The Best Airport Lounges in the World

Shower.  Massage.  Champagne.  A Porsche to drive you to your plane.

All of these things are found at (some of) the best airport lounges in the world.  The lounge visit is a crucial part of the travel experience for me, particularly when traveling internationally.  There’s just something about having a quality meal, a few quality beverages, and a relaxing shower or massage that gets my mind right before I fly.

I get asked pretty frequently to talk about my favorite lounges in the world.  I have not visited all of the great lounges out there but I’ve been to quite a few.  Let’s take a look at my five favorite lounges and then I’ll tell you about some lounges I want to visit next.

5. American Express Centurion Lounge, Dallas

My review

The Big Blue Doors

The Big Blue Doors

How to get in: Access is complimentary for holders of the American Express Centurion and Platinum cards and up to two traveling companions.  Other American Express cardholders can access the lounge for $50.

Located in Terminal D at DFW, this lounge is by far my favorite domestic lounge.  I’m based in Dallas and this lounge is a wonderful alternative to the Admirals Clubs offered by American Airlines (American’s new flagship offerings could change this, however).  A full buffet, complimentary booze, and complimentary massages set this lounge apart from just about any other lounge in the USA.  American Express has Centurion Lounges in other airports as well (my review of their LaGuardia lounge here).

Obviously this lounge doesn’t compare to some of the others on this list but it’s fantastic to have such a nice lounge at my home airport!

4. Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney

My review

Everyone has to take this picture

Living Wall

How to get in: Travel in First Class on a Oneworld flight departing from SYD or hold Oneworld Emerald status (American Airlines Executive Platinum, for example) and travel in any class on a Oneworld airline international flight.

This lounge is widely regarded as one of the best in the world for good reason.  From the grass wall (pictured above) to the complimentary massages (in a similarly “walled” room) to the amazing food, this lounge is fantastic.  Some say the lounge in Melbourne is as good but it’s hard to imagine it being as good as this masterpiece.  Australian service is unique and friendly, so it’s nice to experience and is a welcome contrast to the somewhat overbearing service that some Asian carriers are known for in this part of the world.  It also has absolutely fantastic tarmac views of a lot of the Qantas superheavys flying out of SYD.

3. Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Doha

My review

qatar al safwa lounge review

Big Copper Desks at Qatar Al Safwa Lounge

How to get in: You must be flying First Class on Qatar Airways in order to access this lounge, it is not considered a Oneworld lounge so Emerald status will not get you in (you’re instead sent off to an absolutely terrible First/Business Lounge that’s crowded and smoke-filled).  Oddly enough, Qatar doesn’t offer First Class on many of their longhaul international routes but does offer it on their shorthaul routes around the Middle East, so if you’re flying to Singapore on a 7h30m flight in Business you’ll end up in the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge but if you’re flying to Dubai on a 45m flight in “First” you’ll be here.

The architecture of this lounge is staggering.  To call it enormous does not do it justice, it is in fact probably too big.  The food is wonderful, Krug champagne is available on request at the bar, there are day rooms with comfy beds available for use, and numerous little nooks and crannies where you will find random dessert bars and arcade rooms.  I’ve detailed many of the features in the video below:

So if it’s so amazing, why isn’t it number 1?  It’s a little too much.  It’s too cavernous to have a welcoming feel and I feel like the space was designed to be pretty and not functional.  The service is unbalanced and there’s no flow through the lounge, odds are you’ll end up turned around at one point or another.  It is by far the most beautiful lounge in the world, full stop.  For function though, give me either of my personal top 2.

2. Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong

My review

cathay pacific pier review

Wooden table and light fixture

How to get in: Travel in First Class on a Oneworld flight departing from SYD or hold Oneworld Emerald status (American Airlines Executive Platinum, for example) and travel in any class on a Oneworld airline international flight.

This is one of the most beautiful lounges in the world.  The theme is a drastic departure from Cathay’s other lounges at HKG like The Wing with its black marble and general “shininess”.  The Pier is warm and inviting with lots of wood accents and a variety of textures around the lounge (marble walls, plush carpet, etc.).  There are also day suites for a quick nap and exclusive tarmac views.  The dining room here is in a 70’s midmod style, almost resembling a country club or a smoker’s lounge.  The food is unbelievable throughout the lounge, with the sit-down Dining Room’s catering provided by The Peninsula hotel and a variety of snacks in the Pantry area.  Instead of full massage treatments they offer a quick 15-minute foot massage which is nice enough but usually has quite a long wait.  Yep, you guessed it, I made a video about this lounge as well:

1. Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt

My review

First Class Duck!

First Class Duck!

How to get in: Depart in First Class on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt.  The only exception is if you’re arriving from a longhaul Lufthansa flight in First (DFW-FRA, for example) and be connecting onward in Business on a flight where Business is the highest class offered (FRA-OSL, for example).

The First Class Terminal is my favorite lounge in the world.  It’s not even a fair comparison, honestly, since it’s not even a lounge: it’s a freaking terminal!  It is an experience unrivaled (at least for me) by any other airline, from a private security screening to a personal assistant who will look after your things, some of the best food I’ve ever had (airport or not), and the ever-so-famous First Class Duck in the washrooms that have a tub.  To cap off the experience you’re chauffeured directly to your plane in a Porsche or Mercedes!  It just doesn’t get better than this.  I’ve been lucky enough to experience this twice and both times remain some of my favorite travel memories.

Lounges I haven’t been to but want to try

Lounges are getting better and better, here are some I want to try out soon:

  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid First Class Lounge, Bangkok (massage treatments and private cabanas)
  • Emirates A380 First Class Lounge/Floor, Dubai (it takes up an entire floor of the terminal!)
  • Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge, Istanbul (enormous with a wide variety of themes)
  • Finnair Business Class Lounge, Helsinki (unique in the Scandinavian sense)

 

What did you think of my list, do you agree/disagree?  What’s your favorite lounge in the world?

5 Comments

  1. TG F lounge definitely. Nothing beats an hour long full body massage. I usually try to schedule a 3h layover in case the massage rooms are fully booked, because it’s first come first served.

    Reply
  2. Pretty much agree with the list, having visited all but the QR F lounge (wasn’t open when I last flew that airline, settled for their business lounge. Still love the LH FRA FCT for its whiskey selection. QR SYD is nice, but unfortunately smells from the kitchen overwhelm the place. The TK lounge at IST is an exotic crossroads of travellers, with food to tempt all tastes. All the Amex Centurion Clubs are great as a real change from what has been offered by the US airlines. Just spent several hours at the DFW lounge yesterday, enjoying breakfast and lunch, and a shower and massage between flights from GRU and YYZ. The EK F “floor” isn’t limited to A380 customers but is an experience indeed. The TG F lounge at BKK is a bit of a let down, less refined than the SQ Private Room, but the Spa is the real attraction. The new CX F lounge is a very relaxing place to pass a few hours at HKG, less frantic than the main F lounge in the main terminal area. And the new AY lounge is indeed pure Scandinavian style and more intimate than the larger lounge next to it, but a bit too tight for my liking.

    Not on either of your lists, and while on the more refined side, are the SQ Private Room and JAL F lounges are ideal spots to get away from the bustle of their respective terminals. Given how bad LHR is generally, one has reservations about including either of the two First (too crowded) or the Concorde lounges. Their only salvation is the wine offering and a full English breakfast. They manage to overcook just about everything else in the true old Brit style of pre-Gordon Ramsey et al. I’ve a few other favourites but figure these are enough for now.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the awesome comment! I wasn’t that impressed with the Private Room but I can see the appeal of so few people being in the space. I haven’t personally been to the Concorde Room but the reviews I’ve read haven’t been too flattering. When it comes to JAL, I actually prefer to go to the Business side for some reason, can’t quite put my finger on it. Sounds like you’ve been to some amazing lounges!

      Reply
  3. You’re having a laugh with your comments about Al Safwah in DOH. It’s kak! Sitting here now and totally underwhelmed. Maybe you should talk to Oil & Gas guys who have to endure these lounges regularly to get the big picture. I can talk you through most of your wishlist and they don’t impress. EK lounges set the standard, that’s for sure.

    Reply
  4. Addendum:
    Just been fed smoked salman in Al Safwah and left most of it due to very, very, poor quality.
    After nearly four years suffering QR it’s time to change airlines in DXB and go back to EK.

    Reply

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