The standard airport experience consists of wanton cancellations, grab-and-go egg salad sandwiches, and sticky vinyl seats. That, statistically, is the truth. But here’s another: Airports, for some, are a pleasure. Groups charmed by their sweeping placelessness include kids silenced with kilo bags of duty-free Haribo gummies, middle-aged men peering at jet fuselages—and anyone with access to the world’s truly great airport lounges.
Any airport lounge is a haven, as it offers degrees of an airport’s most precious commodities: Quiet, privacy, cleanliness, quick Wi-Fi, and actual warm food. But a great lounge? A great lounge is a spa-like respite, an encounter with great design, a top-flight hotel bar, and a gourmet restaurant. Though many airport spaces are bland, a great lounge tells you exactly where you are, whether that’s with a spice-scented towel in Istanbul or local California citrus at LAX.
In case you’re past the age of sugar motivation and prefer the finer things in life, here is a guide to AD’s best airport lounges. Why not be a statistical anomaly and get on your flight smiling?
Turkish Airlines Lounge (Istanbul International Airport)
The Turkish Airlines lounge is two: Business and Miles&Smiles, both with the crispness of a recent build. (The Istanbul Airport opened in 2019.) The standout feature here is the food: Nearly a dozen chef-manned stations serving everything from fresh ravioli to pide, a Turkish bread in the pizza family.
Lufthansa First Class Terminal (Frankfurt International Airport)
Yes—terminal. A separate terminal with its own security and immigration services. Beyond that convenience, this German outpost offers soft Italian lounge chairs, top-flight Iberico ham, and its signature rubber duck souvenir, whose colours and accessories change with the seasons.
Delta Sky Club (Los Angeles International Airport)
You might not expect one of the world’s busiest airports to have an alfresco section—what is this, Sonny Bono International?—but that’s exactly what makes the new Delta Sky Club special. On clear days, you can see the Hollywood sign; if it’s smoggy, you’ll be able to make out the mountains.
Swiss First Class Lounge (Zurich International Airport)
Do you suffer from the paralysis of choice? If so, The Swiss First Lounge’s 1000-bottle wine humidor and Senator Lounge’s 200-bottle whiskey bar aren’t for you. Things settle down regarding private accommodations: There are two hotel rooms available, each lovely, with Hasten’s sheets.
Air France Clarins Spa (John F. Kennedy International Airport)
French drugstore skin care has such ardent fans, they’ve been known to bring an extra tote for the trip back from Paris. Now, some can congregate at the new Clarins Spa in JFK’s Air France lounge for top-flight dermal reconditioning à la française, with complimentary face treatments like “Detox time.” The full Clarins line is available; leave the stressed-out Tod’s bag at home
Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge (Hong Kong International Airport)
Set to reopen this year, the Pier First Class lounge is known for its atmosphere: Minimalist, luxe, and low-lit. Finishes include cherry wood, onyx, and marble. Pre-pandemic services included a complimentary 20-minute massage.
Etihad First Class and Arrivals Lounges (Abu Dhabi International Airport)
The theme of Etihad’s lounges is “full service.” The food and wine array is impeccable, as are the self-care offerings: gym and spa. Have the sommelier pick a champagne and finish it on the treadmill. Overheat? Cool down with a mineral soak and a cucumber facial—all in the privacy of the lounge.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (Heathrow International Airport, London)
As you’d expect from Virgin, the Clubhouse is filled with upbeat, mod decor. But what separates this space from almost every lounge in the world? They now have Peloton bikes for their guests, as well as a clean shower afterwards.
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Lounge (Hamad International Airport)
The Al Mourjan Business Lounge stands out for its commitment to The Chill. First is the huge reflecting pool, not dissimilar to what you might find near a Tadao Ando structure. The second is dedicated nap rooms, open for reservation, where silence is strictly enforced.