8 features that would make the perfect airport lounge
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At a time when global travel is, for the most part, on pause, we’re finding ourselves dreaming of faraway destinations, business-class flights and, for some of us, even airport lounges. Many see a visit to the airport lounge as one of the things we look forward to about taking a flight — unless you’re TPG Travel Analyst Zach Griff, that is, who always skips the lounge and goes straight to the gate.
But not all airline lounges are great. And very few are perfect. Reading through this list, you might be inclined to think that most of these features come as standard, but you’d be surprised at the reality.
Airport lounges come in all shapes and sizes and are owned and run generally by either an airline, member alliance or a lounge club such as Priority Pass or Dragon Pass. Lounges are also a saving grace for passengers on long layovers who may need to spend many hours waiting for their next flight — that’s when we really need some of these extras.
That said, I’ve picked some of the features from my favourite lounges as well as some elements from ones that I have on my list to visit. Here are eight features that would make for the perfect airport lounge in my view.
1. Dining area with table service
While the food available in lounge buffets is often nice, with them comes more of a canteen-like vibe than a first-class lounge vibe. It’s also important to have a self-service food area in a lounge for passengers who might only have a few minutes to spare and would like to grab a quick bite.
But from the range of lounge restaurants with table service I’ve eaten in so far, I think my favourite is BA’s Concorde Room in Heathrow Terminal 5. The combination of delicious food and excellent service made for a proper first-class experience. There are countless other lounges around the world that also offer sit-down dining, such as Air France’s La Première in Paris.
If you’re lucky, you might even find table service dining areas in business class lounges, like the Qantas lounge in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 — when flying from T3, get there early so you can sample the breakfast menu — you won’t regret it.
A sit-down service for those who want it is a great option for any perfect lounge.
2. Space to sleep
When I’m really tired, I can pretty much doze off anywhere. But a proper sleep on a long layover even when exhaustion has set in can be pretty difficult in a lounge. Unless, of course, your lounge has a dedicated space to nap.
They come in different forms — from open-plan nap zones like in Heathrow Terminal 3’s Aspire Lounge to the fully kitted out, hotel-style bedrooms that you can get cosy in like at the Swiss first-class lounge in Zurich.
3. Cocktail bar
Having a pre-flight tipple is a firm favourite of many frequent flyers. Each lounge offers its own specific selection of different alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Over the past few years, I’ve seen everything from self-service beer taps to all-you-can-drink Champagne.
But, my favourite thing of all to encounter in a lounge is a fully stocked bar complete with a cocktail menu — the kind you’d find in any good hotel lobby. Nothing says the start of a trip like a freshly made espresso martini, right?
4. Viewing terrace
This is probably one of the rarest features of them all but perhaps one that any AvGeek would get most excited about. Unless you’re at Schiphol in Amsterdam, you’re unlikely to get access to an airport’s viewing terrace without having a boarding pass in your hand. Even then, airside viewing terraces, especially open-air ones, are pretty hard to come by. One of TPG’s favourites is this one at the Swiss first-class terminal in Zurich.
For those who travel frequently, time on the ground can be packed with meetings and other commitments, making trying to squeeze in a mop chop before a trip a struggle. Virgin Atlantic hits the nail on the head with the in-house hairdresser in its Clubhouse Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3.
It’s definitely something I’d like to see more of in airport lounges.
6. Massage/spa treatments
There’s nothing quite like a massage or spa treatment to ease you into a holiday or relax after a busy day in the office. While it can often be hard to get a free time slot if you haven’t got long before your flight and free treatments rarely last more than 10 or 15 minutes, airport massages are an absolute blessing. If I had my way, every airport lounge would feature award-winning spas like you can find in the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge in Bangkok and treatments would last for 30 minutes or more.
One of the best treatments I’ve had to date in an airport lounge was a facial in the SkyTeam Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 4.
7. Chauffeur to and from the plane
I realise that this would be a logistical nightmare for every single passenger in a busy business-class lounge, but this is my “perfect” lounge, after all. I haven’t yet experienced the chauffeur service available to passengers passing through the Lufthansa first class terminal at Frankfurt where you get whisked from the terminal to your plane in a Mercedes.
But from my experience at PremiAir, Manchester’s private terminal, where I was chauffered to the boarding area in a BMW 7 Series, I can say that it’s definitely something I could get used to when I fly.
Finally, to combat all that alcohol and plane food, my perfect lounge would absolutely feature a gym. There are only a few airports in the world that have gyms in them, and most are within airport hotels rather than in actual lounges. Even then, the entry fee can be pricey.
On flying days, travelling to an airport can use up a lot of your day, meaning that something has to be cut out of your routine and for me, it often ends up being the gym. I’m not talking state-of-the-art fitness centres, but more somewhere with a few benches, dumbbells and cardio machines to give people the opportunity to get in a pre-flight run or workout that they otherwise might have had to sacrifice that day.
Let’s be honest, the likelihood of there ever being a lounge that features all of the above is rather slim. I already enjoy spending a couple of hours in the lounge before my flight as it is, so with the addition of these features, I’d probably end up having an entire day out in the lounge before taking my flight.
Featured image by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy
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