The World’s 10 Best First Class Airline Lounges

Before I Rank The World’s Best First Class Airlines & Lounges…
The World’s 10 Best First Class Products
The World’s 10 Best First Class Airline Lounges
How To Use Miles For The World’s 10 Best First Class Products


A couple of days ago I published my rankings of what I consider to be the world’s top 10 international first class inflight products, and in this post I’ll share what I consider to be the world’s best international first class airline lounges.

Before reading this post, make sure you check-out my previous post sharing my overall approach to ranking these experiences. This is entirely subjective, and it’s especially difficult when we’re talking about lounges, since everyone values amenities differently. Some airline lounges have bedrooms that are almost like hotel rooms. That’s valuable if you have a long layover, but worthless if you have a short layover. Meanwhile other lounges have top notch food, but that’s of limited use if you’re between longhaul flights and not hungry. Other lounges can save you time getting through security and to the plane, but it depends on the circumstances.

So I’m going to try and balance the above amenities, though you can shift around which lounge is best based on what you value the most.

Lastly, for those who find this post through Google and aren’t regular readers, let me emphasize that I’ve actually visited every single first class lounge I rank (and paid for the ticket, either in cash or miles), and have visited almost every international first class lounge out there. If you’d like to see more lounge reviews, check out the trip report index.

With that out of the way, here are what I consider to be the 10 best first class lounges, starting with the best:

1. Air France First Class Lounge Paris (CDG)

Air France’s first class is the whole package. Not only does Air France offer the world’s best first class inflight product, but their ground experience in Paris is equally impressive. If you’re connecting in Paris, you’ll be picked up at your plane and driven to the first class lounge, and then later on will be driven from the first class lounge to your connecting flight.

There’s so much to love about the Air France first class lounge, though my favorite thing is probably the restaurant, which has an Alain Ducasse menu. In my experience it’s the best food offers in any airline lounge in the world. It’s not just that the food quality is excellent, but the service and presentation are equally good.

Once you’re done with a great meal, you can get a complimentary 30 minute spa treatment, and can choose between services like massages, facials, etc.

There’s not a first class ground experience in the world that’s as seamless and has as much attention to detail. It doesn’t matter whether you’re originating in Paris or connecting, Air France has all the details covered.

2. Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)

Rather than just offering a great first class lounge, Lufthansa has taken it to the next level with their First Class Terminal. This allows you to skip the main terminal at Frankfurt Airport altogether, and instead drive right up to the First Class Terminal, and then be driven to your plane when your flight is ready to board. All formalities, including check-in, security, and immigration, are handled in the lounge.

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The lounge itself is beautiful, with attentive service, a great restaurant catered by DO&CO, a cigar bar, nap rooms, and collectible rubber duckies.

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As an aviation geek my favorite part is being driven across the tarmac to the plane. This is one of the few situations where I hope my plane is parked as far from the terminal as possible. 😉

So why doesn’t Lufthansa get the number one spot? Because the experience is inconsistent. It’s fantastic if you’re originating in Frankfurt, but if you’re just in transit, the experience isn’t nearly as seamless. The only time you’ll be picked up from your flight by car is if you’re arriving at a remote stand. Otherwise you’ll potentially have to walk thousands of steps and navigate your own way through the maze which is Frankfurt Airport. The horror. 😉

3. Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich (ZRH)

Swiss’ first class lounge in Zurich is still fairly new, and I visited it for the first time about a year ago. I didn’t come in with terribly high expectations, since I didn’t think their old lounge was that great. Boy, is their new lounge a significant improvement.

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In addition to service throughout the lounge, the Swiss lounge has an excellent restaurant, and after the Air France lounge I’d say it’s probably my favorite restaurant in an airport lounge.

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But there are two other features that make this lounge exceptional. The first is that the lounge has private bedrooms for those with long layovers. The beds are as comfortable as the ones you’d find in top hotels, not to mention the bedroom has a view of the tarmac and runways, which made me not want to sleep.

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Furthermore, the lounge has a large terrace with views of the gates. In summer they’ll even have ice cream out there for guests to enjoy.

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4. Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong (HKG)

In terms of design, Cathay Pacific’s The Pier in Hong Kong is one of my two favorite lounges. The lounge is designed in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a really swanky hotel or even home, rather than at an airport.

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The Pier also has a good restaurant with an a la carte menu.

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On top of that, the lounge has private rooms where you can relax, or just watch planes pass by outside.

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Guests also receive a complimentary 10 minute foot massage, which is a nice teaser.

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5. Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney (SYD)

This lounge nails all the basics. The lounge is physically stunning and spacious, with lots of natural light and panoramic views.

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I love the food in Qantas first class lounges. The menu is designed by Neil Perry of Rockpool Bar & Grill, and my favorite is the salt & pepper squid (though nothing on the menu will disappoint).

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On top of that, passengers receive a complimentary 20 minute spa treatment, with the choice between a facial or massage.

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6. Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha (DOH)

The Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge feels sort of like a museum. The ceilings are probably 40 feet tall, and there’s so much space. Not everyone will love the design, but personally I do. While many other lounges feel crowded, this one feels empty no matter how full it actually is.

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The lounge also has a restaurant with solid food, though not to the level you’d find in the Air France or Swiss lounges. One other feature I love about the lounge is that they offer private bedrooms for passengers with long layovers, and they’re the second best airport bedrooms after Swiss’ lounge.

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While all of those things are great, the lounge also has some stupid policies. They have a spa, but all treatments are outrageously priced. Want to use the hot tub in the lounge? That will cost you ~$55. Lounge agents will also make up rules about who can and can’t use the nap rooms.

This is a great lounge, though it could be so much better if they didn’t have such inconsistent and illogical policies.

7. Thai First Class Lounge Bangkok (BKK)

Thai is another airline that does a great job taking care of you every step of the way at the airport. They’ll pick you up at your arriving flight and take you to your departing flight later (typically by buggy).

The lounge has several semi-private living rooms for passengers to use, with more privacy than you’ll get in most lounges. There’s also lots of a la carte food, though I don’t think it’s quite to the level of what you’ll find in some other lounges.

The highlight of the lounge? First class passengers receive a complimentary hour-long full body massage. That’s a great way to relax before a long flight. So as you’d expect, this is by far the best spa treatment offered by any airline.

8. Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi (AUH)

This is the newest of the first class lounges on the list. The lounge is well designed, with a restaurant, gym (which none of the other lounges have), a spa (where you can receive a complimentary massage, wet shave, etc.), etc.

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The food in the lounge was good when I last visited, though it’s my understanding that the airline has been cost cutting significantly in the lounge, so I’ve heard the food isn’t as good as it used to be.

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The lounge also doesn’t have any proper nap rooms, other than a relaxation area with seats that recline a bit.

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This is an all around very solid lounge.

9. Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai (DXB)

Th Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai is more of a concourse than a lounge. That’s because the lounge literally spans the entire length of the terminal. On one hand that’s crazy impressive. You have a lounge that’s tens of thousands of square feet, and at times there will only be a few guests.

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The lounge also has a restaurant with a la carte dining, a cigar bar, a spa with complimentary 15 minute treatments, and more. One other awesome feature is that you can board your flight directly through the lounge, assuming your flight departs from the “A” Concourse.

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The problem? The lounge is so big that it actually feels incredibly sterile and unwelcoming. You feel like you’re sitting in a terminal rather than in a top first class lounge. You miss out on the power of a residential-feeling design, like you’ll find in the Cathay Pacific lounge, for example.

This is probably the first time in history that a lounge being too big has been a complaint.

10. Singapore Airlines Private Room Singapore (SIN)

The Private Room is a lounge within a lounge within a lounge. While it doesn’t have amenities like nap rooms, spa treatments, or offer escorts to/from the gate, it features a great restaurant with a la carte dining (including the ability to customize dishes), and an all around very elegant atmosphere with refined service.

Honorable Mention: Etihad Residence Lounge Abu Dhabi (AUH)

This can’t be included on the list since it’s not technically a first class lounge. Specifically I’m talking about the Etihad Residence lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport, which is exclusively for passengers booking Etihad’s uber-luxurious three room onboard suite, known as the Residence. The fun begins on the ground, as you get a private lounge, a butler looking after you the whole time, whatever meal you’d like, as many massages as you’d like, etc. They also take care of you every step of the way, from the second you arrive at the airport until the moment they introduce you to your onboard butler. You don’t even have to check-in.

Bottom line

Most people dread having time to kill time at the airport, though the above lounges make spending time at an airport a pleasure. From an hour-long full body massage, to being driven to your plane in a luxury car, to getting a private bedroom that makes you feel like you’re in a hotel, these lounges have it all.

I’d like to emphasize that I think anyone would be reasonable to think that the above lounges should be in a different order, but hopefully this is at least a useful list in terms of the 10 all around best first class airline lounges.

I’m curious to hear what you guys make of my rankings! Are there any other lounges that should have been on the list?

Comments

  1. Qatar – you wrote “The lounge also has a restroom with solid food”.

    That would be very, very unusual. Are you sure that’s right? 😉

  2. Ben, since you listed the top 10 first class products and lounges, I was wondering if it may be useful to list the to 10 business class products and lounges as well, given how many airlines are removing first class at present, and also because you have listed the top 10 worst business class products.

  3. Lucky,
    Normally I agree with you, but I can’t believe you put the Thai lounge in there – it’s soooooo dated and the food is appalling! Sure, the hour-long massage is nice (if you can actually get an appointment), but the actual lounge is truly out of date and needs an urgent refurbishment.

  4. The Thai lounge is such a mixed bag. The space itself is meh compared to the others, but how Thai handles the service from plane to lounge and back again is great. If they updated the space it would jump up a few places for sure!

  5. Even though the GVK lounge in Mumbai is not owned by any airline, I think it could definitely make this list.

  6. Quite happy to see that Air France tops both of your lists, and now I’m even more impatient for my F flight with them in just a month and a half :). One thing that you really miss out on, is the whole La Premiere check in experience at CDG. From what I saw in your reports, you always connected but never originated in Paris, which is an experience in itself too.

  7. I agree with Anon that the Wing certainly belongs in the top 10. Even if the Pier is slightly better, the wing is great too.

  8. I have only been to 2 of the 10.

    I wish the Air France lounge had more privacy; the relaxation chairs and nearby shower rooms really do not compare at all to the private rooms in the Swiss lounge in Zurich.

    That makes it a close call between the two. Unless you need a 2-hour nap, the spa treatments and food in Paris break the tie.

  9. You definitely know you are reading OMAAT too much when you can already guess the Top 10 and are mostly right.

  10. Don’t normally agree with things all the time but leaving off The Wing F was a great choice. Other than the cabanas, it isn’t that good. Plus it suffers from open air and lack of temperature control.

    The foot massage at Pier was 20 minutes as of last week at least.

    Nice list. Only been in 3, but…

  11. Cathay Cabanas are probably the nicest “room” type amenity. I’ve been in the LX F lounge twice but haven’t had a chance to checkout the bedroom – I hear the bedding is fantastic.

    Agreed that La Premiere lounge is #1. I’m going there this Friday and excited for awesome food and service. It’s just such a fantastic product overall.

    I’ve been lucky enough to visit #1-5 and also #10 and I have the same rankings. Honorable mention to the QF F lounge in LAX, which is pretty amazing food and ambiance wise. JAL F lounge in Haneda is also pretty nice and has complimentary foot massages and great food. It’s just very busy and not as big as the other lounges.

    I would also say the SFO old UA GFL belongs here… just kidding 🙂 It was my first F lounge visit and I have fond memories, but it does pale in comparison to the other lounges.

  12. @ anon — Sorry, I should have clarified, but I was intentionally limiting myself to one lounge per airline, to avoid repeats and showcase what different airlines are offering. Love the Wing as well, but slightly prefer the Pier.

  13. Lucky,

    Do you think the Thai lounge should be lower since only those passengers departing in F can access it? I had a fantastic flight to BKK, connecting on a regional flight with no first class and wasn’t allowed access. That sullied my experience a bit.

  14. What I like about these new Cathay Pacific lounges is that they have managed and are managing to create an uniform experience throughout their most prolific hubs. CX First Class lounge @ LHR feels like a small and intimate The Pier. And their business class lounges must be one of the best out there as well (at least in YVR,HND,BKK,TPE)

  15. I agree with your reviews on the most part. I would put Emirates lounge much higher, as I feel it has some of the best food. Service in the restaurants was great. As well, I would lower the ranking on Cathay’s lounge. When I went last time, (2 years ago) the lounge was crowded, there was a line for breakfast, and the eggs were runny and the toast soggy and cold. I would have sent it back, but because of the 10 minute wait to be seated, I was nearly out of time.

  16. I noticed it seems like you haven’t flown Thai First for a while. The last report that I found was in 2013. Do you have any plans to fly them soon again?

  17. I’ve only visited a first class lounge once, but it was CX Pier, so I’m glad to see I was getting good value out of the experience. BTW, if you do want to try first class, CX operates a proper first class product on HKG-TPE which can be redeemed for 40,000 Asiamiles. It’s a short flight but you can spend as long as you like in the Pier.

  18. I dont even understand how you called CX the pier F lounge those are sleeping rooms, those are essentially nap areas as there are no doors, only can close it by pulling the curtains across the two sides, there is not enough privacy and could be noisy at times, I would even worry my belongings if i fall asleep in there, as anyone from outside can pull the curtain open and do whatever they want with you and your stuff, nothing compare to LH FCL, LX FCL, and even TG F lounge that offer proper sleeping rooms.

  19. to follow up on the CX cabanas, I find they are much better than LH FCT. At FCT I had to go back and forth between my private room and shower . Love the cabana layout where it’s like your own hotel room and everything is there.

  20. Ben I value greatly and appreciate the thought you put into these rank reviews. I really do. Just a small fix I may suggest. For the sake of building up to the greatest lounge, I think you should give the rankings from 10-1 instead of 1-10. So we start with the least best and raise the bar going further into the article and end with the best. Just a minor detail, but I think it would make it better. Still love the info and can’t wait for more! Cheers!

  21. It’s worth noting that if you fly Air France business class, you can pay 300 Euros for their Premiere Ground Service that gives you access to the lounge and limo pickup at your plane.

  22. Did you just suggest First Class lounges that don’t offer access to non-first class pax should be rated lower, Matt?

    I think First Class lounges that keep Hoboken-types on credit card miles out should be rated higher. Not lower.

  23. You always seem to forget to mention Lufthansa First Class Terminal’s GREATEST perk: they let you borrow a Porsche for 3 hours for free (you only pay 99euros insurance) and you can take it for a spin then drop it off at the door and get back in the lounge.

    best thing ever.

  24. William Y.

    Little dense, aren’t ya? He clearly was in F on his incoming and then connected on a plane without F. It would be industry-norm to get access this way.
    Also, you’re spending time commenting on a blog about travel via credit card points, let’s not pretend that you can actually afford these fares with cash, buddy,

  25. I’m Platinum with Qantas (Oneworld Emerald) and have used their First lounges in Sydney and Melbourne about 20 times in the last couple of years. I’m sorry but I just don’t rate them. Don’t get me wrong, they are good lounges but they are not great. The food is very inconsistent and the service is consistently average (it’s often difficult to even get your water glass filled). If you are seated away from the dinning area then good luck getting any service at all. I’ve been seated at the end of the lounge for 45 minutes plus on several occasions and haven’t seen a single staff member. One time I went and asked a staff member in the middle of the lounge for a drink and told her where I was seated and she actually told me she was looking after her section and I would need to ask the person looking after the section I was seated in (who didn’t appear to even exist).

    As for the Emirates First lounge, I was there yesterday and had a fantastic experience (the food and service were outstanding). Although would it be too much to get some barista made coffee or some loose leaf tea? The quality of the tea bags they use is shocking. They have better tea and coffee in 2 star hotels.

  26. Lucky – even though it is ‘business class’ – the virgin clubhouse at lhr is extremely good as well, in my opinion better than many first class lounge products. I’d rank it at around 7 or 8 on this list. What about you?

  27. I’d like to throw in my two cents about the Etihad first class lounge, I flew AUH-SYD in the residence, and returned in first class, stopping in AUH before continuing to New York. In the first lounge in Abu Dhabi, the lounge manager, who also happened to be my Residence Lounge butler, accommodated me with a bottle of Dom and Glenlivet 25, something they reserve for Residence guests. I just appreciated that touch of personalization. I’d agree with the list though. The first class Air France Lounge is fabulous. Easily one of the best in the world.

  28. The Private Room SQ – sorry i just cant see that at all. I probably use it 20 times a year and the menu has not changed in say 5 years and it is not possible to customize dishes. It simply what it is is what you get. The showers/bathroom at times can be woefully bad, its simply does not cut it compared to the other lounges that you have rated and stale food.

  29. Should the MH First Lounge at LHR get honorable (or honourable – since it’s in the UK) mention as one of the best outstation lounges? Granted, it’s been years since I have been there, but have to say for an outstation lounge with only 2 flights a day, it was pretty impressive. Especially considering the lounge at KUL was quite lackluster.

  30. @Alex
    I agree with your comments about QF Melbourne and Sydney…the space is great but not very functional, eg, to charge a device you have to put it on the floor next to an outlet; a very poor design.
    The service can be woefully slow, is certainly inconsistent. The slat and pepper squid is nice but how many times can one eat it without getting bored…because the rest of the menu is pretty ordinary. The other day I asked for a cheese plate; it’s not on the menu but they always oblige. But it’s terribly average cheese these days, worse than in the air.

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