Passengers view a journey holistically and, for them, the experience begins the moment they step into the airport. Airlines are investing more in ground facilities to enhance passenger experience, and one of the noticeable trends is VIP lounges that are destinations in themselves rather than just a pitstop. Here are five that have really gone beyond the basic offerings to provide passengers with a positive experience:
Name of lounge The Wing
Location At Hong Kong International Airport, between Gates 2 and 3 on 6/F departure level with another entrance next to security check and immigration on the 7/F balcony level.
The feel Recently, both Level 6 and 7 have been refurbished (see story here) and redesigned by London-based architects Foster + Partners in a way that maintains the classic Wing feel the carrier’s most frequent travellers are fond of, including the use of black colour, wood and white marble, while introducing refreshing elements such as plants and more natural light.
The lounge has been reconfigured, with all six workspaces and shower stations moved down to Level 6 and making Level 7 just a relaxation zone. Complimentary wifi internet access is available throughout the lounge and all seats have their own universal power sockets.
Cathay Pacific launched the specially designed Solus chairs with the opening of another lounge at HKIA – The Cabin – in 2010. These comfortable pod-like chairs are now present at The Wing too, providing individual travellers with a private space with its own coat hanger, socket and side table.
Food and drinks The lounge’s signature Noodle Bar on Level 7 has been expanded to seat 172 people, instead of the previous 80, while the Long Bar, also on Level 7, has been retained in its original form. The carrier has introduced a new eatery called Coffee Loft – an all-day café serving breakfast items in the morning and afternoon tea, followed by evening cocktails. In addition to these, there are self-service buffets on both Level 6 and 7.
Stand-out feature: The dining outlets and the Solus chairs
Access First and business class passengers as well as Marco Polo members of silver-tier and above, and oneworld members of sapphire-tier and above.
Opening hours From 0530 until the last departure
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Location The dedicated First Class Terminal is located a few minutes’ walk away from Terminal 1 at Frankfurt Airport
The feel The terminal takes luxury to a whole new level, providing all first passengers with exclusive services and facilities that aren’t found anywhere else.
The facility has its own check-in desks and security checks as well as its own duty free store, all of which guests can breeze through with the help of a personal assistant who also takes care of immigration while you relax.
The lounge itself, located within the terminal, offers guests quiet rooms with daybeds, private shower facilities, a cigar lounge and separate working units alongside free wifi internet access across the facility. To top it all off, guests will be chauffeured to the aircraft when it is time to board.
Food and drinks There is a separate wining and dining area that serves both hot and cold meals from the buffet as well as an a-la-carte menu, all complemented by a list of fine wines.
Stand-out feature The dedicated terminal
Access First class passengers and HON Circle members
Opening hours From 0530 until 1030
Name of lounge Qantas First Lounge
Location Sydney Airport Terminal 1, past immigration on Level 4.
The feel The décor of the lounge, designed by the renowned Marc Newson, is contemporary while service and facilities are of a high calibre.
Guests are greeted by a big “rainforest wall” that sets the tone for the relaxing experience before even stepping into the lounge. The facility, decked out in Italian marble, oakwood, and funky patterned carpets, offers guests a concierge service in partnership with the Sofitel hotel group, a spa offering complimentary services, a fully-equipped business centre and a library storing coffee table books, magazines, newspapers, board games and even a PlayStation 3. Shower suites and complimentary wifi internet access are also available.
Food and drinks The lounge serves an a-la-carte menu created by celebrity chef Neil Perry in the restaurant, alongside a self-service buffet and a list of fine wines. Dishes from the menu can also be enjoyed at the lounge’s bar.
Stand-out feature: The concierge service and spa
Access First class passengers on Qantas, British Airways or other oneworld flights, Frequent Flyer platinum level members or oneworld emerald tier members and above.
Opening hours 0500 until the last departure
Name of lounge Qatar Airways Premium Lounge
Location Heathrow Terminal 4 on the same level as the departure gates
The feel This lounge, which opened in January this year (see story here), is the carrier’s first outside of Doha due to the popularity of the London route.
The facility exudes a contemporary and luxurious charm while maintaining an “Arabic feel”. Inspired by the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, the interior features a calligraphy motif carved on the wall and printed on carpets, as well as mosaic prints throughout. The lounge uses a colour palette of cream, beige, brown and maroon that is complemented by abundant natural light.
Services and amenities within the lounge include of a business centre with PCs and printers, power sockets at every seat and private shower facilities.
Food and drinks The lounge’s Global Brasserie features a live open kitchen and a wine cellar, a delicatessen and a signature martini bar.
Technology The shower suites consists of heated floors and mirrors
Stand-out feature The décor and the martini bar
Access Only for the carrier’s first and business class passengers
Opening hours The lounge is open “at hours that suit all Qatar Airways departures”
Name of lounge JFK Clubhouse
Location In the A-Concourse of JFK International Airport, above Gates A4 and A5.
The feel The facility, which opened in March this year (see story here), is officially described as “Understatedly, Uptown, Unmistakably New York”. It sports an extremely funky and contemporary ambiance to match the carrier’s vibrant persona. Designed by New York-based Slade Architecture, the lounge measures 930sqm and consists of flashy golden cylinders hanging from the ceiling, a cloud-shaped cocktail bar, a sofa made up of red balls and a wall of steel rods.
The lounge also has free wifi internet access, an internet bar equipped with iMacs and an entertainment area with a pool table.
In addition to the funky red-ball sofa, Virgin has introduced “person sized round cavities” lined with wool that allow individual travellers to relax.
To step up the game a little more, the lounge also consists of a hair salon from the famous New York brand Bumble and Bumble to spruce guests up before they catch their flights.
Food and drinks Guests can order from anywhere in the lounge or choose to eat in the more formal brasserie dining area. A-la-carte meals and desserts, as well as fine wines, are served. Of course, the large cloud-shaped bar is another F&B attraction.
Stand-out feature: The design and the salon
Access For Upper Class passengers (business class) and Flying Club gold members
Opening hours From 1400 until 2200
This list is by no means complete so feel free to contribute by adding details of your favourite lounges in the comment box below. Also, watch out for a larger feature about new or newly renovated airport lounges that are raising the benchmark in the May 2012 issue of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific.