Lounge Reviews

Review: Sampling Every Dish At The United Polaris Lounge

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I’m not going to lie, traveling as a family with three kids five and under is a lot of work. Quite often it means not getting to use some of the airline or lounge amenities — like daybeds or even showers — that you otherwise would.

But once in a while there can also be real advantages to having five mouths to feed. Like being able to sample literally every dish on the United Polaris Lounge lunch and dinner menu.

As luck would have it, we had another opportunity to visit the United Polaris Lounge Chicago about a month after our Oslo trip. And this time, we got to experience the full sit-down dining experience.

So rather than doing a full review of the lounge, I’m going to focus exclusively on the a la carte dining experience.

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Review: The New American Flagship Lounge New York JFK

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Last February, American announced that they’d be making some major changes to their lounges, including the following:

— American will be renovating and expanding their Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
— American will be adding Flagship Lounges in Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia
— American will completely be changing access rules for these lounges; previously Flagship Lounges were open to those in international first class and oneworld Emerald members, while under the new rules they’ll be open to oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, as well as all passengers in international first & business class
— American will be introducing Flagship Dining, where international first class and A321 transcon first class passengers will have access to a la carte dining at Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York

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Review: Alitalia Lounge New York JFK

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After flying Singapore Suites from Frankfurt to New York (a flight I’ve reviewed before, though won’t be reviewing this time around), I flew Philippine Airlines from New York to Vancouver. I arrived in New York from Frankfurt shortly before noon, went into the city, and then had an 11:55PM flight to Vancouver.

I’ve been fascinated by Philippine Airlines’ new flight between New York and Vancouver ever since they launched it in 2015, especially as they’re competing head-to-head with Cathay Pacific on the route. So I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try it, especially as the one-way business class fare was just $440.

I got to the airport at around 9PM, plenty early for my flight. Outside the terminal I saw the Philippine Airlines sign, which I of course had to take a picture of.

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Review: St. Regis Lounge Male Airport

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As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I’m keeping this trip report pretty brief, and just focusing on the new aspects of the trip. So after checking out of the InterContinental Hong Kong we flew to London in Cathay Pacific first class, then to Abu Dhabi in Etihad first class, and then connected to Male in Etihad business class (which I didn’t write about this time, but it’s a route I’ve reviewed before).

That’s because we were staying at the new St. Regis Maldives Vommuli, which opened last year. This hotel is expensive, and justifiably so — it’s stunning. When the hotel first opened they allowed redemptions for 26,000 Starpoints for overwater villas for a very brief period, which is a great deal. I made a few reservations using this deal, but canceled all but one.

They updated the pricing pretty quickly, and I believe the property now costs 90,000 Starpoints per night. However, historically Starwood has run promotions for 35% off resort redemptions once per year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that at this property in the future.

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Review: Frankfurt Airport New VIP Services Lounge

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I landed at 5:15am on my Condor flight from Cape Town. We were one of the first aircraft into Frankfurt, which was quite cool. As we pulled into the gate, I saw multiple other widebodies from the rest of the world populating the surrounding gates as well.

Upon leaving the aircraft and walking up the jetway, I was greeted by a kind British woman who would escort me to the VIP lounge. Frankfurt Airport had kindly arranged access for me ahead of my 9:00am interview with Fraport executive Anke Giesen. (you can find the pricing for the VIP services here).

After being led down a flight of stairs, I was standing on the tarmac beneath the 767 that I’d just flown in on.

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Review: EVA Air Lounge Taipei Airport

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We spent a majority of our time at Taoyuan Airport checking out all the Hello Kitty goodness, though we also spent a bit of time visiting EVA Air’s lounges. EVA Air has four lounges at Taoyuan Airport — The Garden, The Infinity, The Star, and The Club.

If my understanding is correct, The Garden is for EVA Air Diamond members, The Star is for Star Alliance Gold members, The Infinity is for business class passengers, and The Club is for EVA Air Silver members. I’ve reviewed The Infinity and The Star several years ago, so I figured it’s time for an updated review.

All of these lounges are located one level above the main concourse in Terminal 2, just past security and immigration. The escalators are just beyond the immigration checkpoint.

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Review: Emirates Lounge San Francisco Airport

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Our connecting flight arrived in San Francisco about three and a half hours before our flight to Dubai. As we had plenty of time, and my husband still didn’t feel great, we popped into the Delta SkyClub for some soup and downtime before heading over to the international terminal.

The Emirates check-in desk opens three hours before departure, and online check-in isn’t possible from San Francisco. Fortunately, there wasn’t a queue for First Class passengers, so we had our boarding passes in minutes.

Then began the most ridiculous “TSA” experience of my life.

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Review: United Polaris Lounge Chicago

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We arrived on our United “Polaris” flight from London and had a four hour layover in Chicago before our connecting flight. This gave us plenty of time to check out the brand new Polaris Lounge which we were rather excited about. Unfortunately, it was a few days before they began serving restaurant-style order-off-the-menu meals so those won’t be part of this review. A day late and a dollar short. Or something like that.

We cleared security and headed over to Terminal C through the psychedelic tunnel.

As you come up the escalator, the United customer service counter is straight ahead. And the Polaris Lounge is just to the left of it.

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Review: Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi

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A couple of days ago I finally had the chance to visit Etihad’s new first class lounge in Abu Dhabi. The lounge opened in May 2016, after substantial delays. While I used to fly Etihad all the time, I’ve been making an effort to review more new airlines lately, so this was my first time passing through Abu Dhabi in first class since the lounge opened.

Prior to that I visited Etihad’s Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi, which can be accessed by business class passengers. For a business class lounge it’s solid.

Etihad’s Abu Dhabi first class lounge is open 24 hours a day, and is located just past the security checkpoint at Terminal 3. So if you’re originating in Abu Dhabi you’ll find the lounge as soon as you clear the security checkpoint. Meanwhile if you’re connecting, clear transit security at Terminal 3, and then follow the signage to the first class lounge.

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Review: United Club London Heathrow

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This was the first time that we had passed through London since the new Queen’s Terminal opened and we were curious to see it. I don’t remember that much of my last visit to London Heathrow other than the Star Alliance airlines were sharing a common, mostly nondescript lounge that seemed to have few if any windows.

With the opening of Terminal 2, there are now so many choices for Star Alliance flyers at London Heathrow that it’s almost overwhelming. Ben has recently reviewed all of them — Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, and United. That meant there was no need for me to take one for the team and we could just head to the best. Which is considered to be the United Club. That’s not a misprint.

Not only was the United Club rated the best but it was also undeniably the most convenient as it turned out to be right next to our gate. We headed over, though got sidetracked for a long time at the kids play structure as you approach the pier. It’s an impressive space filled with kids, and is even staffed by a Heathrow employee. Judging by the no photography signs posted in the vicinity, the Brits are camera shy, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Review: SAS Lounge Oslo Airport

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We had decided to spend our final night in Norway at the airport so we wouldn’t have to get up quite so early for our 7:50 AM flight to London Heathrow. The terminal is only a short distance from the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport, most of which is covered to protect you from the weather. The walk probably took no more than five minutes and was made easier by the luggage cart we had cached the night before.

On the way, we passed through a set of double revolving doors which gave me flashbacks to Super Mario Brothers. In fact, I stood there for a minute trying to time up my steps so I wouldn’t get squished in the middle.

Having made it to the next level, I mean, into the terminal, we quickly found the Star Gold counter for SAS. There was a bit of a line, but the agent was very efficient and we waited no more than a couple of minutes. She then had the five of us checked in and on our way. Even as SAS Plus passengers, we weren’t directed to Fast Track Security or advised about the location of the SAS lounge despite that being one of the few perks of SAS Plus. That was no big deal, just a little surprising.

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Review: Lufthansa Senator Lounge Frankfurt Airport Terminal A

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We had four hours to kill at Frankfurt Airport before our connecting flight to Oslo so we made our way over to Terminal A and checked into the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.

I find Frankfurt to be perhaps the most sprawling, convoluted airport in the world. I’ve connected there numerous times over the years, yet nothing ever really seems familiar. I’ve mostly given up trying to figure it out and instead just follow the signs to my next gate like a lemming.

So I’m not going to try to describe the process of getting to Terminal A. Suffice it to say we made it.

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Review: Emirates Business Class Lounge Dubai

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My flight from Dubai to Los Angeles was departing at 3PM, so a friend dropped me off at Terminal 3 at around 11:30AM, so I’d have plenty of time to review the lounge. Emirates has a separate drop-off area for first and business class passengers, which lets you skip the main part of the check-in hall altogether.

The Emirates premium check-in area is massive. First there are a bunch of red carpets for first class check-in, and then behind that are blue carpets for business class check-in.

After that I proceeded through immigration and passport control, which was relatively quick thanks to this checkpoint only being for premium passengers. Once through security I took the train to the A Concourse, which is Dubai Airport’s A380 concourse (though 777s depart from there as well, and not all A380s depart from that concourse).

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Review: Royal Brunei Lounge Bandar Seri Begawan

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I got to Bandar Seri Begawan Airport at around 5PM for my 8:35PM flight to Dubai. Brunei’s Airport is small and beautiful, easily one of the most passenger friendly airports out there. A vast majority of passengers using the airport seem to be transiting rather than originating in Brunei, meaning that security and immigration are both very quick.

I was impressed that Royal Brunei had luggage trolleys for business class passengers (not that I needed it, with my carry-ons), though the station wasn’t staffed.

Despite how small the airport is, it has very high ceilings, similar to what you’ll find at many of the nicest airports in Asia.

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