The World’s 7 Best First Class Airline Lounges

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to fly a lot of the world’s best airlines, and I’d argue visit all of the world’s top airline lounges. Last year I shared what I consider to be the world’s six best first class products, so today I’m going to share what I consider to be the world’s seven best first class airline lounges.

Most people dread waiting at airports, though with access to the right lounges, waiting at the airport can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the flying experience. From hour-long full body massages, to restaurants with Michelin star chefs, to being driven to the plane in a Porsche, some of these lounges have it all.

While I shared my six favorite first class products in no particular order, I’m going to do it differently with lounges — I’m going to rank them in order, from my seventh favorite to my absolute favorite airline lounge.

Before I do so, let me share what’s important to me in airline lounges, so you guys have some sense of what I’m basing my rankings on:

  • A comfortable environment: this one is the least specific and the most obvious, but the lounge has to look nice and be comfortable, with a variety of seating options, whether you want to relax, dine, or work; lounges score bonus points for cool design as well
  • Service beyond the lounge: at many lounges, service begins before you even get to the lounge; some airlines provide escorts from the moment you check-in till the moment you board your plane, which can save you a ton of time
  • Great food and drinks: While you’ll typically be able to enjoy a great meal in first class on the top airlines, there are some lounges with even better food
  • Complimentary spa treatments: who doesn’t love a massage before a longhaul flight?

With that in mind, let’s jump right into it. Here’s my countdown of the top seven first class lounges in the world:

7. Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai

“There’s too much space.”

That’s not a term people often associate with air travel, though it certainly rings true in the Emirates first class lounge Dubai. This is the world’s largest first class lounge, as it spans the entire length of Dubai’s purpose-built A380 terminal. Walking around the lounge at a brisk pace can take about 20 minutes. The lounge has dozens of seating areas, a couple of restaurants, a cigar bar, nap rooms, a spa, duty free shops, and more. It actually looks more like a really nice terminal than anything else, given how huge it is.

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The lounge is so large that it almost feels uninviting, if that’s a thing. There’s just so much space.

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In addition to dozens of self service food areas, the lounge has a great restaurant with a la carte dining, as well as a buffet.

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Given that lots of Emirates’ flights leave in the middle of the night, it’s also nice to get a complimentary 15 minute spa treatment in their Timeless Spa.

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Perhaps the coolest feature is that you can board your flight directly from the lounge. Because of how big the lounge is, it has a dedicated gate for each flight. But be warned, you may still have to walk 10 minutes inside the lounge to get to your gate, given how big the lounge is. 😉

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What sets this lounge apart: the overall impressive scale, the amenities, and the ability to board your flight directly from the lounge

6. Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

This is also the newest first class lounge on the list, as it opened just a few months ago. Qatar Airways is known for being one of the most over the top airlines, and this lounge is no exception. It’s a stunning lounge with high ceilings, more marble than you’ll know what to do with, and finishes where it’s obvious that no expenses were spared.

Al-Safwa

Much like the Emirates lounge, this lounge is so huge that it’s almost uninviting… uninvitingly gorgeous, if there is such a thing.

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If you’re thirsty, they serve my favorite champagne offered by any airline — Krug.

Krug

There’s also a great restaurant with an a la carte menu, and super attentive service, which may largely be a function of there usually being as many staff as guests in the lounge.

This lounge also has the best nap rooms of any airline. If you have a long layover, you can use one of their amazing nap rooms, which consist of real beds. I’d argue these rooms are even nicer than the ones at The Airport Hotel.

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The lounge has a spa, though you have to pay to use it. It’s almost worth it, given that they have an awesome jacuzzi. Who wouldn’t want to soak in a hot tub with a glass of champagne before a longhaul flight?

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What sets this lounge apart: gorgeous, grand design, the best nap rooms available in any lounge, and a great food and drink selection

5. Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney

This Marc Newson designed lounge is one of the most stunning out there, with comfortable, private seating, and an open and airy design. The fantastic tarmac views are the icing on the cake.

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Marc Newson isn’t the only celebrity associated with the lounge. There’s also a Neil Perry inspired restaurant, with some of the best casual dining of any lounge. The salt and pepper squid are a must-have.

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The lounge also has a spa, so passengers can enjoy either a 20 minute facial or massage. The spa rooms are probably the most gorgeous of any lounge as well.

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What sets this lounge apart: amazing food, a comfortable and inviting design, and the nicest spa rooms of any lounge

4. Thai Airways First Class Lounge Bangkok

Thai Airways knows how to provide a seamless experience for their first class passengers in Bangkok. If you’re originating in Bangkok, they’ll drive you from check-in to the lounge in a golf cart, and then once your flight is ready for boarding, they’ll drive you from the lounge to your gate. If you’re connecting, they’ll pick you up at your connecting gate to bring you to the lounge.

Thai-Lounge

The Thai first class lounge consists of some semi-private living rooms; each passenger gets one, pending availability. Each living room has a couch, seat, and TV. Service is also extremely attentive — they won’t let your glass get more than half empty.

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While the food isn’t quite as gourmet as at some other lounges, there’s a fantastic selection of Thai food on offer. And really, good pad thai is good pad thai.

Perhaps the highlight of the lounge is the spa. First class passengers receive an hour-long fully body massage.

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What sets this lounge apart: hour-long full body massages, and being taken care of every step of the way, from the moment you check-in to the moment you board your flight

3. Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong

If I could design my home like any first class lounge in the world, I’d model it after Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong. The lounge brings the comforts of home to the airport, with an extremely warm and inviting design.

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There’s something indescribably soothing about the lounge, which really makes you feel like you’re not at an airport.

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The lounge has a fantastic restaurant with an extensive a la carte menu of both Asian and western options.

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The lounge also has about a dozen relaxation rooms, with amazing views of the tarmac and runway. Who wouldn’t want to relax, read, or catch up on work with this kind of a view?

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And while perhaps not as great as the massages in some other lounges, guests get a 10 minute foot massage and scrub.

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What sets this lounge apart: the most soothing design of any lounge, great food, and some creative spaces, like the day rooms overlooking the runway

2. Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

This is perhaps the gold standard of first class lounges, and also among the most well known; even many of my non-aviation geek friends are familiar with this lounge.

Lufthansa took first class ground services to a new level by not just offering a first class lounge at their hub in Frankfurt, but rather by offering a first class terminal. That’s right, Lufthansa has a separate terminal exclusively for first class passengers.

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You get to skip the airport terminal entirely.

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As you pull up to the lounge you’ll be greeted by a personal assistant, who will escort you through security, a process which takes less than a minute. At what other airport in the world can you get from your car to the “waiting area” for your flight in about a minute?

Once in the lounge you’ll have no worries, as the personal assistant will advise you when your flight is ready for boarding.

The lounge has a minimalistic German design, which is one I’m generally quite fond of.

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The First Class Terminal has a restaurant and bar catered by gourmet entertainment company DO & CO, with fantastic food on offer. The selection is so over the top that they even have a water bar, with dozens of types of water on offer.

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The lounge also has nap rooms and great shower rooms. They even have rotating Lufthansa-branded ducks, which many of us who frequent the First Class Terminal collect.

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The best part of the lounge experience isn’t even in the lounge, though. The fact that the First Class Terminal is completely disconnected from the main terminal makes getting to the plane difficult, since you don’t have access to the gates. That’s good news in the end, though, since it means you’ll be driven to your plane in a Mercedes or Porsche. Who wouldn’t want to be driven across the tarmac and to their plane in that kind of way?!

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What sets this lounge apart: the only dedicated terminal for first class passengers in the world, truly making the travel experience seamless

1. Air France First Class Lounge Paris

While all of the above first class products are fairly easy to redeem miles for, Air France’s is perhaps the most elusive. You can only redeem miles for Air France first class if you’re an elite member in their frequent flyer program, and even then the cost of such a redemption is exorbitant.

The Air France First Class Lounge Paris checks all the boxes, though, and therefore I think it’s the world’s best first class lounge.

Where do we begin?

For one, you’re picked up at your arriving flight and driven to your connecting flight directly on the tarmac (while Lufthansa drives you to your plane from the First Class Terminal, they won’t pick you up from your arriving flight unless you arrive at a remote stand).

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The lounge is beautiful and typically not very crowded, given how few first class passengers Air France seems to have. The lounge is beautifully designed, with plenty of different seating options, from lounge chairs to day beds to a restaurant.

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The restaurant in this lounge is incredible, I’d argue by far the best restaurant in any lounge or airport. The lounge catering is inspired by Michelin Star chef Alain Ducasse, and I still remember the scallops I had for lunch in the lounge. They were the best I’ve ever had, anywhere.

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As a first class passenger you also receive a complimentary 30 minute spa treatment, which could range from a facial to a massage.

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The service in this lounge is also the most refined of any lounge I’ve visited. You’re assigned someone who looks after you for the duration of your stay in the lounge, and they constantly check on you to see how you’re doing.

What sets this lounge apart: checking all the boxes, and in particular the warm, thorough care provided to each passenger from the moment they land to the moment they take off; this is the world’s most seamless first class ground experience

Bottom line

See, waiting at airports doesn’t have to suck. The above seven lounge are my personal favorites, though there are a lot of other incredible lounges out there. As far as I’m concerned, the ground experience is where airlines can do most to innovate the experience, given how good the onboard experience already is on so many airlines. I can’t wait to see what airlines come up with next.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be wealthy to experience these amazing first class products, as they can mostly be booked using points. To learn more, check out the Beginner’s Guide To Miles & Points, along with the credit cards that can help you fly for pennies on the dollar.

What’s your favorite airline lounge that you’ve visited?

Comments

  1. Does the Qatar airways business class lounge have nap rooms and krug?

    What lounge does jal first class use in Hong Kong?

  2. @ Credit — The lounge has Krug but not nap rooms. JAL first class passengers can use The Pier or The Wing first class lounges in Hong Kong.

  3. Love this post (except the feet soaking pic). Aspirational, but it’s nice you pulled everything together in one post.

  4. I’ll be visiting the Emirates first lounge in May…can’t wait. (Back in 2014, I stayed at their business class lounge….which is still awesome.)

  5. Was just in the Al Safwaa Lounge on Sunday – heads up that Krug is on request only. The champagne displayed at the bar is Billecart Salmon and the Rose Champange is Taittinger.

  6. @Nick L. I agree the Emirates Biz lounge in dubai is quite impressive indeed. I enjoyed 2 hrs there and loved the gates without going through the normal route.

  7. I have never flown except economy, so I was wondering if you are able to use the lounge after an arrival flight. For instance, if you flew Luftansa 1st class to Frankfurt can you use the lounge before you leave the airport? Does it vary by airline? Also, do any lounge attendants ever deny entry because the ticket is an award ticket instead of paid?

  8. I’d say the Emirates lounge is the most overrated. Kind of feels empty and depressing. Is really just an upscale terminal as you said above. The food is good, though and the staff (like most EK crew) are terrific. The quiet areas are nice for a nap, especially the parts that face the alley. Good planespotting while relaxing. But overall you don’t want more than a 2 hr layover here.

  9. @ CT — In all instances award passengers can still use lounges. As far as using a lounge on arrival goes, it does depend on the airline. In general you need a connecting boarding pass to use a lounge. The exception is if the airline offers an arrivals lounge, which is specifically intended for that purpose.

  10. Gasp! Before I scrolled down the listing, I assumed the LH FC Lounge in FRA was sure to be your #1 since your such an LH fan. Big surprise…AF won out!

  11. How about Etihad Airways First Class Lounge at AUH which you reviewed back in 2014? How does it rank in comparison to the above lounges?

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Air France remove the elite status requirement for redeeming a first class award? I believe it is still restrictive as you can only redeem FlyingBlue miles for it (no SkyMiles or any other SkyTeam miles) but you can be any tier within FlyingBlue.

  13. Sad to See EK Lounge at 7th Place. For me it’s like Heaven there. I don’t care about the outdated Design, as Long as it’s 24/7quiet, has great Food and enough Space to relax. Yes…it’s not within the top 3, but imo still better than TG Lounge and QR(spectacular Design, but the Rest ist mediocre)

  14. Please try and review GVK Lounge in Mumbai as you will be in India anyways.
    I have heard great things about it and would love to hear more from you!
    Thanks 🙂

  15. @Lucky — spot on post. There’s a lot to be said about the privacy/exclusivity factor that first class should offer. While Middle Eastern airlines lack this (eg huge, uninviting spaces), AF executes this flawlessly. And given the steep price for seats (either in miles or cash), you’re very unlikely to find children in the lounge, which further lends itself to a peaceful environment.

    On another note, I think (as others have already mentioned) it would be interesting to see a post of the top biz lounges as well as a post for the top US lounges (beyond the Qantas FC lounge at LAX 😉 ).

  16. @Kalboz

    Obviously, it isn’t as good as the ones listed here, otherwise we’d either have a Top 8 list or it would still be a Top 7 list and one of the lounger listed here would be mentioned. Obviously.

  17. @ Alex H.

    Did you feel like two hours was enough time to enjoy it, or do you wish it had been longer? I was there for over eight hours (midnight to 830AM)….IMHO, four hours would have been better. Plus, I avoided sleet since I was afraid I would miss my flight.

    Side note:

    The business class cigar lounge is VERY liberal with their whiskey pours…I asked for a Jack Daniel’s neat, and they poured me a triple.

  18. At the least you should also have a blurb on access policies on these lounges (e.g. can you visit them on award flights, on business-class flights, with some credit-card/priority-pass, or by paying cash etc).

    Same comment for all the premium flights you straight up pay cash for (Hainan etc) – at the very least you should also have a blurb on how to access the same premium cabin using miles, since not everyone is made of money and actually visits this blog for miles strategy, not how to just spend thousands of dollars for premium cabins (we can just do that on google flights easily).

  19. I am going with my whole family (wife and 4 children) to Hong Kong on CX. One of us is in first, the rest in business. Will we be able to get into The Pier on the way home?

  20. Thai lounge is certainly overrated. It’s an average lounge, and perhaps the massage is the only thing that is really good. TG ground service can also be a disaster in case of IRROPS. My wife and I were flying BKK-FCO TG F departing near midnight, and the flight got delayed to 8am. We were kicked out of the TG F lounge, no escort, and made to wait BEHIND all Y and J passengers to clear the customs, arrived at the TG-provided hotel last, again behind everyone because TG delayed us at the airport, took 2 hours to check in because of enormous line ups (no special line for F and no escort), had three hours of sleep, next morning arrived to airport, got denied F check in services, and then made to wait for hours while they were figuring out what to do next. Horrible F experience. All Y passengers on the flight got taken care of promptly, but F was a total fail in my case.

  21. Awesome. Most are to places I have no intention of ever going though. I’ll be in Sydney this year and I’m pretty sure they won’t let me in there so I’ll just have to hang out at PH Sydney instead. CDG is quite ghetto so apparently they make things nice for the Chinese royalty in transit and the occasional Lucky?

  22. My parents travelled in Qatar Business class in Dec 2015, seems like they now serve krug only in the first class lounge.

  23. Have to agree with the super high ranking on the LH F lounge (would be number one if we excluded lounges that are virtually impossible to access haha). The entire LH F experience (even if you have to walk to the terminal from your connecting flight) makes you feel like a VIP.

  24. How about SIN? Is it worse than above 7? I am going to redeem SQ/R.

    I love the one at BKK and admit the lounge itself is not that good. But the beauty is its throughout service from checkin or deboarding at connection including the cart.
    When I flied to BKK in TG biz and had a connection, I’ve got lost and exhausted by wandering the vast airport.

  25. Hey lucky, if I’m arrving in hkg in F, but connecting to another intra-Asia destination in J the next day, will I be able to use the F lounges?

  26. I feel like the SQ PR could bump off EK or QR. I certainly think SQ can do better given they’re so in love with themselves, and I don’t disagree with them not making the list (or being #7), but I do prefer the exclusive feel of their lounge over the “echo-ie” and the “oh we just found new new money so we’re ballers” style of the EK and QR lounges.

  27. Being an Australian, I am very partial to Qantas and its lounges worldwide. The Cathay ones are great as well – thats Oneworld taken care of.

    Five times a year SYD -DXB- LRH and so always enjoy the Emirates lounge. Have not seen the first class one but the business lounge is great for a shower after a 14 hour run from Sydney or the other way around back home.

  28. Missing Singapore First.

    Great article though. Maybe top 10 since some of these are so difficult to get between airlines cutting back on first or cities not flown to.

    Thanks

  29. @ Gary — Personally I think The Private Room is #8. It’s a nice enough lounge, but to me there’s nothing special about it. It’s not huge, there aren’t nap rooms, there’s not a spa, they don’t escort you to/from the gate, etc.

  30. @ TomS — Hah, The Private Room is #8 for me. And totally agree, it’s not so much about the lounge with Thai, but rather about the overall ground experience.

  31. I was going to add my name to the list for SIN, but I have to grant your points above, and I haven’t been to the top7. But SIN Private Room sure was nice!

  32. Just came thru DOH with time in Al Mourjan J lounge. Very nice. As an AA EP traveling on QR in J would I have had access to the F lounge?

  33. re: Fly First, and J Lounge on QR.

    On so many routes, you can not even buy First Class. On our upcoming trip, a number of flights only have business cabins, even though the airline has a first class lounge. QR from JNB-DOH-DEL. or Cathay from MNL-HKG-ICN, or Delta from ICN-DTW. Not that we are complaining about the J lounge…

  34. Something fishy was going on with the ducks at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. I was there two weeks ago and to my horror there wasn’t a duck in the shower room (!). After the shower I went out and asked the attendant, and she grabbed a duck for me from a cabinet (frequent flyer duck, even though I would preferred the Christmas one…). Is this a one off thing? Or are they not providing ducks by default now?

  35. I want to thank you guys for all of the different post on airlines and their lounges. My concern even though my partner and I are well financed is that the regular individual can not enjoy these privileges that is written about. I am thankful for the incite and information butt how difficult it is for regular individuals to enjoy these amenities. Especially African American and Hispanics who probably can not travel like most well financed individuals. I do not want anyone to take me wrongly. I am a doctor and partner a federal judge and I happens to be African American myself. How would someone less of monetary means get into these places and fly without going homeless. Thank you and I appreciate your information greatly.

  36. I think in Dubai EK actually has more than 1 first class lounge, depending on the terminal you are in. Services seem to be the same but only one of them has direct access to the planes from the lounge.

  37. Singapore First i.e. TPR @ changi — I’m not surprised it didn’t make it on the list. Like SQ’s F product it was awesome when it first opened, but got complacent (for whatever reason) and let competitors catch up. The design of the lounge is nice and elegant, and I love the restaurant, but no escorts to/from flights, no spas or any massage facilities, no day beds or anywhere to lie down and take a nap, no bathtubs or jacuzzis … list goes on.

  38. I agree with @Nick Sydney 2 comment. It is nice Ben put all these lounges together but the order is personal! I would love to try Air France and Lufthansa lounges one day.

  39. @Jon I would assume that for Hainan, purchasing outright is the best deal. And it is well within Ben’s rights to share whatever he wants and I for one find it very helpful that Ben shows us how to get the best deals flying in premium cabins. Thanks to him, I can save a fair bit on the J fares I purchase.

  40. @logs90210 @lucky krug is strangely removed from QR business lounges (I flew in Dec 2015 too from LHR-DOH) , and at the seat service on board the aircraft , however it was available at the on board bar flying on the a380.

  41. I think Emirates belongs much further up and CX down. The food in the Emirates lounge was extradorinaiy. Service .. perfect… Very comfy quiet ares with day beds and pillows/blankets, FAST wifi. 24 hour sushi and sashimi bars, free massages, Direct boarding from the lounge, private shopping, fresh juice bars, cigar bar(chargeable, but fine by me) I don’t think its number one, but it destroys QR andCX and if Thai didn’t have the Spa than it would beat Thaai by a mile.

  42. @lucky

    Hats off to you man. Don’t know how you do it. I spend almost five days out of the week flying for work and staying inside the lounge for more than an hour totally bores me to death regardless of the perks (including the lounges on this list and many more). I spend most of my time walking up and down the terminals and seeing what other fellow travelers are up to. So I’m just amazed with your patience.

  43. 100% the virgin atlantic lounge at london heathrow is the best – the design beats all other lounges I’ve been to, the food is great, and it makes you fell like you are in a ‘club’ rather than a lounge.

  44. Okay, nice job. This list actually looks like some of the “Best” airport lounges when I do a Google search for “best airport lounges”. Not like the other lists I’ve read.

  45. As an Australian, I spend a fair amount of time in QF lounges, and are always amused at the inclusion of the QF Sydney first lounge in ‘best of’ lists. Sure, it was reasonably cutting edge when launched, however it is always relatively busy, and as a consequence, feels a little tired these days. I prefer the QF Melbourne FC lounge, which although smaller and more understated, provideds a better version of obstenibly the same product. Significantly quieter, and with more attentive staff, it is my preferred departure point.

    Also worth mentioning is the QF LA Tom Bradley FC lounge. In a country that seems to have a shortage of quality lounges, this one is a standout.

    And finally, special mention for the recently visited JAL Heneda FC lounge. Although food service and offer was average, other elements were brilliant. Low patron numbers ensured a shower, shave and massage – during which my boots were treated to the finest shining they have ever endured – was one of the easiest I have ever experienced in a lounge.

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