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It’s rare to find a Qantas First lounge next to a Priority Pass lounge and prefer the Priority Pass lounge, but that’s what happened in Auckland. Pros: spacious, good selection of food and five shower rooms. Cons: Food wasn’t top-notch quality, and noise traveled easily.
On a recent trip that brought me through Auckland (AKL), I noticed that I had access to two lounges in the airport before I boarded an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles. I automatically assumed the lounge I could access through my airline status (Qantas International First Lounge) would be better than the Strata Lounge I could access through my Priority Pass Select membership.
But after visiting both lounges, the Priority Pass Strata Lounge beat the Qantas International First Lounge in many ways. Perhaps this shouldn’t have surprised me, given that the Strata Lounge essentially won second place for the 2017 Priority Pass Lounge of the Year award within the Asia-Pacific region. Here’s my take on the Strata Lounge in Auckland.
The Strata Lounge is located airside in the international departures area of the Auckland Airport (AKL). After passing through security checks and immigration, follow the signs for the premium lounges. The Strata Lounge, open daily from 5am to 1am, is on the lefthand side of the terminal at the top of an escalator.
The following airlines used the Strata Lounge for their elite members and premium passengers.
But, anyone with an international departure could access the lounge via eligible membership programs like Priority Pass. A Priority Pass Select membership comes with select credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Platinum Card® from American Express, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express and the Business Platinum® Card from American Express. This is exactly how I accessed this particular lounge.
If you don’t have a Priority Pass membership, you can also pay a fee to enter the lounge. If you pay online for access more than 24 hours before you want to enter the lounge, you’ll pay NZ$49 (about $35) for access three hours before your flight or NZ$75 (about $50) for a stay of up to eight hours. You can also pay at the entrance, but that costs NZ$55 (about $40) for access up to three hours before your flight or NZ$85 ($60) for up to eight hours.
I entered the lounge to the left of the check-in desk. The lounge was spacious, modern and bright.
The space was arranged in a L-shape, with the food buffet directly ahead of the main area after the entrance, and a TV area with a variety of seating to the left. When we visited, there was a soccer game on the TV.
To the right was a counter with stools that could be used for working or eating.
At the corner of the L was an enclosed conference room.
Next to the conference room was a business center with three computers, three seats of additional work spaces and a copier/printer/scanner. This was by far the quietest area of the lounge, so it makes a lot of sense to locate the business center in this corner.
Outside the business center are the main seating and dining areas, which consist mostly of groups of four to six chairs, although they were spread out. This is one of the most open and spacious-feeling lounges I’ve visited to date.
There are also dining tables with two seats each, as well as two long, communal dining tables with stools.
At the far end of the lounge is a glass-enclosed room for children. There was a large TV playing cartoons as well as beanbags and some small toys designed for younger children.
One downside to the Strata Lounge: It became crowded and loud during our stay. The lounge’s open concept didn’t mute noise well.
Various newspapers and magazines were available on top of two counters in the TV area.
It was relatively easy to find a seat with power, but many seats didn’t have access to power outlets. Power could be found in the business center and at seats next to walls, columns and counters. The outlets only accepted angled New Zealand-style plugs, but I was able to get an adapter from the reception desk.
The Wi-Fi required the use of a username and password, available at the check-in desk as well as on cards throughout the lounge. I felt the quality of the Wi-Fi was better than the test indicated.
Restrooms are located in two different parts of the lounge. There were two single-use stalls near the children’s playroom. There are also five shower rooms with toilets near the TV area. Three of these rooms were marked for women and two for men, with each gender having a handicapped-accessible room.
Towels could be obtained from the reception desk, and a combination shampoo/soap was available from a mounted dispenser in each shower. Although each shower room was private, these weren’t the type of shower rooms that were cleaned between uses.
This lounge includes many family-friendly features: a children’s playroom, a high chair in the dining area and a designated family bathroom.
Food and Beverage
Near the lounge entrance is a window into the kitchen.
Food was available on an L-shaped buffet. Separating the buffet from the TV area was a counter containing a soda machine, tea and a hot-water tap and two coffee machines.
During my midday visit, four hot dishes were available: gnocchi, beef pasta, mixed vegetables and roasted potatoes with vegetables. Two soups (lentil and chickpea as well as miso) were also available. The gnocchi was great: rich, creamy and tender.
Various good-looking pastries and quiches were available. A cold area contained three types of sushi and six salads.
An assortment of breads, cheeses, sandwiches and desserts were also available on the counter as well as in a sunken cold area. The dessert cups were the perfect size.
I enjoyed the wide variety of food options at this lounge. However, the overall quality of food was better at the nearby Qantas International First Lounge. That said, there were some dishes, like the gnocchi, that were excellent. And the attention to detail, like having Parmesan cheese for pasta, soup spoons next to the soups and many types of salad dressing, was appreciated.
Just past the end of the food buffet bar was a nice-looking self-serve bar. There were three red wines, three white wines and a sparkling wine, as well as a variety of liquors. The liquors included some seemingly out-of-place brands like Mount Gay and Havana Club rum as well as the usual midtier options. There were also four types of beer and bar snacks.
There’s no question this lounge earned its silver medal and can certainly compete with the award-winner for 2017, the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore (SIN) Terminal 2. It has a lot going for it. In particular, the Strata Lounge offers a wide variety of food and seating, ample shower facilities and child-friendly amenities in a bright, spacious space.
It’s definitely worth showing up to the airport early to get some food, drinks or power in the Strata Lounge. I’d generally choose the Strata Lounge over the nearby Qantas International First Lounge. However, since I have access to both lounges, I’d likely visit the Qantas lounge for better food before resting or working — or eating more food if I didn’t like the offerings at the Qantas lounge — in the Strata Lounge.
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