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Top 5 best airline business lounges in the world

By John Walton     Filed under: cathay pacific, narita, tokyo, haneda, JAL, Hong Kong, Virgin Atlantic, HKG, Japan, Lufthansa, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, KL, lounges, london, munich, Cathay, Heathrow, Virgin Clubhouse, Clubhouse, germany, Malaysia Airlines, KLIA, airport lounges, LHR, The Wing, The Pier, The Cabin, Golden Lounge, MUC, KUL, First Class Lounge, First Class Terminal, Japan Airlines, Sakura Lounge

What's the world's best airline lounge, and how do you get in? Travel guidebook company Frommers picked its five favourites, but they didn't say why they picked each lounge or tell you much about them.

Here's our take on their top five for business travellers, plus where to find them, what to expect, and -- perhaps most importantly -- how you can get in.

#1: Hong Kong: The Wing (Cathay Pacific)

Long a favourite of business travellers, Cathay's three flagship lounges (The Wing, The Pier and brand new The Cabin) in Hong Kong get continually good reviews for service and quality.

The Wing (near gate 2) and The Pier (near gates 62-66) have separate First and Business Class lounges, but The Cabin (near gate 23) has First and Business Class services combined. We've got some great shots of The Cabin in our gallery so you know what to expect.

What you'll find

The Wing is split into two: a First Class Lounge and a Business Class area, both situated near gate 2 and opening from 0430 until the final flight leaves. Wi-fi and power sockets are available easily throughout both lounges.

First Class guests get hotel room-style bathrooms (which Cathay calls The Cabanas) with a soaking tub and rainfall head in the shower, and there's a proper sit-down restaurant in The Haven. There's also a special quiet spot in The Library.

In the Business Class area, there's a noodle bar, a food bar and a drinks bar, plus the usual showers (though less opulent than the First Class offerings).

How to get in

Diamond members of Cathay's Marco Polo Club can access any lounge any time, even if travelling on a non-oneworld airline. Anyone else with the right card to access the lounge needs to be on a same-day oneworld ticket.

First Class lounge: Cathay Pacific or oneworld First Class passengers, plus Asia Miles Gold and oneworld Emerald members (includes Qantas Platinum). Also by invitation from Swiss, South African, Aeroflot and Shenzhen Airlines.

Business Class lounge: Cathay Pacific or oneworld Business Class Passengers, Asia Miles Silver, Cathay Cargo Clan Elite and Oneworld Sapphire members. Also by invitation from Swiss, South African, Aeroflot and Shenzhen Airlines.

#2: London Heathrow: Clubhouse (Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin's home base lounge has everything from a proper cocktail bar to a Cowshed spa to a hair stylist from trendy New York salon Bumble & Bumble. 

Since Virgin's Upper Class is actually an international business class, this is their top lounge -- and it's a leap ahead of any other business class lounges in Heathrow, even BA's new Club lounge in Terminal 5. Check out our full gallery of Clubhouse pictures for what to expect.

If you've passed through FastTrack security, walk straight ahead across the departures area, bear left and follow the signs for Lounge H.

What you'll find

The Clubhouse is one of the best business class lounges around, with wine and cocktail bars, relaxation areas, massage and facial services, a hairdresser and loads of seating and working area. 

It's open from 0700 to 2200, is spread over three floors, and has direct access from check-in and from the Upper Class complimentary limo service.

How to get in

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers and Flying Club Gold members, plus American Express Centurion card holders and BMI Gold frequent flyers. Other arrangements with Singapore Airlines are no longer in operation for the London Clubhouse, although different rules apply for the Clubhouse at New York's JFK.

#3: Kuala Lumpur: Golden Lounge, Satellite Building (Malaysian Airlines)

A hidden and unexpected gem, Malaysia Airlines' home lounge isn't on many business travellers' radars. Split into First Class and Business Class areas, the lounge is upstairs in the Satellite Building at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) -- which is somewhat confusingly named, given that it's the main international terminal.

The lounge is open from 0500 until the last departure.

What you'll find

The remarkably spacious first class area is often empty, with a wide variety of hot food at the buffet, "slumber rooms", massage chairs and a sauna. It's similar to the business class offering, but a notch above in space and quality.

In the business class area, there's an impressively large and frequently empty lounge with bars and self-service food buffet, business centre, spa with showers, separate children's area and even a putting green. Massage is also available, but  comes at a small fee.

How to get in

First Class lounge access is granted to Malaysia Airlines First Class passengers and Enrich Gold frequent flyers only. Since Malaysia only has First Class cabins in its 747s, which are used on routes to Sydney, London, Buenos Aires via Cape Town and Amsterdam, that's probably why it feels so exclusive.

The Business class lounge is available for Malaysia's Golden Club (business) class passengers, plus Etihad Diamond First and Pearl Business class customers. Etihad Guest Silver and Gold frequent flyers also have access.

#4: Munich: First Class Lounge, Lufthansa

When talking about Lufthansa lounges, we'd have picked the entirely separate First Class Terminal in Frankfurt over the Munich lounge, but the Munich offering is still a fantastic lounge.

Fast lane passport checks and security (that actually works, unlike at certain other European hubs), massage, a cigar lounge, B&O sound systems, bathrooms with jacuzzis...it's a great way to wait for a flight.

The lounge is open from 0500 to 2200, near gate G21 on level 4 and H21 on level 5.

What you'll find

Smaller than many of the other top-rated lounges, the Munich lounge seats 70 on two levels in terminal 2.

A proper restaurant with table service, buffet and bar areas serve reputedly excellent food and drink. For catching up on a bit of work, there's plenty of seating, Wi-Fi and four quiet office cubicles with desks and chairs. Smokers will love the special cigar lounge, and non-smokers will love the fact that it's got special ventilation.

Hotel-style bathrooms with proper jacuzzi baths are available, and the staff masseurs will work out the knots in your back at a reasonable rate of 1 euro per minute. There's also a shoe-shining service while you wait.

Lufthansa will also deliver you straight from the lounge to your plane in a Mercedes or Porsche chauffeur-driven car.

How to get in

You've got to be travelling in Lufthansa First Class or be one of their Miles & More HON Circle top-tier members to get into this lounge. First Class passengers on airlines owned by Lufthansa, including Swiss and Austrian (but not yet BMI), also get in.

Star Alliance Gold members or First Class passengers on non-Lufthansa airlines -- even with LH flight numbers on codeshare flights -- need not apply and must slum it in the (always busy and not entirely satisfactory) Senator or Business lounges.

#5: Tokyo Haneda: International Lounges

Haneda is Tokyo's smaller and more central airport, closer into the city than the larger Narita, which handles most international flights. With the new runway and international terminal built in 2010, JAL opened three new lounges: its First Class Lounge, Sakura Lounge for business class passengers, and an arrivals lounge.

What you'll find

The First Class lounge is mostly a copy of the version at Narita airport: one main area with a separate First Class section, although reportedly less crowded than Narita's lounges. 

There's a large buffet of Japanese and Western food for a bite to eat, plus an open bar with bartender to wet your whistle. For relaxation, there are the usual shower rooms, plus free massages from the staff masseur, and a separate relaxation area with "curve-shaped loungers" and massage chairs. There's also a separate area for children.

How to get in

Japan Airlines' First Class passengers, plus Mileage Bank Diamond and JGC Premier frequent flyers have access to the First Class Lounge, as do oneworld Emerald (top-tier) frequent flyers, including Qantas Platinums.

Sakura Lounge access is granted to JAL Executive (business) class, Mileage Bank Sapphire, Global Club and oneworld Sapphire members, including Qantas Golds.

Have you been to any of these lounges? What did you think? Is your favourite lounge not on the list? Let us know in the comments below. 

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About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 7/2/11 by kcknacks

Completely agree that the Cathay lounges in HKG are the best, and have been for as long as they've been open.  Which I think says a lot about them as staying power is difficult in this era of big spending on lounges so CX's ability to stay on top over the years is admirable.  Although I am surprised not to see Qantas' Sydney First Class Lounge on this list, as the space is brilliant and the service (which I believe is managed by Sofitel thus explaning the attention to detail) is excellent.  All this being said, I need to find an excuse to fly on VS to London as the Clubhouse is now very high on my list of lounges to visit!

2 on 13/5/11 by Shaun

I haven't actually been in any of the lounges on the list - but out of those that I have been to, the Qantas Sydney First lounge is by far my favourite.

Velocity Gold members get access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounges when flying on VS, so I will have to try out VS and their lounge one day.

3 on 13/5/11 by am

Very surprised to see the MH and the Haneda lounges on that list... While I've never done the MH one, it's hardly made headlines (though I guess that could be an asset). And is the JL one is a copy of Narita then it's not that special either - very simple, very boring...

QF in Sydney is one of the best, I think the Concorde Room in LHR is also pretty special (but crazy hard to get into - I had to use points to upgrade into First - frequent flyer status can't get you in), and I realy like the styling of the new Galleries lounges in T5... I also really like the NZ lounge in Sydney, though it's nothing really special. Have to try the Clubhouse out one day too :)

4 on 13/5/11 by 777

Yes, as Shaun already pointed out, Velocity Gold members get access to the Virgin clubhouse in LHR - and all other Virgin Atlantic operated (not partner) lounges. 

5 on 13/5/11 by AusFlyer

I have been in all lounges except Lufthansa and I can't say I completely agree with the article. I agree that the CX lounge deserves a place although I would rank the Qantas First lounge, which I find strange you completely omitted, as slightly better... Particularly as the CX lounges don't even do cook to order meals like the QF First lounge does. The Malaysian Airlines lounge in KL is good... But not rave material and as for the Haneda lounge... Other than being new... Are pretty average. The same goes for the Virgin Clubhouse which was funky but that was about it.

6 on 14/5/11 by lolly

I've been to 2 out of those 5 lounges. I must say I am also very surprised not to see Qantas' Sydney First Class Lounge, and the Melbourne equivalent. The wine, champagne and Neil Perry's food selection and Payot massage/ facial definitely have an edge over the Cathay lounges in HKG. 

 

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