Airberlin's 'Exclusive Waiting Areas' are one of a kind: they're not lounges per se, but they're a step up from your typical and otherwise boring experience at the boarding gate.
Open to elite frequent flyers of Virgin Australia and Etihad before short hops with Airberlin, travellers are treated to a quiet place in which to work, check their emails, sip coffee and catch up on the day's news.
With locations in major German and Austrian cities such as Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich and Vienna, we stopped by Hamburg Airport to see what the Exclusive Waiting Area had to offer – here's what we thought.
Location & Impressions
Once you've passed security screening and have entered the terminal proper, walk forward towards the aircraft gates and then turn right at the final corridor.
You'll spot the Exclusive Waiting Area sign next to the foreign exchange outlet at Gate C8, with the stairs leading up to the entrance.
It's not your conventional airport lounge, but being away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal gives guests considerably more privacy than in the Exclusive Waiting Area at Munich Airport, which ultimately makes the space feel a little more lounge-like.
Throwing a spanner into the works, a Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold or Platinum card won't get you through the door – despite Airberlin's Oneworld membership and the alliance's lounge access rules for Sapphire- and Emerald-tier members.
Why? Exclusive Waiting Areas aren't deemed 'lounges', and thus don't fall under the regular access rules.
Instead, Airberlin admits only its high-paying passengers and high-ranking frequent flyers, and that of Virgin Australia and Etihad. Here's the full list:
- Airberlin business class guests
- Economy travellers on an Airberlin FlyFlex fare
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum guests
- Airberlin Topbonus Silver, Gold and Platinum cardholders
- Etihad Guest Silver, Gold and Platinum members
Staff don't man the entry, so just scan your boarding pass or swipe your frequent flyer card to waltz on in – and if that doesn't work, there's a phone nearby to call for help:
We found that if you're visiting the lounge by way of your Virgin Australia Velocity status, you'll need to swipe your membership card to enter rather than scanning the boarding pass – even if the Velocity number is attached to your Airberlin booking.
Remember how this "isn't a lounge", according to Oneworld?
They've got a point – your beverage choices are limited to soft drink, tea and coffee. Period.
We certainly welcomed the latter during our pre-sunrise visit and admittedly went back for seconds before trudging towards the boarding gate, although the only food available is that for sale out in the terminal.
Airberlin's Hamburg Exclusive Waiting Area is a surprisingly quiet place to get some work done before a flight – whether that's syncing your emails or buckling down for some serious keyboard bashing.
There's fast and free Wi-Fi, and each table is both on its lonesome and at a perfect height for sitting and using a laptop:
Many seats also have power points nearby.
Okay, so you have to bend your knees to power up, but let's not pretend that your charger doesn't reach the tabletop!
Aside from a TV tuned to a German-language network – as you'd of course expect in Germany – magazines and newspapers are available to pass the time:
Among the reading list is Focus, Grazia, Elle, oh, and Playboy...
Don't sweat the time – boarding calls are made when your aircraft is ready, and a convenient flight screen stands at the exit to remind of your gate number.
Again, this is far from a regular airport lounge, but as Exclusive Waiting Areas go, Hamburg Airport is home to one of the better ones.
Unlike the Exclusive Waiting Area in Munich, this facility has wireless Internet rather than a sea of Ethernet cables.
The difference is negligible for laptop users, yet it allows tablet-wielding travellers to logon and surf with ease – a huge plus when iPads are essential kit for many business travellers.
Being one floor above the regular terminal also does wonders for both privacy and noise, with plenty of the former and barely any of the latter if you exclude the odd boarding call.
It's certainly a raw deal to deny Qantas and Oneworld frequent flyers their morning cup of coffee when they're travelling with a Oneworld airline, but the bigger loss is having nowhere to set up and work while you're on the road.
But if you're on that magical door list, there's no denying that a visit to the Exclusive Waiting Area sure beats waiting at the boarding gate.
Also reviewed: Airberlin 'Exclusive Waiting Area', Munich Airport
Chris Chamberlin was travelling as a guest of Airberlin and Etihad.
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