Best Airline Executive Lounges

You have a long, international flight and a 3-hour layover before your begin the second leg of your trip. You’re tired enough to consider taking a limousine to the next terminal. Maybe you fancy a hot shower, a massage, a movie on a big screen, or 5-star wait service while you unwind.

If you gain access to one of the world’s greatest, elite airline lounges, you’ll get all that and sometimes more. And chances are you’ll get more of it from international airlines’ lounges, which are much more advanced and comfortable than those of struggling US airlines, experts say.

“Executive lounges are like executive ghettos in the US” because they tend to quickly become crowded and lack amenities such as showers and gourmet restaurants, says Suzanne Neufang, general manager of, a business-travel booking site.

Frequent first-class or business-class fliers enjoy priority access to most airline lounges. Lounges typically feature more comfortable seating, trendier décor, free Wi-Fi, beverages and better dining options. Fees may depend on your frequent-flier status level. When you upgrade to first-class, you can ask for an invitation to a lounge, but it’s not guaranteed.

Half of the appeal of executive lounges is spending time in an exclusive area that is a mystery to most fliers, says Robert Reid, US Travel Editor for Lonely Planet, a travel guidebook company.

If you aren’t loyal to an airline, consider subscribing to Priority Pass. From $100 to $399 for various membership levels, you get access to hundreds of lounges around the world.

Below are executive lounges we love:

Cathay Pacific Skyview Lounge
Singapore Changi International Airport

“It’s an attraction in itself,” Reid says of the lounge, which is open to first- and business-class passengers. With vibrating reclining chair alarms to wake you from a nap for boarding, plenty of workstations with desktop computers for working between flights, and easy access to lush gardens, a hotel and a swimming pool, the lounge holds several hundred passengers. Frequent patrons love that it is rarely crowded.

Lufthansa First Class Lounges
Munich Airport and Frankfurt Airport

Members receive a ride in a Porsche or Mercedes-Benz from the plane to the baggage area at the terminal or to another terminal. “That’s one of those things that changes your [travel] experience,” Reid says. The lounges feature cigar bars, wait service, showers, reclining chairs and daybeds, and all of the equipment needed to work efficiently such as copy and fax machines. And there’s no waiting in lines at customs or security.

Qantas International First Lounge
Sydney Airport, Australia

With great breakfast, lots of light and stunning city views from a rooftop observatory deck, the lounge feels more like a hotel than an airport, Neufang says. There’s also a day spa and a library with board games where cell-phone use is prohibited.

British Airways First Lounge
John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

Enjoy 15-minute facials or massages at the trendy Elemis Travel Spa, or a drink at the champagne bar or wine gallery. There’s also free Wi-Fi and soft, nature noises playing as you wait, says Ann Lombardi, co-owner of the travel consultants Trip Chicks of Atlanta. Complimentary PCs are available for those who left their laptops at home.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
San Francisco International Airport

Designed in retro fashion, the Clubhouse features colorful art exhibits and plenty of free gourmet food options. The lounge also offers impressive views of the San Francisco Bay. If you love Virgin Atlantic but fly to an airport where they don’t have a clubhouse -- such as Antigua, Barbados, Chicago or Los Angeles -- don’t worry. The airline arranges for you to get pampered treatment in a partner airlines’ lounge.

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