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The Five Best Airport Lounges

The latest lounges are lining up to outdo each other, making transit as tempting as travel itself

  • Qatar Airways, Al Mourjan Business Lounge, Hamad International Airport, Doha

The airport lounge – once just a humble refuge in which the platinum card-wielding road warrior could escape the holidaying riff-raff and enjoy the company of a nonjudgmental barman – has had an overhaul recently. Not content with creating a luxury arms race onboard, with first-class seats evolving into hotel-like pods and Etihad’s A380 debuting three-room suites, international airlines are stepping up their lounge game, too. Interiors by leading architects and first-rate amenities are making lounges great places for eating, drinking and being productive.

Business facilities don’t get much more impressive than those on offer by Qatar Airways in Doha, with rows of desks topped with gleaming iMacs, 24/ 7 secretarial services, Wi-Fi-enabled printers and a boardroom that seats 12, ready for an impromptu pre-flight meeting.

In the Virgin Heathrow Clubhouse there’s a professional, top-notch editing suite created by Avid – just in case you need to put some finishing touches to your album or single. For the not so musically inclined, most new-generation lounges now have power and data points at every seat, so there’s less chance of leaving your iPhone at the front desk or, worse, plugging it into the wall and causing an unsuspecting fellow passenger to pratfall over your i-Tripwire.

The lounge buffet, complete with maudlin carrot sticks and stagnant bowls of ranch dressing, has happily become a thing of the past. In its place are menus created by top international chefs, food prepared fresh to order and a choice of up to four global cuisines, matched with impressive wine lists and special cocktails. But be warned: not all lounges are created equal, so choose your carrier and route wisely.

FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM BAHIA WITHDRAWAL

Star Alliance Lounge, Guarulhos Airport, São Paulo

Prolong the holiday vibes by sipping your last caipirinha off the hand-carved cumaru-wood bar in the new Star Alliance Lounge – completed just last summer – in São Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport. Rio architects Indio da Costa A.U.D.T. Studio have used copious amounts of indigenous woods, natural rope and other local materials for an authentic, 100% made in Brazil feel. It’s properly equipped with Wi-Fi printers and well-placed power and USB outlets – yet you get to work or relax in Sergio Rodrigues 1961 Paraty chairs. Even the shower suites are lined with typical Portuguese calçada, the mosaic cobblestone paving deployed at Copacabana beach. staralliance.com

What to wear

  • MP Massimo Piombo Striped Cotton-Piqué Polo Shirt

  • Oliver Peoples Sir Finley Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

FOR THE NIPPONOPHILE

Japan Airlines First Class Lounge, Haneda Airport, Tokyo

Japan Airlines First Class Lounge at Haneda, Tokyo, was revamped last summer with modern Japanese décor by designer Mr Ryu Kosaka, and is now three times its original size. Try the Teppan dining area for Teppanyaki black beef burgers cooked to order by the chefs, and then head to the new Red Suite, a kind of inner sanctuary. Among the vintage maps, travel bags and cases, you can drink select Japanese sake from Hasegawa Saketen in the bar or play table football in the Play Room – while your shoes are buffed and polished by John Lobb-trained staff in the Library. jal.co.jp

What to wear

  • Berluti Suede-Trimmed Cotton and Silk-Blend Cardigan

  • Sacai Slim-Fit Knitted Cotton Trousers

FOR THE GOURMAND ON THE GO

Emirates Lounge, Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles

This March, Emirates brought its five-star service to Los Angeles when it opened its enticing new lounge. It’s certainly modest in size compared to Dubai (where the carrier boasts six first and business lounges), but less is more here – the $6.2m spent on the fit- out caters for just 157 passengers. Seating areas come with outlets and USB ports; there is a business centre, quiet areas, a luxury shower spa and a choice of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Indian cuisine. Try the muhammara – a rich blend of red peppers, olive oil and walnuts – along with other mezze dishes, and sip Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. emirates.com


What to wear

  • The Elder Statesman Cashmere Shorts

  • Elton John Aids Foundation Armand Diradourian Wool and Cashmere-Blend Travel Set

FOR THE WORKAHOLIC

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Istanbul

Though business is certainly top priority at the Turkish Airlines Lounge for Commercially Important Persons (CIPs), architects Ms Seyhan Ozdemir and Mr Sefer Caglar of esteemed Istanbul design practice Autoban have worked to make sure you also get a chance to switch off. Traditional cues, such as their “Kervansaray” concept (inspired by Turkish roadside inns designed for travellers to rest and recover from the day’s journey) and curved Ottoman-style rooms, give it a distinct aesthetic. Should work remain high on the agenda, there’s an iMac-equipped business centre, a meeting room, library, tea garden and restaurant, each encased in a unique skeletal spherical structure not unlike the curvy domes of the city’s many mosques. If you are done with work, try the billiards room or, better still, the cinema. Rest assured this is probably the only lounge with its own hot popcorn machine. turkishairlines.com

What to wear

  • Paul Smith Navy Byard Slim-Fit Wool and Mohair-Blend Travel Suit

  • Smythson A5 Cross-Grain Leather Writing Folder

FOR THE SHEIKH OF CHIC

Qatar Airways, Al Mourjan Business Lounge, Hamad International Airport, Doha

Business- and first-class passengers using Hamad International Airport in Doha get a dedicated terminal and the use of the Al Mourjan Business Lounge. Opened last year, masterminded by Milan architects Mr Antonio Citterio and Ms Patricia Viel, it’s fitted out with the best Italian-made furniture from the likes of B&B Italia and Cassina, and at 10,000sqm, it is one of the world’s largest lounges. Seating includes privacy screens, reading lights, luggage space, power and data points and personal flight information displays. There are shower suites and quiet rooms with double-occupancy resting areas. Don’t miss the four dining areas, which offer a continental or oriental brasserie, a global deli and a patisserie. qatarairways.com

What to wear

  • Berluti Olive Silk And Cotton-Blend Woven Melange Blazer

  • Gucci Suede Horsebit Loafers