If you think first- and business-class fliers are living it up in the air, just wait until you see what they’re enjoying before they even get on the plane. Hair styling, fine dining, spa treatments, private cabanas, personal assistants, and yes, lots of Champagne are some of the amenities found in the world’s most luxurious airport lounges. We’ve scoured the globe for the best of the best, all of which provide extra incentive to save your miles until you can fly in the front of the plane and enjoy these outstanding preflight experiences. —Michael Alan Connelly
EVA Air Infinity Lounge
WHERE: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Step into the future at The Infinity, one of EVA Air’s premium lounges at Taiwan Taoyuan. With its twinkling lights and curved walls, this isn’t your typical lounge. While guests tend to congregate around the eye-catching centerpiece, there are other areas to relax and enjoy Chinese and Western food from the buffet. Other offerings include themed shower rooms, a nursery, and a business center. If guests get bored, they have easy access to three other lounges in the same terminal: The Garden, The Star, and The Club.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taipei Guide
American Express Centurion Lounge
WHERE: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
On the domestic front, American Express has opened a series of Centurion Lounges (currently in six airports with more to come), the best of which can be found at DFW. Each lounge has its own perks—in San Francisco, for instance, there’s a dedicated area for tasting Napa Valley wines—and at DFW that means spa treatments using Exhale products, a well-appointed shower suite, and locally inspired food designed by James Beard Award–winning chef Dean Fearing. As with all Centurion Lounges, this one features a cocktail program overseen by master mixologist Jim Meehan, not to mention ample space for productivity, family time, or relaxation.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dallas-Fort Worth Guide
Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge
WHERE: Istanbul Ataturk Airport
Open to business-class passengers, the CIP Lounge is a great option for traveling families, since it features a kids’ playroom as well as a private room where parents can take infants. For the rest of the guests, there are two levels of entertainment here: TV, movies, video games, a music room equipped with a big screen, a billiards room, library, golf simulator, slot-car racing track, and more. If you’re feeling less than active, you can book relaxation rooms to sleep in, get a massage, or just take a shower. Don’t miss the garden with real olive trees and an accompanying olive bar.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Istanbul Guide
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
WHERE: John F. Kennedy International Airport
Although some would argue in favor of the Heathrow location, we’re partial to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK, especially considering how lackluster U.S. lounges tend to be. Much like Virgin’s in-flight experience, the lounge is fun and funky, with a decor that’s anything but boring. Lounge guests can enjoy complimentary cocktails before evening flights, fun and games in the entertainment zone (with its signature red-ball sofa), and semi-formal dining in the brasserie area. The JFK lounge is the only Clubhouse location (aside from London) that has the Clubhouse Spa, featuring Bumble & bumble hair products and the Dr. Hauschka skincare line. Treatments at the spa range from hair styling to facials to massages.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Guide
Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
WHERE: Hong Kong International Airport
With five separate lounges at HKIA, Cathay Pacific is clearly dedicated to making its elite customers comfortable. Although The Wing, Business lounge is rightly beloved for its famous Noodle Bar, the award goes to newly renovated The Pier, First lounge, where the subdued, residential vibe comes courtesy of London-based designer Ilse Crawford. Luxurious shower suites and private work rooms are available for lounge guests to use, but the standout features are eight private suites that can be reserved for relaxation, and three suites where guests can receive free neck and foot massages. For drinking and dining, there’s a handsome bar that serves custom cocktails, and the dining room features an à la carte menu and table service—no unappetizing buffet to be found here.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Hong Kong Guide
JAL First Class Lounge
WHERE: Haneda International Airport
Handsomely redesigned in late 2014, the JAL First Class Lounge at Haneda features a contemporary Japanese aesthetic that makes its large space a pleasant place to spend a few hours. There’s a wide range of seating, everything from sofas to armchairs to one-person cubicles, and there’s a well-stocked buffet with a chef on hand to prepare hot dishes for guests. Within the lounge is the design-centric Red Lounge, where guests can get their shoes shined, pour themselves Champagne, and play chess or foosball in the game room. The lounge offers complimentary 15-minute neck and back massages which can be followed with a trip to the shower. One major perk here is that, unlike the lounges at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, this one rarely gets crowded.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Tokyo Guide
Emirates First Class Lounge
WHERE: Dubai International Airport
Emirates’ First Class Lounge in Dubai has the distinction of being the largest first-class lounge in the world, running the entire length of the airline’s terminal dedicated to flights departing on A380s. What is all that space filled with? Dozens of seating areas, duty-free shops, a couple of restaurants serving globally inspired menus, a cigar bar, showers, dedicated quiet rooms for resting and recharging, and even a wine cellar with a staff of sommeliers to help customers find the perfect bottle. Arguably the best feature is that passengers can board flights directly from the lounge rather than having to exit and go to the gate.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dubai Guide
Qantas First Lounge
WHERE: Sydney Airport
A lounge with a fanatical following, Qantas’s International First Lounge in Sydney earns high marks for all of its offerings. The design is chic and allows the space to feel open yet private, the restaurant serves a menu designed by celebrated chef Neil Perry, and the spa features treatment rooms outfitted with living walls of greenery. Other highlights include a full-time barista, showers, a library, sleek furniture, and more. To top it off, the lounge offers fantastic views of the tarmac and runway, which is hard to find even in other premium lounges. For guests with less time to relax, there are works area and lounge dining with a buffet rather than full table service.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Sydney Guide
Star Alliance International Lounge
WHERE: Los Angeles International Airport
Although it faces stiff competition from both the oneworld Lounge and Qantas’s International First Lounge at LAX, the Star Alliance International Lounge manages to hold its own for one simple reason: It boasts a rooftop area with a view of the Hollywood Hills and the L.A. skyline. The other main attraction, should the weather not be great, is an indoor bar with a large adjacent balcony that somehow manages to make overlooking an airport terminal feel glamorous. Another unique feature is that the lounge is LEED Gold Certified, which is most evident in the lounge’s reliance on natural light rather than artificial. Design-wise, the lounge also nods to the midcentury modern aesthetic made popular by L.A.-based designers Charles and Ray Eames. Even though the lounge features dedicated sections for business and first-class travelers, this is one case where the former overshadows the latter.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Guide
Oman Air First Class Lounge
WHERE: Muscat International Airport
Whether guests want a snack or a gourmet three-course meal, personal chefs at Oman Air’s First Class Lounge cater to their culinary wishes. After dining, the attentive staff takes care of the rest, whether visitors want to work in the business center or sleep on a chaise lounge in a relaxation room. The fully stocked bar and satellite TV help to pass the time, while complimentary 15-minute massages and shower rooms stocked with bathrobes and Amouage perfume help fliers feel their best. When it’s time to depart, a personal chauffeur drives guests to their planes in a limo.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Muscat Guide
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
WHERE: Frankfurt Airport
More than just a lounge, Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal is its own building, a world unto itself for premium passengers. First things first: the valet staff handles parking personal cars and returning rentals, while personal assistants await guests at the entrance to the terminal to escort them through security and passport control. The lounge’s relaxation chairs live up to their name, but there are also two private rooms with day beds, four shower rooms (one with a bathtub and a rubber ducky), and even a cigar lounge for guests to enjoy. Cuisine from Michelin-starred chefs and a bar stocked with 150 whiskies keep visitors happy until it’s time to go, at which point they’ll be driven to their gate.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Frankfurt Guide
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge
WHERE: Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore Airlines operates three SilverKris Lounges at Changi, the most exclusive and best of which is The Private Room, available only to passengers departing in first class or suites on the carrier. Though it may not feature as many bells and whistles as some other lounges in its tier, The Private Room excels at providing top-notch service and dining. There’s an abundance of luxe armchairs for guests to settle into, not to mention two private rooms for naps, and a staff of proactive attendants who see to customers’ every need. The main highlight here is the high-end dining options, which make it quite easy to enjoy a five-course meal. There’s also a well-stocked buffet with a multitude of small plates; frequent visitors to this lounge favor the decadent foie gras burger.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Singapore Guide
Finnair Premium Lounge
WHERE: Helsinki Airport
Finnair strives to offer its passengers a uniquely Nordic experience, and its lounges are no exception. Scandinavian design is on display at the Finnair Premium Lounge, where Marimekko, Alvar Aalto, Eero Aarnio, and Eero Saarinen are among the prestigious names represented. Spread across two floors, the lounge offers a wide variety of seating areas, with different furniture and lighting to help create unique spaces, while curtain dividers help to create a sense of privacy. Gourmet dining and drinking options are available day and night, but the standout feature, aside from the design, is the popular Finnish sauna, which can be followed with a rinse in one of the private shower suites.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Helsinki Guide
SWISS First Lounge
WHERE: Zurich Airport
SWISS operates an astounding nine lounges at Zurich Airport, the most luxe of which is the First Lounge in Terminal E. Here, guests enjoy customized culinary creations in a fine-dining restaurant, or classic dishes from the States at the American Diner. There are suites for work and conferences, but the standout feature here is two hotel rooms with real beds, private bathrooms, and panoramic views of the Alps. Oenophiles can pick from more than 1,000 bottles stored in the lounge’s wine humidor, while whisky lovers can head to the Senator Lounge in Terminal E for a selection of more than 120 whiskies from around the world. And when the weather is nice, there’s no better way to enjoy the Alpine vistas than to take a seat on the expansive covered terrace.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Zurich Guide
Eithad Airways Premium Lounge
WHERE: Abu Dhabi International Airport
Guests of the Etihad Airways Premium Lounge—there are two, one in Terminal 1 and another in Terminal 3—are spoiled for choice. Features include a relaxation area, business center, shower rooms, concierge service, an international buffet, and à la carte dining. For entertainment, kids of all ages will find fun ways to pass the time in the family room, while adults can enjoy a den with individual TV “pods” with on-demand programming. Both lounges also have a Six Senses Spa, where a range of massage treatments and facials are offered. Terminal 3, however, has the added bonus of Style & Shave, a salon where men can get a wet shave or a haircut, and women can book eyebrow shaping, nail treatments, or a blowout.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Abu Dhabi Guide
British Airways Concord Room
WHERE: Heathrow Airport
Although British Airways has several Galleries First lounges for first-class fliers, only the ones at Heathrow and JFK have The Concorde Room, a posh lounge-within-a-lounge with a distinctively Anglo vibe. (Both airports also offer a wide array of treatments at the Elemis Travel Spa.) Plush furniture, beautiful crystal chandeliers, and impressive artworks are hallmarks of The Concorde Room, which visitors enter through the so-called “millionaire’s door.” Both locations offer state-of-the-art business suites and pre-flight dining options including an extensive selection of Champagne and wine. Heathrow edges out JFK, however, because of its private cabanas, where guests can enjoy a day bed and their own private bathroom before taking off.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Guide
Air France La Première Lounge
WHERE: Charles de Gaulle Airport
The first-class treatment begins immediately upon arrival at Terminal 2E for guests flying in Air France’s La Première cabin. From the special check-in lounge, guests enter a pre-security waiting area that’s followed by the exquisite La Premiere Lounge, which contains several plush seating areas, a business center, a Biologique Recherche spa offering complimentary treatments, a relaxation area for naps, a swanky bar, and an outstanding restaurant overseen by none other than master chef Alain Ducasse. (A favorite dish of frequent visitors to this lounge is coquillettes: elbow pasta made with ham and black truffle, a sort-of adult macaroni and cheese.) When it’s time to board, lounge guests are whisked away to their respective gates by car.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Paris Guide
Al Mourjan Business Lounge
WHERE: Hamad International Airport
Qatar Airways has a reputation for maintaining excellent lounges across the board, but one particular standout location is the Al Mourjan Business Lounge, whose massive size and impressive decor place it among the best in the world. Covering two floors and more than 100,000 square feet, the lounge features work areas, conference rooms, showers, a variety of restaurants, quiet rooms for naps, family rooms for privacy, and even a dedicated game room. With high ceilings and bronze walls adorned with traditional calligraphy, the lounge features a large pond that lends a spa-like feel to the space. Aside from the size and level of privacy found here, guests particularly enjoy the well-stocked bar, perhaps the only airport lounge in the world to serve Krug Champagne for free.
Royal First Lounge
WHERE: Suvarnabhumi Airport
Thai Airways maintains eight lounges at this Bangkok airport, the best of which is the Royal First Lounge. First-class passengers receive personal escorts to and from the lounge, and buggy rides through the airport to their gate. The lounge has sleeping rooms, shower suites, two VIP rooms, six “private corners” for groups or families, and a 22-seat dining room. Best of all, guests are given complimentary 60-minute full-body massages at the Royal Orchid Spa; 30-minute foot or neck and shoulder massages are also available. The spa also has steam rooms, saunas, and shower suites. Both the lounge and the spa are on Concourse D, making it easy to visit both, but many passengers choose to spend most if not all of their preflight time at the spa.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide