to ten guests, and a hot and cold buffet featuring local dishes such as San Francisco’s famous Cioppino fish stew, and artwork including a mural by California artist Amos Goldbaum.

The lounge is open daily from 4.15am to 10.15pm (4.15am to 8.45pm on Monday) for business class ticket holders, Aeroplan 50K, 75K and Super Elite members, Star Alliance Gold members, premium Aeroplan credit card holders, and those who have purchased Maple Leaf Lounge access.

In June, Air Canada also opened a co-branded facility at Billy Bishop Toronto City airport in partnership with Aspire Lounges. Referred to as the Aspire | Air Canada Café, the space is located in the airport’s domestic departures area, and is open daily between 5.30am and 8.30pm, with seating for up to 133 guests.

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at San Francisco International airport (image supplied by the Air Canada EMEAI Press Office)

British Airways and American Airlines Greenwich/Soho/Chelsea Lounge, New York

After BA moved to New York JFK’s Terminal 8 to join its partner American Airlines last year, the two airlines have unveiled a collection of three new lounges.

The Soho Lounge has cosy interiors, with dark wood and neutral furnishings, a feature cocktail bar and airfield views through floor-to-ceiling windows. There is also a secluded library and private rain showers. Business travellers are well catered to with private booths, phone cubicles and plenty of power sockets. Open 4.30am-10.30pm for BA Executive Club Gold; Concierge Key AAdvantage Executive Platinum; AAdvantage Platinum Pro; MVP Gold 75K; and oneworld First and Emerald members.

The more exclusive Chelsea Lounge features white Italian marble floors and a bright cream colour scheme, living wall paper and a suspended fireplace. A statement Champagne bar with glass chandelier serves Krug, Moët et Chandon, Nectar Imperial and a rosé (Paul Laurent). There’s an a la carte menu, featuring Brit and US classics from shepherd’s pie to Reuben sandwiches, and shower facilities. The lounge is open from 4.30am-10.30pm for Concierge Key, Flagship First and Flagship Business Plus, and Executive Club Gold members.

The Greenwich Lounge, a refurbishment of AA’s original Flagship lounge, unveiled The Bridge Bar in March, a new wine bar inspired by the Golden Age of travel in partnership with Betty Buzz and Aviation American Gin. The dining space has also been refurbished as the Tasting Room and tap room, with beers from the likes of Brooklyn Brewery. Open 4.30am-1.15am for AAdvantage Platinum; MVP Gold; Flagship Business, plus oneworld Sapphire and Business members.

Chase Sapphire Lounge by the Club, Boston

Following the launch of the Chase Sapphire Lounge in Hong Kong last October, JPMorgan Chase & Co opened the brand’s first US lounge in May.

The 1,080 sqm facility at Boston Logan International airport is located in the Terminal B to C Connector between Gates B40 and B39. The offering is extensive, and includes a dining menu by local chef Douglass Williams, a taproom offering craft beer and coffee, a centrepiece wine and cocktail bar as well as two wellness rooms with anti-gravity massage chairs and guided meditations, plus shower rooms.

The lounge has views of the airfield and Boston Harbour, and features artwork from JPMorgan Chase & Co’s private collection. It is accessible to Chase Sapphire Reserve card members through their Priority Pass membership, who can be accompanied by two free guests. Priority Pass members without a Sapphire Reserve card can visit one Sapphire Lounge by The Club location each year, with an entry fee charged for any subsequent visits to the network.

Further locations are also under development at Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International airport, New York’s LaGuardia airport, Philadelphia International airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport and San Diego International airport.

The new Delta Sky Club at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International airport (image from https://news.delta.com/)

Delta Sky Club, Minneapolis (and others)

Delta has been busy improving its lounge network, with several recent openings and upgrades. In April, the airline opened its third Sky Club at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International airport, located within the expanded G concourse. The lounge has seating for more than 450 guests, and facilities include a Sky Deck with a living plant wall and seating for 110 guests, two premium bars, and three soundproof work booths. The lounge’s buffet menu will showcase hometown chefs on a rotating basis.

Other new openings this year include two new club lounges at New York JFK’s T4 (as part of Delta’s move from T2), a new lounge in the new terminal building at Kansas City International airport, an expanded club at Fort Lauderdale, a new lounge at Boston’s E concourse, a relocated Sky Club at Newark airport (from Terminal B to Terminal A), an expanded lounge at Miami International, and a renovated Sky Club at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson.

Last December Delta announced plans to make several changes to its Sky Club access policy “to help preserve a premium experience”. These include an increase in the fees for annual Club memberships, and new restrictions on entry eligibility.

KLM Crown Lounges, Houston and Toronto

KLM has unveiled renovations of its two international Crown Lounges at Toronto Pearson International and Houston George Bush Intercontinental airports.

The carrier’s 575 sqm Toronto facility is situated in the international area of Terminal 3, and offers seating for 161 guests. The updated lounge features a new front desk reception and a revised layout to “streamline space and light”. There is also a new display of KLM’s iconic Delft blue houses, which are given out to long-haul business class passengers. The lounge is open daily from 9am-10.30pm for qualifying KLM, Air France and SkyTeam partner passengers, as well as Priority Pass, Dragon Pass and DreamFolks members. Entry can be purchased at the door for US$50, but is subject to availability.

Meanwhile remodelling works at KLM’s Houston lounge – situated in the airport’s Terminal D and open daily from 6am-9pm – have included new flooring, wallpaper, fixtures and bathroom upgrades. There is a new Delft house display similar to the lounge in Toronto, and

the space also features a series of wall art “inspired by the three cabins and inflight catering experience that awaits passengers onboard”.

Aspire lounge at Belfast City airport (image supplied by Lighthouse Communications)

Aspire Lounge, Belfast

Airport lounge provider Aspire has unveiled its expanded and refurbished lounge at Belfast City airport. Capacity has been increased by 70 people, with the facility extended into space previously occupied by a British Airways lounge.

Created by DV8 Designs, the lounge now features 178 seats, with decor inspired by top Irish attraction Giant’s Causeway. Belfast City airport said that the revamped lounge “employs feature LED lighting that creates a strong sense of place, while the use of tile and slatted curved screens and warm colour palette evokes a tranquil atmosphere”.

The facility is located next to Gate 4, and features runway views, free wifi, tableside charging, and simple snacks and light meals. Note there are no toilets within the lounge – airport toilet facilities are available next to the lounge.

Opening hours vary slightly by day and according to the season, but generally speaking the lounge is open daily from 5am-8.30pm. Eligible Aer Lingus, KLM, Loganair, Eastern Airways and British Airways passengers can use the lounge, as well as Priority Pass and Dragon Pass members, while paid access for passengers costs from £36.99.

Plaza Premium, London (and others)

Plaza Premium has also unveiled a raft of notable new openings this year in London, Orlando, Adelaide, Rome, Kuala Lumpur, and Amman.

The Blush lounge opened at London Heathrow in November, near Gate 2 in Terminal 4. It has space for 105 passengers and features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the runway, a buffet with Kosher meals available on request, complimentary tea, coffee, house wine and beer. There is also free wifi and charging stations within the lounge. Open from 3pm-7pm (except Fridays) the lounge is open to all travellers and costs £27 for one hour/£39.60 for two.

Meanwhile the new Orlando lounge, described as the group’s most significant investment in the US is a 930 sqm facility for 223 guests, with semi-private workspaces, a dedicated quiet zone, showers and a family-friendly zone with an interactive gaming area for children. F&B options include mac and cheese, an “Orlando hot dog”, pastries, desserts, cookies and cocktails.

Plaza Premium Lounge at Orlando International airport

ITA Hangar Lounge, Rome

In April, ITA unveiled the Hangar Lounge, its fourth airport lounge and third at Rome Fiumicino. The 980 sqm facility is located in boarding area A in the Schengen section of the airport, and can accommodate up to 150 guests.

Features include a visual installation consisting of 72 blue ITA Airways tablets with videos of the carrier’s destinations, as well as a central island hot buffet, a 30-metre bar offering cocktails created by the Campari Group, Poltrona Frau armchairs, shower facilities, workstations with USB and charging outlets, and a VIP conference room.

The lounge is open daily from 6am-11pm for business class passengers, Executive and Premium members of the Volare loyalty programme, and SkyTeam Elite Plus members. Access can also be purchased via ita-airways.com or at the lounge for those in possession of an ITA Airways ticket.

Lufthansa Senator and Business Lounges, Berlin

Lufthansa opened two new lounges at Berlin Brandenburg airport in April. The new Senator and Business Lounges mean eligible customers no longer need to use the independent Lounge Tegel (or the Lounge Tempelhof in the case of HON Circle members).

The lounges are located at the north pier of Terminal 1 close to Gate B20 – the Senator facility is brand new, while the Business lounge has undergone a refurbishment programme.

The Senator lounge features a steam fireplace, as well as a new digital art concept allowing guests to individually contribute to the artwork via an app.Meanwhile the Business lounge features a new TV club where guests can enjoy classical music, concert broadcasts and films, as well as a wall of books provided by the teNeues publishing house.

Both lounges offer food service at all times of the day, including vegetarian and vegan dishes, and there is also a separate space for HON Circle members.

The new Lufthansa Business lounge at Berlin airport (image from https://www.lufthansagroup.com/en/newsroom.html)

Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Garden Business Lounge, Doha

In April of this year, Qatar Airways officially unveiled its latest business class lounge in the Northern expansion of Hamad International airport. The 7,390 sqm Garden Lounge is an extension of the Al Mourjan Business Lounge.

It overlooks THE ORCHARD, a gorgeous indoor tropical garden, and can accommodate around 700 guests. The facility features a diverse and comprehensive offering including seven spa treatment rooms, a fitness centre with treadmills and bikes, pedicure and manicure stations, a nursery, showers, games room, smoking room and 24 quiet spaces (free for the first six hours). A la carte dining is available alongside a buffet area with sushi station, a coffee and patisserie bar with ice cream station, and a cocktail and bistro bar.

The lounge is open 24/7 for Qatar Airways and oneworld First and Business Class passengers (excluding Business Lite).

The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge

Qantas reopened its lounge at Hong Kong International airport in May, after being closed during the pandemic and undergoing a revamp.

The improved 2,000 sqm lounge features a warm colour palette and furnishings by Australian designer David Caon, with a seating capacity for 290 customers overlooking panoramic views of Hong Kong’s Sky Bridge.

Refreshed tiling and screens create different zones within the lounge and a sense of privacy.

The menu features local dishes and the popular yum cha trolley with dim sum and char siu (barbecued pork), while a large bar serves up a wide selection of premium Australian wines, beers, spirits and cocktails.

Corporate travellers will be able to catch up on emails in the business zone, which is fitted with generous power and data outlets as well as high speed wifi, while those wanting to relax will be able to freshen up in 12 luxury private shower suites featuring Li’Tya amenities.

Skyteam lounge, Sao Paulo

SkyTeam Lounge, São Paulo

SkyTeam partnered with Global Lounge Network (GLN) to open its first joint lounge at São Paulo-Guarulhos International airport in February. Located in Terminal 2, the 700 sqm lounge has seating for 180 guests and is open 24/7. It is available to SkyTeam Elite Plus members, as well as first and business class customers flying on services operated by Aeromexico and Air Europa.

The lounge was constructed with sustainability in mind, using renewable low-emission materials, smart technology to manage lighting and water-saving devices in bathrooms and showers.

Guests can order from an a la carte menu via a QR code system, and sip barista-style coffee brewed using Brazilian beans. A buffet of international hot and cold options is also available for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with a selection of sparkling, red and white wines, spirits, beers and soft drinks. SkyTeam and GLN’s partnership began in 2017 with the opening of a lounge in Vancouver, followed by facilities in Istanbul and Santiago de Chile.

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