Ok, someone just has to say it. When it comes to airport lounges, the word 'luxury' is kind of overrated. Every airport worth its salt boasts of a 'premium' lounge experience - but is it really the case? It could be pretty subjective but if the lounge isn't mind-numbingly spectacular nor making you pray fervently for longer layovers, you haven't experienced the true joy of a VIP lounge yet.
That brings us to the obvious question - Which are the top VIP airport lounges in the world?
So here's a list of 5 stupendous VIP lounges to answer your query. And that's not all. We also have some tips for you to get access to them without paying an arm and a leg. Well, not entirely!
1. Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge at Hamad International Airport, Doha
Qatar Airways calls it 'an oasis of luxury' and we agree. The first thing you will notice here is the wide, open design that ensures natural lighting. Carved with intricate marble work, deft artistic touches and an impressive water fountain, this is a lounge that is inspired by the renowned Museum of Islamic Art in the megapolis.
Sit down for a meal to remember at the lounge's 250-seats restaurant that serves signature international and Arabic à la carte dishes. But the cherry on the top is the Vitality Spa with nine rooms. Its muscle treatment packages are sure to get that tiring flight off your mind!
How to get access:
This is Qatar Airways' flagship lounge - meaning, you absolutely have to hold a Qatar Airways first class ticket either on short or long haul to get access to this lounge. Even a holder of the Oneworld's top tier Emerald, usually an entry ticket into the most premium lounges, is not given access unless some part of his/her journey is with Qatar Airways. Using another airline? Head over to the Al Mourjan lounge that has equally impressive perks. You can get into this cool lounge even if you are travelling economy, by purchasing access for 450 QARs (S$163).
2. Air France Salon La Première Lounge at Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris
At this lounge, the pampering starts not at the front desk but at the entrance of the airport as soon as you step out of the car. Don't bother about hauling your baggage or checking in. All that is taken care of by a staff member. In fact, you are led through a private check-in counter bypassing the queues.
What next? How about a delectable dish whipped up by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, paired with a collection of some of the finest wines? Sounds good? Here's something better. Head over to the Biologique Recherche centre that offers personalised spa treatments, guaranteed to give you the relaxation you need. After that, you can just crash into the comfy loungers at the quiet zone till a chauffeured car arrives to take you to your flight. Sweet!
How to get access:
If you aren't much of a 'membership' person, you may want to rethink your strategy.
This lounge is a walk-in only for first class travellers of Air France. But as a Flying Blue Platinum, Flying Blue Gold or SkyTeam Elite Plus member, you can get paid access to all Air France lounges before your flight departs. The only condition here being, you must be a business class ticket holder of Air France or Delta Airlines.
The lounge service here is rolled into a package called 'La première ground services' that includes the cost of the lounge as well as other personalised services. The per person cost is €150 (S$242) or 20,000 Flying Blue Miles for arrival at Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport.
If you are departing from CDG or have a connecting flight, be prepared to shell out €300 (S$485) or 40,000 Flying Blue miles.
3. Lufthansa First Class Terminal at the Frankfurt airport
This terminal epitomises traditional European service - formal, attentive but not intrusive. You will have a personal assistant at your disposal the whole time. He will take over the travel and security formalities for you and escort you to your flight.
Feel like a shower? There are four well equipped shower rooms here. Don't forget to look for the trademark Lufthansa rubber duck by the bathtub! You can also crash into a day bed for a nap or jump into the aptly named 'Relax Chairs' with a book from a surprisingly good reading variety on offer. Cigar lovers might not want to step out of an all-time favourite, The Cigar Room, the novel feature of this lounge. How is the food you ask? It is prepared by Michelin-starred chefs with special menus for seasonal foods and has a well-stocked bar with over 130 different whiskies. Enough said!
How to get access:
If you are flying first class with a same-day departure on Lufthansa or Swiss International airlines, you are in! You can also get access if you are an HON Circle member and are flying either Lufthansa, Austrian, or Swiss International airlines in any class. Star Alliance First Class passengers, however, are not eligible to access the First-Class Terminal.
Flying economy? It may not have the sophistication of the first-class lounges but the Welcome Lounge at Frankfurt airport is a comfortable place to rest, shower and have a delicious meal during your layover. You can get yourself a day pass that costs roughly S$80.
4. Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge - The Wing at Hong Kong International airport
Do lounges conjure up images of box-like shower cubicles and beds? You surely haven't visited 'The Wing' then where you can rest in style in a cabana. Yes, you read it right. And this is no ordinary cabana. Designed for those who love elegance in architecture, each of the five cabanas here are temperature controlled and include a large bath, rain shower, day bed and working space. With an ironing service, pillows and duvets, bathrobes and fluffy towels - this is hospitality at its best. But that's not all.
How about a flute of Moet Rose at the champagne bar before heading over to the Haven Restaurant for an à la carte meal with fine wine? If you are in the mood for buffet, a diverse spread awaits you from traditional Hong Kong dim sum, fine cheeses and cold cuts to desserts. And finally, two delicious words - premium chocolates!
How to get access:
This is the flagship lounge of the Cathay Pacific Airlines, so it is open only to first class travellers of the airline and Emerald members of the Oneworld alliance. But here's some good news for you if you have racked up your Asia miles. Cathay Pacific has announced that you can redeem Asia Miles for one-time lounge access at any of Cathay Pacific's lounges worldwide.
All you need is 12,000 Asia Miles. Do note that this redemption is available only to higher tier status holders. Flying business class or got 9,000 Asia Miles? You can get access to 'The Wing's business lounge, which, we assure you will also give you a lounge experience to remember.
5. Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai International Airport
Imagine you are at a sprawling mall with upscale decor and world-class facilities where you are the only customer. That's what this lounge feels like. This is the home of the A380s so expect everything to be on a larger scale here. For starters, instead of the standard snack bar on most lounges, here you will find a snack buffet at every gate.
The lounge has two quiet areas with a dozen day beds each (with pillows and blankets) which means no jostling around and waiting your turn for the much-needed power nap. Continental breakfast, Indian appetizers, Italian or Arabic main course and French desserts, Emirates sure knows how to mix them up.
Shop your heart out at the duty-free boutique or settle in for a complimentary massage, manicure or blow dry at the in-house spa. Got kids? Don't worry about what they'll eat. This lounge has a buffet just for kids! Take them to the lovely play area, guaranteed to make them happy travellers. But don't blame us if you have to drag them out of there during boarding time!
How to get access:
For Emirates Skywards members
If you are a platinum member, you and three of your guests can get complimentary access into the First-Class lounge. But remember, you and your guests must be travelling on the same Emirates or Qantas codeshare flights. As a silver or gold class member, you can get paid access into the First-Class lounge for around S$276.
First class/Business class holders
As a first-class passenger, you can get free access and also bring in a guest for a fee. You can even upgrade from business class to first class lounge for a little over S$135.
Non-Emirates Skywards members
If you are on transit with another airline but are a Skywards member, rejoice! You can get paid access into this lounge for around S$345.
This article was first published in BankBazaar.sg