An Ordinary Space in an Extraordinary Place: The Leeli Lounge at Male Airport in the Maldives
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The Maldives has become arguably the world's most aspirational vacation destination with its many posh hotels and crystal clear turquoise waters. Most resorts in the small island nation are very pricy, but thanks to points and miles, it's actually an attainable vacation goal. TPG points and miles writer JT Genter were recently in the Maldives — unfortunately not for a vacation this time — and decided to spend some time in the Leeli Lounge in the international departures area of Male's international airport (MLE) before our onward flight to Doha (DOH). Here's my take on the lounge.
The Leeli Lounge contracts with most of the airlines that fly to international destinations from MLE. First class, business class and elite passengers on these airlines usually have access to the lounge, but the lounge doesn't accept paid entry, nor is it part of the Priority Pass program that comes complimentary with several premium travel cards such as The Platinum Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
We were able to access the lounge via two methods: business-class tickets on Qatar Airways and Oneworld Emerald status through American Airlines Executive Platinum elite status. We already had our onward boarding passes when we arrived at MLE, but the transfer desk took about twenty minutes to provide a lounge invitation card.
The lounge itself is essentially one large room, but it offers plenty of seating and a ton of natural light.
Most seats are arranged in pairs. The lunge wasn't crowded at all during our visit and thus we had plenty of space. However, when the lounge is close to capacity at peak times, it would likely feel much more tightly packed.
There's no dedicated work area, but you could work on your own laptop at the high-top bar near the food buffet. There are four desktop computers set up in this space, but there's adequate work space and power outlets next to the desktops for you to plug in a laptop.
AvGeeks will rejoice in knowing that you can see the apron from the lounge. We had a great view of our Sri Lankan A330 that we arrived on from inside.
There's also a small room near the lounge entrance with five lounge chairs that recline fully. These seats look perfect for a nap, and are probably adequate enough for an overnight layover. After all, the lounge is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Paper slips with the WiFi password were provided at check-in. We enjoyed good quality Wi-Fi during our visit.
Some pairs of seats have a universal power outlet between the seats. However, many pairs of seats have no power, so choose your seat carefully if you need power.
A limited selection of magazines are available in the lounge. Most seem to be focused on the Maldives, which isn't all that surprising considering this is a lounge in Male, though it would have been nice to have more of a variety for those who were departing the islands.
The restrooms are generic and on the small side — the men's restroom has two sinks, two stalls and two urinals while the women's restroom just has two sinks and two stalls. The bathrooms were seemingly cleaned after each use during our visit.
Neither bathroom has a shower, so you'll need to visit one of the landside Priority Pass lounges if you need to shower before your flight.
There are two partitioned areas in two corners of the lounge. One area is for breastfeeding, although it admittedly didn't provide much privacy.
The other sectioned-off area is for Muslim prayers, though it too didn't provide much privacy.
Food and Beverage
When we visited the lounge mid-morning, breakfast foods were available but there also seemed to be a selection of foods that were likely available all day. The sheer amount of food offered was impressive, though some options weren't especially appealing.
There were pastries, cookies and sweet breads. These were all stored in containers or covered in wrap to preserve their freshness.
Cold tuna sandwiches, egg sandwiches and cheese sandwiches were also available on crustless white bread. They didn't seem too appealing — there appeared to be a lot more bread than filling in each sandwich.
Two containers held hot breakfast foods: boiled eggs, bacon, hash-browns and pancakes. The hash-browns and pancakes had clearly been frozen, which isn't particularly surprising considering the location of MLE. There were also cold waffles. I found the boiled eggs to be discolored and difficult to peel, and the hash-browns were soggy and lukewarm.
An iced container held multiple bowls containing fresh fruit salad, grapes, blueberry yogurt, plain yogurt, muesli and raisins. Above this cold area was a shelf with cup of noodles. Further down the bar were cereal containers and some more fresh fruit.
Two glass-faced refrigerators contained bowls with green salad, a pudding dish that was surprisingly tasty, a plate of brownies and a variety of bottled water and soft drinks.
On the counter, there were also containers of juice, a container of hot water and a coffee machine.
Notably missing: alcohol. We visited the lounge in the morning, so perhaps some of the breakfast offerings are replaced with a bar later in the day. The page for the Leeli Lounge on Oneworld's website says alcoholic beverages are available, it seems this lounge may be dry because other passengers have reported a lack of alcohol later in the day.
The Leeli Lounge, which is used by most of the airlines that fly from MLE, is fine for a short visit. The lounge covers all the basics: The food is plentiful, power is available at some seats, the Wi-Fi is good and there's a variety of seating options — including some recliners that would be good for napping. I wouldn't recommend getting to the airport early just to come to this lounge, but it's an acceptable place to take a nap between flights or relax before boarding.