From chic to boutique: how four airport lounges found their look

From chic to boutique: how four airport lounges found their look

The business class experience isn't restricted to above the clouds. Airport lounges are also raising the bar, not just in what they offer but the environment they create for high flyers while on the ground. Here are four lounges with their own unique look and feel.

Qantas: contemporary class

Qantas is forging ahead with a nation-wide revamp of its lounges, taking them from a safe, corporate but in the end (and after a decade) almost-characterless design to a format which allows each lounge to reflect its location and have its own sense of identity.

The Qantas Business Lounge, Perth

There's no mistaking Qantas' Perth business lounge (above) for its Brisbane sibling (below), even though both share common hallmarks in furniture and facilities such as bars and dining areas.

The Qantas Business Lounge, Brisbane

Melbourne is set to follow suit next month when the wraps come off the new-look Qantas business lounge.

Coming soon: the Qantas Business Lounge, Melbourne

Shaped by Qantas' long-time lounge partner Woods Bagot, business class travellers and Qantas Platinum and Platinum One card-holders will see a more spacious, less cluttered and generally 'open' design evolved from the Perth and Brisbane lounges.

Coming soon: the Qantas Business Lounge, Melbourne

Expect plenty of subtle urban and urbane cues from Melbourne city, along with exclusive views to the tarmac now that the Qantas Club has been relocated to the inner part of the terminal.

Cathay Pacific: residential chic

When Cathay Pacific decided to revamp its lounge network the airline turned to London-based designer Ilse Crawford.

Ilse Crawford gave Cathay Pacific's new-look lounges a high-end residential vibe

Crawford's focus on a 'home away from home' vibe made the lounges into elegant retreats where travellers can snatch an hour or two of calm before their flight with ample carpeting to soften the acoustics, and gentle lighting to create a more personal and personable space.

Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong

The pinnacle of this is The Pier First Class lounge at Hong Kong, which has aptly been described as looking like an apartment owned by a friend who not only has better taste than you but a lot more money as well.

Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong

"Travellers can feel a little bit disoriented and tired, and lounges often don't help you by creating a big, big space with many niches" Crawford says.

"So we're trying to create something that is more like a real space and has rooms, and also a connection of the rooms which makes sense, creating a layout that's intuitively easy to navigate."

Crawford is especially proud of the "amazing showers" in her Cathay lounges.

Cathay Pacific lounge showers, Hong Kong

"An environment can either say 'I care about you' or it can say 'I don't care about you'… to me, an amazing shower is just being able to feel that the designer has really anticipated your needs."

United Airlines: the business class lounge

United Airlines is busy rolling out its own new-look international lounges, which share the same Polaris brand as the carrier's latest business class.

United Airlines' impressive Polaris lounges make a statement

Indeed, the Polaris lounges are restricted to business class (and first class) travellers: even the airline's own top-tier frequent flyers are shunted to the less-impressive United Club lounges.

Five Polaris lounges already dot the US landscape – at Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and NY-adjacent Newark – with Los Angeles to open before year's end.

United Airlines' Polaris is a business class-only lounge

However, United's Director of Premium Services, Alex Dorow, says that while each Polaris lounge will be immediately recognisable as part of United's portfolio they will also be "distinct to the market, because we want to ensure that as a customer it's not monotonous. You want to feel that you're in San Francisco, or LA, or Chicago."

United Airlines' Polaris is a business class-only lounge

That means local touches from artwork to food, including a different à la carte dining menu based on its flight destinations.

United Airlines' Polaris lounge dining rooms feature local cuisine

The bar at the LAX Polaris lounge, for example, "will really feel like you're in California, especially in Southern California, with the unique tiles that are indigenous to that area," Dorow says, along with a strong focus "on wine and spirits which is attributed to the California clientele, more so than any of our other hubs."

Cheers! Each United Airlines' Polaris lounge features a tended bar

"I can't make your flight go any faster, but I can certainly take care of you on the ground and give you a very custom experience to make that flight more comfortable."

American Express: the boutique lounge

American Express opened its own lounge at Melbourne's international terminal earlier this year, with entry available to select AMEX card-holders regardless of which airline they're flying or what cabin class they're in.

Melbourne's American Express Lounge

Designed by Sydney-born and now Hong Kong-based Mitchel Squires, the lounge – like its Sydney sibling – uses its compact footprint to create a cosy exclusive feel.

Mitchel Squires, designer of the Melbourne AMEX Lounge

Squires has divided the space into three separate 'zones' for dining, a quieter space "and a business bureau in the back of the lounge."

Melbourne's American Express Lounge

"When you go into a lounge as a business traveller and there's a bunch of families and kids there, you want to get away from that,' says Squires. "Dedicated business hubs always cater for the business traveller."

Melbourne's American Express Lounge

As somebody who does plenty of travel, Squires explains that "when I approach lounge design I'm also also catering to what I look for in a lounge."

Melbourne's American Express Lounge

"On business trips I'm looking for good food, and then a quiet place for my own business activity. On leisure trips I'm looking for more of a social zone and a relaxing area."

Review: American Express Lounge, Melbourne Airport

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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