Airlines & Airport Lounges

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I travel on business, a lot. Last year I flew enough miles to have gone around the world ten times. The year before was about the same and the year before that was even more intense. Karen has often joked that I should write a guide on airlines and airport lounges. Personally, I can think of nothing more depressing given how the glamor has been ripped out of air travel over the last few decades. However, after a bit of prodding, I did agree to at least do a short article on some of the best and worst based on my experience over the last several years.

Airlines
The best First & Business Class is on Emirates Airlines. Singapore Airlines is close but the seats on the Airbus A380 in Emirates Business Class, and the cabins in First Class, are simply superior. Delta Airlines gets high marks for its new Business Class pods and so does American Airlines. In fact, I would rate American Airlines most improved over the last few years in terms of their long-haul Business Class product. First class on American is a different proposition as the seats on many of the planes are well overdue for replacement. Qantas Business Class is consistently good, but I am not a big fan of the seat configuration they use on the A380. You have little to no privacy which can make working on a 16-hour flight difficult at times. British Airways Business and First Class on their 747s and 777s is state of the art……circa end of last century. Fifteen years ago, British Airways was my preferred long-haul airline, today I try to avoid it. The planes are old and tired and BA’s cost cutting has reduced the entire experience to below average at best. Cathay Pacific is another airline that is consistently excellent. Avianca, Asiana & South African Airways should be avoided whenever possible. JAL is consistently very good while Air France is either excellent or horrible. Lufthansa is another one I try to avoid as I find the overall experience quite cold and sterile.

Airport Lounges
My favorite airport lounge by a considerable margin is the Cathay Pacific Wing Lounge in Hong Kong Airport. The food is outstanding, the service excellent, and the private cabanas put it in a whole different league. Hong Kong is one destination where I will arrange for an extended layover just so I can go to the lounge and relax between long haul flights. It never feels crowded and the staff is outstanding. The Singapore Airline lounges at Changi Airport would be #2 on my list with the Qantas 1st class Lounge in Sydney not far behind. After these three it drops off quite a bit. The Emirates & Qatar lounges in their respective home airports tend to be huge but don’t feel particularly special or memorable. The British Airways lounges at Heathrow are overcrowded and tired. While you don’t have a choice other than the British Airways lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5, at Terminal 3, I will opt for any of the other One World Alliance lounges over the British Airways offering.

In the US, the new American Airlines Flagship Lounge at O’Hare Airport is my favorite. The Flagship Lounge has consistently good food with a menu that changes regularly, good seating, and good coffee. The American Express Centurion Lounges, with the exception of the one in Las Vegas, are consistently good but tend to be over crowded. United’s lounges, like the airline, are best avoided. Delta’s SkyClubs are normally fairly nice and many have been recently renovated. Of the multitude of other lounges in the US, none are particularly inspiring.

While quite high level and a bit general, I hope you enjoyed this quick sprint across airlines and their lounges. If there is enough interest, I might come back with more depth of individual aspects in the future.

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March 2019

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