Lounge Reviews

Review: New United Club LAX

United Club LAX

While most readers know me as the lone (consistently) pro-Delta voice on the blog, I recently flew United Airlines out of Los Angeles. (In truth, I’ve long since requalified for Diamond Medallion, Delta doesn’t offer a nonstop from Los Angeles to Washington just yet, and during the holiday season United flies internationally-configured 777s between Washington Dulles and Los Angeles/San Francisco, so using miles I was able to score a “Polaris First” seat for the four-hour flight.)

Given the new United Club lounge that just opened at LAX’s Terminal 7 (which is in the midst of a remodel, if a rather generic one), I took this as an opportunity to review the new space. Tiffany generously offered one of her United Club passes that come as part of her perks as a Hyatt Diamond.

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Review: Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

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Over the past decade I’ve visited the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt a countless number of times, and it certainly ranks as one of my favorite first class lounges in the world. However, it has occurred to me that I haven’t actually reviewed it since 2012, so it’s probably time to revisit it. In 2014 I wrote a primer on the lounge, including access rules, how to get there, etc.

Anyway, shortly after 9AM we were dropped off in the transit area at Frankfurt Airport. The First Class Terminal is intended primarily for passengers originating their travels in Frankfurt, since you can drive directly up to it and skip the airport altogether. It’s not quite as seamless if you’re connecting, since you have to walk to the FCT on your own.

After a transatlantic flight we were happy to get a bit of movement, so didn’t mind the walk. Regardless of what terminal you arrive at, you’ll want to clear immigration and then go through baggage claim. Once on the outside roadway of the airport, start walking left until you’re at the very end of the terminal.

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A Look At American’s Makeshift International First Class Lounge At LAX

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U.S. airlines are for the most part upping their game when it comes to lounges. United just opened their first Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport, Delta recently opened a gorgeous new SkyClub at SeaTac Airport, etc.

American is also in the process of making some major changes to their lounges. In addition to refreshing many of their Admirals Clubs, American is also changing how Flagship Lounges work. Up until now Flagship Lounges have been accessible by international first class customers and oneworld Emerald members, while starting next year business class passengers will have access as well. When these new lounges are introduced, international first class customers will have access to special areas with restaurant-style dining.

As you might expect, the footprint of many of these Flagship Lounges will be expanded significantly, given how many additional passengers will have access to them.

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Sneak Peek: Cathay Pacific’s New London Heathrow Lounge

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Cathay Pacific has been refreshing many of their lounges worldwide, which has led to some pretty impressive spaces, like the new “The Pier” lounge in Hong Kong, which is one of our favorite airport lounges.

The new Cathay Pacific Heathrow lounge had a “soft opening” yesterday, and is scheduled to fully open to passengers on December 7th. Reader Clint happened to have a long layover at Heathrow Terminal 3 yesterday, and was kind enough to share some quick photos.

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Review: New Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich Airport

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My flight from Zurich to Los Angeles was departing at 1:10PM, though I got to the airport at around 5:30AM, about eight hours before departure. Why on earth would I do that?

— I had heard great things about the new Swiss lounge, so wanted to be sure I could photograph it as much as possible before there were other guests; arriving right when the lounge opens is one of the best ways to do that
— Possibly the greatest amenity in the Swiss first class lounge is that it has private bedrooms you can sleep in, which looked so cool; since I didn’t sleep well at the Hilton, I figured I’d instead sleep in one of those rooms, so I could truly experience what the lounge had to offer

I arrived at Zurich Airport right at around 5:30AM, when it was basically still deserted. Clearing security took only a couple of minutes, and from there I followed the signage towards the E Concourse, which is where most of Swiss’ longhaul flights depart from, and also where their new first class lounge is located.

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Ranking The Lounges At LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal

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Over the past few years Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX has undergone a very nice renovation, and I’d argue it’s now possibly the nicest terminal in the US (though arguments could certainly be made for a few other terminals as well).

If you’re someone who typically flies in premium cabins or has elite status, you may also appreciate Tom Bradley International Terminal for the fact that it has some of the best airline lounges in the US. However, not all of these lounges are created equal, so I figured it would be fun to rank the lounges, from best to worst.

Up front let me add that the disclaimer that everyone is looking for different things when it comes to lounges, so there’s no objective, universal way to rank these from best to worst. Some lounges have great food, some have great cocktails, some are spacious, some are quiet, etc. I’ll try to mention those attributes below, though I’m not suggesting my ranking should work for everyone.

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Review: Kiev Airport Lounge

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The bus from the remote stand dropped us off at the transit area of the terminal, which was chaotic. There were massive queues both for people connecting and also for people arriving.

They weren’t able to print the boarding passes for our flight to New York when we checked in at Baku Airport, so we headed to the transfer desk, where fortunately there wasn’t a very long line. Within a couple of minutes the agent printed out our boarding passes, showing a 3:05PM departure time, rather than an 11:05AM departure time.

She didn’t even mention the delay, though when we asked her about it she confirmed that the flight was late. After doing some research it seems as if the plane was about seven hours late arriving from Beijing. Our three hour layover just turned into a seven hour layover.

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Review: Baku Airport Lounge

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Our flight from Baku to Kiev was departing at 6:15AM, so we got to the airport at around 4:30AM. As I noted when we arrived in Baku, the airport is gorgeous, and that’s evident before you even enter the terminal. Upon entering the terminal we had to go through a full security screening, including pat downs (even though we didn’t set off the alarm). While a lot of airports do basic bag screening before entering the terminal, this is probably the most thorough screening I’ve seen to even enter the terminal.

Once inside the terminal we found the Ukraine International Airlines check-in desk at the far right of the terminal. It was a zoo.

There were tons of people lined up, though in no real order. They had several counters, and everyone just formed their own queues. We tried to get in line at the business class counter, though there were over a dozen people in line there, and there was no one to police the line. Furthermore, there wasn’t actually anyone working most of the lines, so they didn’t move.

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Review: Air France Lounge New York JFK

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We spent the weekend in the city (we stayed at the Andaz Wall Street, which I won’t be reviewing again). We got to JFK at around 9AM, plenty early for our 12:30PM flight from New York to Baku. Azerbaijan Airlines departs from JFK Airport Terminal 1, as do many other international airlines. I found it funny that Azerbaijan shared a sign with Meridiana, which is another airline I really want to try.

Azerbaijan’s check-in counter was surprisingly empty, though I guess we were arriving early. I’m used to Terminal 1 being super crowded, though in this case the terminal was almost deserted. That’s the benefit of flying earlier in the day, before most of the transatlantic flights depart.

The people working the Azerbaijan check-in desk were friendly, and processed our check-in pretty quickly. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t ask us if we had our visas. While Americans ordinarily need visas to visit Azerbaijan, there’s a special exception for passengers taking this flight. I was fully expecting they’d be unaware of this policy, so we had printed out all kinds of documentation, etc. Suffice to say I was very pleasantly surprised when they didn’t even ask about a visa.

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Review: Air Serbia Lounge Belgrade Airport

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We got to Belgrade Airport at around 9AM, plenty early for our 12:55PM flight to New York. Based on our arrival at Belgrade Airport a few days earlier I could tell it was a fairly small airport.

Once in the check-in hall we turned left, where we found the signage for Air Serbia check-in.

Air Serbia is a reasonably small airline, so even though this is their hub airport they only have about a dozen check-in “stations.” At the very right of their check-in area was the premium check-in, for business class passengers and elite members.

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Review: Aeroflot Lounge Moscow Airport

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We arrived from Los Angeles at around 3:10PM, and found ourselves in a long hallway. At the end of the hall you could either turn left towards immigration or right towards international transfers. Since we were connecting to Serbia, we turned right.

At the end of the hall was an immigration officer who checked our passports and confirmed our onwards boarding passes, and after a stamp we were let through. Then there was a quick security checkpoint, where there was no queue.

Less than 10 minutes after being off the plane we found ourselves in the departures hall, so the process was painless, and significantly easier than a transfer at any other major European airport.

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Review: No1 Lounge Gatwick Airport South Terminal

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The No1 Lounge Gatwick South is located on the top floor of the main terminal area. It took me about five minutes to find the lounge, as its entrance was a small door between two stores.

Once I made it through the short hallway, I arrived in a much nicer lobby area, where a lounge attendant was seated behind a No1 Lounge desk. All Norwegian premium passengers receive free access to the lounge, although you can also buy a pass for £28 (or for only about £20 for Norwegian Reward members – more on that in another post).

The lounge isn’t big and the lounge attendants outside made that clear. There was a long line of people who wanted to purchase access, but they were all rejected. Apparently they were fully booked for the rest of the day – and I arrived at 9:30am.

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Review: Shenzhen Airport Lounge

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I got to Shenzhen Airport at around 9:30AM for my 12:45PM flight to Seattle. I arrived extra early because I wanted to pay to upgrade to first class, which is offered on a first come first serve basis.

The Shenzhen Airport terminal exterior is super impressive. While a lot of major Chinese airports are impressive architecturally, this airport takes the cake.

The mesmerizing architecture continued inside — Shenzhen Airport has the most jaw-dropped terminal I’ve ever seen.

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First Look: Delta’s Gorgeous New SkyClub At SeaTac Airport

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Delta’s $21 million new SkyClub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport opens tothe public today between Concourses A & B, and at 21,000 square feet, not only is it enormous, but it’s a stunner.

This club supplements and largely supplements Delta’s existing SkyClub in the South Satellite gates at Sea-Tac.

I was invited to the opening preview yesterday, and it’s clear Delta is very proud of this particular SkyClub. And they have every right to be. The new-ish SkyClub at SFO is pretty roundly regarded as wonderful. The new Seattle SkyClub is another league above.

Words won’t do it justice, so I tried to include as many pictures as possible, though of course the uniquely Pacific Northwest mix of gloom with bursts of sunshine doesn’t quite let on just how airy the space is.

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