Gold Star: A Review of the Star Alliance Business-Class Lounge at LAX
There are only seven Star Alliance-branded lounges in the world, usually in larger cities that aren't a hub for any member airlines. Outside of those seven airports, Star Alliance premium-cabin passengers and Star Alliance Gold members are directed to lounges operated by the local carrier (i.e., Lufthansa Senator lounges in Europe, Singapore Airlines lounges in Southeast Asia, etc.) or at smaller outstations to a third-party contract lounge. Although LAX is a hub for United, most of its operations and lounges are in the distant Terminal 6, while the majority of Star Alliance flights depart out of Tom Bradley International Terminal. It made sense, therefore, for Star Alliance to open its own lounge when the new terminal was built back in 2013.
I was flying on two separate reservations, from Seattle (SEA) to Singapore (SIN) via LAX on a combination of Delta and Singapore Airlines. I made sure to pad my itinerary with a few extra hours at LAX to account for any travel hiccups, since I knew I SQ would probably not accommodate me on another flight if I missed their flight because of a delay on a separate reservation. Luckily, my flight landed right on time, so I had about four hours to enjoy the Star Alliance Lounge, which is a beautiful place to pass the time.
The Star Alliance lounge was on the sixth floor near the central atrium of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. I took the escalators up near the P.F. Chang's (where Priority Pass members can enjoy a bite with the $30 meal benefit), hung a right around the corner and took the next set of escalators up to the sixth floor to the lounge. Alternatively, there was an elevator from the main floor directly up to the sixth floor, near the clock tower.
I arrived at the lounge around 8pm and handed over my Singapore Airlines business-class boarding pass to the lounge attendant stationed outside the lounge. He quickly scanned us in and mentioned there was a Singapore Airlines agent inside the lounge should we need any help with our flight. I noticed EVA Air, Asiana and Air New Zealand agents were also on hand.
The lounge was accessible to Star Alliance Gold members with a same-day outbound boarding pass and those traveling on a Star Alliance business-class or Star Alliance first-class flight. United Gold and Star Alliance Gold members on a United domestic flight could also access the lounge if they were willing to make the trek over. There was also a Star Alliance first-class lounge across the hall, which I didn't have access to, though reports say the main difference is privacy and a la carte dining.
I was immediately impressed with the aesthetic of the lounge, which felt like a California version of the Swiss lounges in Zurich. There was plenty of seating, lots of outlets and many international periodicals throughout.
There was also a large indoor balcony that looked down upon the atrium of TBIT. The bar wrapped around from the inside of the lounge, though the balcony bar was not operational during my visit.
Toward the back of the lounge, eight shower suites were available to guests. An attendant at the front of the area issued a pager when I requested a shower, since all of the suites were full. The wait was about 20 minutes.
Each of the suites was stocked with a dental kit, shaving kit, hair dryer, towels and Soaptopia toiletries, a Southern California brand. The shower pressure was strong and warmed up immediately.
The highlight of the lounge, for me, had to be the outdoor patio at the very back of the lounge. There was plenty of outdoor seating, a few fireplaces to keep warm in the mild SoCal winters and even a grill where the lounge could host barbecues.
Planespotters, however, would've been disappointed, since the views of the tarmac and runway were slightly obstructed. You could still catch a glimpse of some of the action on the ground, though.
Quotes about LA from famous individuals were tastefully veneered on the walls around the lounge. My favorite was on the balcony next to a flight-status board.
Toward the end of my stay, the lounge did fill up. There were a few scattered seats open, but the space was definitely beginning to feel a little cramped.
Food and Beverage
A sizable buffet with hot and cold options was in a room off to the right. It included bread, chips, crackers, cheese, dips, salads, sandwiches, hot food and dessert.
There were four salad options, which all tasted fresh.
The hot food included coconut chicken curry, sun-dried-tomato mac and cheese, beef stew and roasted root vegetables.
And at the end of the buffet was the dessert section, with a few sweet treats along with some fresh fruit.
But the star of the show was tucked away toward the back of the food area: a self-serve noodle bar. Guest had their choice of broths, four different types of noodles, veggies and protein.
And if you weren't full just yet, there was a cheese bar near the real bar.
From a booze perspective, liquor, wine and beer were all self-serve, though bartenders were available for more complex requests. They were serving Mumm Napa brut sparkling wine, which retails for around $20 and went down smooth. Asahi, Corona, Kirin and Sam Adams Boston lager were available in a fridge below the self-serve bar.
I was really impressed with my visit to a Star Alliance lounge. The experience seemed to be a slight notch above Centurion Lounges, though United's Polaris lounges might be slightly more luxurious, since they offer a la carte dining, nap rooms and have better shower suites. I really appreciated the vast food selection and the outdoor patio area. It was also interesting to experience a brand that is an amalgamation of 28 International airlines without a unique identity. I loved the aesthetic and design they created. If I find myself departing on an eligible flight out of LAX, I might schedule some extra time at the airport again to visit the lounge again, which is the biggest compliment I can give!