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8 features that would make the perfect airport lounge

April 25, 2020
9 min read
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At a time when global travel is, for the most part, on pause, we're finding ourselves dreaming of faraway destinations, business-class flights and, for some of us, even airport lounges. Many see a visit to the airport lounge as one of the things we look forward to about taking a flight -- unless you're TPG Travel Analyst Zach Griff, that is, who always skips the lounge and goes straight to the gate.

But not all airline lounges are great. And very few are perfect. Reading through this list, you might be inclined to think that most of these features come as standard, but you'd be surprised at the reality.

Airport lounges come in all shapes and sizes and are owned and run generally by either an airline, member alliance or a lounge club such as Priority Pass. Lounges are also a saving grace for passengers on long layovers who may need to spend many hours waiting for their next flight -- that's when we really need some of these extras.

(Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

Related: The 8 do's and don'ts in an airport lounge

That said, I've picked some of the features from my favorite lounges as well as some elements from ones that I have on my list to visit. Here are eight features that would make for the perfect airport lounge in my view.

1. Dining area with table service

While the food available in lounge buffets is often nice, with them comes more of a canteen-like vibe than a first-class lounge vibe. It's also important to have a self-service food area in a lounge for passengers who might only have a few minutes to spare and would like to grab a quick bite.

But from the range of lounge restaurants with table service I've eaten in so far, I think my favorite is BA's Concorde Room in Heathrow Terminal 5. The combination of delicious food and excellent service made for a proper first-class experience. There are countless other lounges around the world that also offer sit-down dining, such as Air France's La Première in Paris.

A selection of main courses from the Concorde Room. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

If you're lucky, you might even find table service dining areas in business class lounges, like the Qantas lounge in Heathrow's Terminal 3 -- when flying from T3, get there early so you can sample the breakfast menu -- you won't regret it.

Related: 5 things airport lounges need to do ASAP to stop overcrowding

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A sit-down service for those who want it is a great option for any perfect lounge.

2. Space to sleep

When I'm really tired, I can pretty much doze off anywhere. But a proper sleep on a long layover even when exhaustion has set in can be pretty difficult in a lounge. Unless, of course, your lounge has a dedicated space to nap.

They come in different forms — from open-plan nap zones like in Heathrow Terminal 3's Aspire Lounge to the fully kitted out, hotel-style bedrooms that you can get cozy in like at the Swiss first-class lounge in Zurich.

(Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)
Hotel room or airport lounge? (Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

3. Cocktail bar

Having a preflight tipple is a firm favorite of many frequent flyers. Each lounge offers its own specific selection of different alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Over the past few years, I've seen everything from self-service beer taps to all-you-can-drink Champagne.

When the Champagne is on tap, it would be rude not to at the Concorde Lounge. (Photo by Dan Ross/The Points Guy)

But, my favorite thing of all to encounter in a lounge is a fully stocked bar complete with a cocktail menu -- the kind you'd find in any good hotel lobby. Nothing says the start of a trip like a freshly made espresso martini, right?

Related: The best hotel bars we drank at this year

4. Viewing terrace

This is probably one of the rarest features of them all but perhaps one that any AvGeek would get most excited about. Unless you're at Schiphol in Amsterdam, you're unlikely to get access to an airport's viewing terrace without having a boarding pass in your hand. Even then, airside viewing terraces, especially open-air ones, are pretty hard to come by. One of TPG's favorites is this one at the Swiss first-class terminal in Zurich.

Related: Swiss perfection: a review of Swiss first class on its flagship Boeing 777-300

(Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

5. Barbers/hairdressers

For those who travel frequently, time on the ground can be packed with meetings and other commitments, making trying to squeeze in a mop chop before a trip a struggle. Virgin Atlantic hits the nail on the head with the in-house hairdresser in its Clubhouse Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3.

It's definitely something I'd like to see more of in airport lounges.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
The barbers in Virgin's Heathrow T3 Clubhouse. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

6. Massage/spa treatments

There's nothing quite like a massage or spa treatment to ease you into a holiday or relax after a busy day in the office. While it can often be hard to get a free time slot if you haven't got long before your flight and free treatments rarely last more than 10 or 15 minutes, airport massages are an absolute blessing. If I had my way, every airport lounge would feature award-winning spas like you can find in the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge in Bangkok and treatments would last for 30 minutes or more.

One of the best treatments I've had to date in an airport lounge was a facial in the SkyTeam Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 4.

Enjoying my free 20-minute facial at the Clarin's spa in Heathrow T4's SkyTeam lounge. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

7. Chauffeur to and from the plane

I realize that this would be a logistical nightmare for every single passenger in a busy business-class lounge, but this is my "perfect" lounge, after all. I haven't yet experienced the chauffeur service available to passengers passing through the Lufthansa first class terminal at Frankfurt where you get whisked from the terminal to your plane in a Mercedes.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

But from my experience at PremiAir, Manchester's private terminal, where I was chauffeured to the boarding area in a BMW 7 Series, I can say that it's definitely something I could get used to when I fly.

(Photo by Dan Ross)
(Photo by Daniel Ross)

8. Gym

Finally, to combat all that alcohol and plane food, my perfect lounge would absolutely feature a gym. There are only a few airports in the world that have gyms in them, and most are within airport hotels rather than in actual lounges. Even then, the entry fee can be pricey.

On flying days, traveling to an airport can use up a lot of your day, meaning that something has to be cut out of your routine and for me, it often ends up being the gym. I'm not talking state-of-the-art fitness centers, but more somewhere with a few benches, dumbbells and cardio machines to give people the opportunity to get in a preflight run or workout that they otherwise might have had to sacrifice that day.

Bottom line

Let's be honest, the likelihood of there ever being a lounge that features all of the above is rather slim. I already enjoy spending a couple of hours in the lounge before my flight as it is, so with the addition of these features, I'd probably end up having an entire day out in the lounge before taking my flight.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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Recommended Credit

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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more