The 7 Best Airport Lounges In The World - Ranked
Updated: 5 days ago
The Best Airport Lounges, And How To Access Them
It wasn't that long ago that airport lounges were reserved exclusively for the rich. They used to be accessible only to those that had first-class or business-class tickets, and were generally reserved for the long-haul flyer. Now, however, the game is very, very different.
Airport lounges are now the best way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the airport below. They're somewhere to grab a drink, get some decent food and maybe send an email or two before hopping on the flight and watching a random episode of Friends from the early 2000's. But what are the best airport lounges in the world? And how do you actually get into them?
Today, I'm ranking the seven best airport lounges in the world, as well as some honorable mentions. I also cover exactly how to get into these lounges, because they're not all reserved for celebrities (although some actually are). Let's start with number seven:
7. British Airways Executive Club
The flagship carrier for the United Kingdom, British Airways isn't a regular airline for most American travelers. Abroad, however, and B.A becomes a major player. Out of their main hub of London Heathrow, British Airways operates around the world, including many routes out of the American Northeast.
Their lounge network is pretty extensive, with 60 total lounges in 30 airports around the world, including many in Washington D.C, Philadelphia and Newark. They also have a strong presence in Houston, of all places, with two lounges in George Bush Airport.
British Airways is unique on this list for having four separate tiers of lounge: The Concorde Room, Galleries First, Galleries Club and Arrivals. Each has their own level of access and their own quirks, including private dining, shower facilities, cocktails and even napping rooms.
I would have given this one a better ranking due to the sheer opulence of some of the lounges, but there's very little penetration for most of the United States. They also rely on partner airlines in the oneworld alliance in order to facilitate guests in Asia and the Middle East.
Where Is The Best British Airways Executive Club?
It's the Concorde Room. The British Airways Concorde Room is only available in two locations: Heathrow and JFK, and is reserved for the elite of the elite. It's only available to First Class B.A passengers, or Gold Member's of the Executive Club rewards program with over 5,000 Tier Points.
Technically, this is a lounge within a lounge as these locations are nestled inside of the Galleries First Lounges, but they offer incredible luxury. Old British style of winged-back chairs, old wood and a faint smell of imperialism permeate the rooms. They also have their own menus, reserved for a true first class experience.
How Do You Get Into the British Airways Executive Club?
Like many options later on this list, the quickest and easiest way to get into this lounge network is to fly First or Business class on a British Airways flight, either in their Club World or Club Europe programs. Outside of that, you can access these lounges if you are a Silver, Gold, Emerald or Sapphire member of the oneworld airline alliance, of which British Airways is a part of.
6. Delta Sky Clubs
Here are the ones I'm most well versed in. Thanks to living in Atlanta, you can't go ten feet without bumping into a Delta Sky Club, yet somehow each one is always packed?
I say this flippantly, but there are a few reasons that Delta Sky Clubs are sixth on my list. For starters, they have an "ease of entry" problem. Now that business travel is back in full swing, it's very common to see big signs placed outside of the exterior doors to Sky Clubs that they're not accepting other flyers due to overcrowding. Delta tried to take on this issue by limiting time you can spend in the clubs, and also barred arriving passengers from entering. However, this was quickly rolled back after backlash from the community.
Delta could also learn something from British Airways in how they tier their Sky Clubs. There's only one classification of Sky Club, but they vary WILDLY in quality.
For example, the Sky Club in Atlanta Hartsfield Terminal B is a large, airy club that can hold north of 300 people and has lots of natural light. In Terminal F, there's an outdoor patio where you can have a drink and see planes take off. In Terminal E, it's like you've been handed a mimosa in a sub-terranian insane asylum.
Where Is The Best Delta Sky Club?
The best Delta Sky Club is also the newest. Recently opened in Terminal 3 at LAX, Delta's best Sky Club is very Hollywood.
At over 30,000 square feet in size, planning for this Sky Club began in 2018 and represents a new multi-story design for the brand. It also includes new designs for the clubs that feature newly designed seating areas, enclosed booths for working and phone calls, family restrooms and eight shower rooms.
How Do You Get Into the Delta Sky Club?
Enter the "ease of access" overcrowding problem I outlined earlier. There are a TON of ways you can access a Delta Sky Club:
Fly Delta One on a Delta or SkyTeam flight for free access
Purchase an annual Delta Sky Club membership at $545 per year for individuals, or $845 per year for families (you can also use SkyMiles to purchase a membership)
Have the American Express Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card for free access
Have the American Express Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card and pay $39 per visit
Have the American Express Platinum Card or American Express Centurion Card and a same-day Delta flight for free access
Be a Delta Diamond Medallion member who selected Sky Club membership as a Choice Benefit
Have a same-day flight with WestJet in Business Class
Hence, dramatic overcrowding at Delta Sky Clubs the world over.
Delta's Sky Club Priority "Fix"
However, announced in November 2022, Delta is looking to alleviate the overcrowding in the most capitalist way possible: people that spend more money with Delta get Sky Club priority. After a short test period in Atlanta, Delta is now rolling out Sky Club priority entry lanes for passengers that have a First Class or Delta One ticket, or are Delta 360 or Diamond Medallion.
Related: Delta 360 Explained
5. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses
That's right! From the man who has way too much money, presenting: The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses. The marketing geniuses at Virgin are at it again, this time with their own quirky lingo for airline lounges. Sorry...*ahem* "Clubhouses."
They don't call it First Class, it's "Upper Class." It's not a restaurant in the Clubhouse, it's a "Brasserie." Their QR codes don't say "menu," they say "scan for champagne." Seriously. Watch the video below. They also serve "A Virgin Redhead" which I can only imagine the business flyers who think their joke is original while they hit on the bartender in the depressed way only a business traveler can.
Where Is The Best Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse?
For Virgin Atlantic, the OG lounge is still the crown jewel. Apparently, the Brits have figured out luxury lounges because The Clubhouse and Revival Lounge in London Heathrow stands head and shoulders above the rest of the group.
Designated "Retreat" areas with guided meditation, pool table rooms for noisier guests, Peloton bikes for those that are psychopaths who work out prior to boarding a flight, as well as top shelf champagne and food service that spans global cuisines, this lounge has it all for getting ready to fly.
How Do You Get Into the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse?
Accessing these lounges is straightforward, but limited. You can fly Upper Class in a Virgin Atlantic flight, you can have Gold status in their Flying Club rewards program, or, thanks to their partnership with Delta, you can be a Gold Medallion member or better. No credit cards, no memberships to purchase. Just peace.
4. American Express Centurion Lounges
This may be surprising to see at #4 on my list for many American travelers, as the American Express Centurion Lounges are commonly considered some of the best in the United States.
The newest entrant on this list, the first Centurion Lounge opened in 2013 in Las Vegas, and Amex hasn't stopped. There are now 13 Centurion Lounges dotted around the United States, with two more planned for completion by the end of 2023. There are also 14 more around the world, including three individual Centurion Lounges in Mexico City.
These are often viewed as the pinnacle of opulence. These lounges are helmed by Michelin star chefs that create insane menus that rotate on a daily basis. They also have incredible craft cocktails, including one very famous one that I'll touch on in a moment.
Finally, American Express is also diving into the world of pop-up shops with their Centurion Lounges, creating temporary ones for major events. Last year saw the inaugural year of the Centurion Suite at the U.S Open in Flushing, NY, and this year saw another one appear at Wimbledon, which also included a performance by Adele.
Where Is The Best American Express Centurion Lounge?
Remember that "famous cocktail" I teased earlier? That is the "1850 Espresso Martini," which can be found at what many consider to be the best Centurion Lounge in the world, located at New York's JFK Airport. Inside this Centurion Lounge is a secret speakeasy (called "1850") that has been a fan favorite since it opened in 2020.
The JFK location is also currently the largest Centurion Lounge in the world, clocking in at just over 15,000 square feet. However, that record is getting blown out of the water next year when the Atlanta location opens, which will come in at a mind-bending 26,000 square feet. The Atlanta location will also include a living wall (alluding to Atlanta's nickname "the city in the forest") and will have a full bourbon-tasting room.
How Do You Get Into the American Express Centurion Lounge?
Similar to the Delta Sky Club I talked about earlier, the Centurion Lounges suffer from an "ease of entry" problem, which also leads to dramatic overcrowding. Although there are no memberships to purchase, entry into the Centurion Lounges come down to having one of three credit cards:
The American Express Centurion Card
The American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card
Due to the sheer volume of people that have one of these cards, coupled with the relative scarcity of the lounges themselves, you commonly get overcrowding and lines that can take up to 45 minutes to get through.
It's worth noting, however, that Centurion Card holders are not subject to waiting in line. Turns out, spending a ton of money with Amex will let you skip the line, and each lounge has their own section reserved for Centurion Card holders.
3. Qatar Airways Lounge
Again, as an American flyer, Qatar Airways doesn't usually pop-up on my radar of accessible flight options. Emirates and Etihad (more on that later) are at least in my consciousness thanks to credit card point transfer programs and partnerships with U.S-based airlines, but Qatar is one of those airlines that the rest of the world seems content with the U.S not using.
Qatar has gained something of a legendary reputation around the world, thanks in large part to their top tier business class product, named "Qsuite." The Qsuite is considered by many to be the best business class product in the world. Window seats consist of a lie-flat bed with large in-flight entertainment screen and sublime food. However, it's the middle seats that get most of the attention.
If you're traveling as a couple, the middle seats are connected by a removable divider that, once lowered, allow the two seats to become a connected double bed! It gets even better if you're a family of four traveling, as the middle walls can be hinged to reveal a pod-like area where families can relax and sleep.
Finally, one of the best benefits of the Qsuite is actually on the ground, as you get access to the Qatar Lounge network, specifically the Al Safwa Lounge at Doha Hamad International.
Where Is The Best Qatar Lounge?
As many who are traveling to Qatar this winter for the FIFA World Cup will soon find out, the Al Safwa Lounge at DOH is fucking ridiculous. Why? Because every lounge we have talked about on this list so far is either one room, or one big, multi-story room. The Al Safwa lounge is...well, it's the entire floor of the airport, taking up the same size as a terminal. I'm not kidding when I say how big this lounge is. On the official Qatar Airways page detailing the lounge, they have a full Google Maps plug-in to guide you through the entire lounge. It's that big.
So what's actually in this lounge? First off, it's beautiful to look at. Inspired by Doha's Museum of Islamic Art, the lounge looks like a tribute to Middle Eastern art and culture with gold and copper accents along a grooved sandstone wall. There's also one hell of a water feature when you walk in.
The food is next level, featuring both Western and Middle Eastern menu items. As with all of the other lounges, you also get top-shelf champagne. However, unlike other lounges, you can also get a complimentary massage following your meal. You could also hop in the jacuzzi they have on-site.
Did you want to get some work done but forget your laptop? Al Safwa has you covered with individual business centers containing both Mac's and PC's! How about getting some light shopping done before your flight? Well, this lounge has its own duty-free store, only for Al Safwa Lounge guests.
How Do You Get Into the Qatar Lounges?
In order to gain access to both the Al Safwa Lounge, as well as its sister lounge Al Mourjan, you need to either fly First with Qatar, or fly Qsuite and pony up an extra fee. For the Al Safwa lounge, it's a $165 fee for a six-hour pass. For the Al Mourjan Lounge, it's a $120 fee. However, both of these include two guest passes.
If you're an American traveler, then you have a bit of a backdoor getting into this lounge. According to Thrifty Traveler, if you have a business class flight that connects via Doha but continues into the Middle East, then your ticket out of Doha will confer to a Qatar First ticket, giving you free access to the lounge.
2. Etihad Residence Lounge
If you're anything into luxury travel, it probably won't surprise you that we have two Middle Eastern representatives on this list. Well, as crazy as the Al Safwa Lounge is in terms of grandeur and scale, the Etihad Residence Lounge has it beat in terms of total experience.
This Lounge is actually a relic of the pre-pandemic era for Etihad, when they offered extremely select seating for the uber-wealthy, named "The Residence." This seat offering included three full rooms onboard the plane: a traditional seat suite with an oversized chair, full sized TV and bench where your less important friend could hang out, as well as a full bathroom (with shower!) and a full bedroom with queen-size bed and another full-size TV. All of this came equipped with a personal butler to adhere to your every beck and call.
Naturally, there were only one of these offered per flight, and there were only 10 planes in the Etihad fleet that were big enough to offer this service, which means these were super-exclusive seats. Well, Etihad created on-the-ground lounges to match the on-board experience.
Where Is The Best Etihad Residence Lounge?
Housed in Etihad's main hub of Abu Dhabi, the Residence Lounge is actually a lounge within a lounge. The lounge process actually begins at your hotel, where Etihad coordinates your pickup in a private Audi A8 transport. This private transport takes you not to the airport check-in, but to the Etihad First Lounge goes a step further.
According to popular travel blog One Mile At A Time, he was greeted by two Etihad representatives outside of the lounge: a porter to take his bags, and an agent who already checked him in and printed his boarding pass. Nice.
From there, you are fast-tracked through security and into the lounge, where you're marshalled into your own private room where you are king for the next six hours.
From here, you have access to everything. Coffee and light snacks are set out for you, but you can order anything you want and your personal butler and wait staff will get it for you. You have access to a private bathroom that includes Residence-branded everything. Toiletries, robes, all of it. All of the furniture is also crafted of the same leather that the actual Residence plane seat is made from, keeping the same feel from ground to sky.
And did I mention the in-lounge spa and barber shop?
How Do You Get Into the Etihad Residence Lounge?
Here's the best part: you can't unless you fly Residence. There are only two Residence lounges in existence, and they're both in Abu Dhabi, with one serving as an overflow lounge for the first as they're meant to be completely private experiences.
The worst part? This lounge is unlikely to come back. I used the word "relic" earlier, and I wasn't kidding. The Residence, while opulent as hell, was also unwieldy and had a very niche market of potential customers. The pandemic was the straw that broke the camel's back, and Etihad nixed the program in 2021. However, recent statements from the Etihad CEO have indicated that it may make a reappearance soon....
1. P/S LAX (formerly known as The Private Suites)
Here it is! The ultimate lounge for ultimate luxury. I present to you: The Private Suites.
The Private Suites consist of essentially a building in L.A that's near LAX Airport, as well as an attached lounge. Within that building are eight individual suites with full living rooms and bathrooms that essentially transport you to feeling like you're in a 5-star hotel.
The amenities are...ridiculous. Once you're in, it's all included drinking and eating until you explode, and the selection is great. All of the liquor and champagne are top-tier, and the menu is a perfect selection curated by internationally renowned chefs. There's also a separate bar and lounge area called The Salon if you don't need the exclusivity of your own suite, which provides all of the same benefits.
Once it's time for your flight, your personal butler comes to grab you and take you through your own private TSA checkpoint. Once cleared, you get a private transfer in a P/S branded BMW to take you across the tarmac to your plane.
But all of this comes at one hell of a price.
If you want to read more, check out my full write-up of The Private Suites!
Related: What Are The Private Suites at LAX?
Where Is The Best Private Suite Lounge?
This one's a trick question, because there's currently only one. The flagship location in L.A is the only place you can go to get pampered like this at the moment. However, the company behind P/S is planning their first expansion into...you guessed it...Atlanta!
That's right! Atlanta is not only getting a Centurion Lounge in 2023, but we're also getting a P/S. If you guys click enough ads on this site, I might be able to hook you guys up with a boots-on-the-ground review.
How Do You Get Into the Private Suite Lounge?
There is one way into these suites, and it's to buy your way in. First of all, you have to have an annual membership to the program, which is about $4,500 per year. However, this annual membership is actually included for American Express Centurion Card holders, so there's a nice perk.
If you want to actually use the suite, you'll have to pony up a few more dollars. The per-use fee clocks in at a cool $3,150 per use, but you can also bring up to 4 other people in your traveling party, which would make for one hell of a bachelor party experience.
If you want to forego the Private Suite and just hit The Salon, that is a slightly more palatable option for $995 without a membership. Just remember to get your money's worth on the Veuve included in your price.