The World's Best
As anyone who has flown since the Sept. 11 attacks knows, the delays at airports are even longer than ever. While most travelers recognize the need to undergo more thorough security checks, the need to arrive several hours early, even for domestic flights, can play hell with most executives' schedules. To make up for precious time away from the office, first-class and business-class lounges are playing an even greater role in providing a place for passengers to make phone calls, go online and hold meetings. At the same time, thanks to the recent boom years in the travel industry, many lounges around the world are now better equipped to provide improved nonbusiness services as well, offering such perks as spas, gyms, showers and, in some cases, even babysitting. Here are our top ten picks:
The Wing: Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong International Airport
Zen is the word at this 43,000-square-foot, wood-and-granite, open-air facility overlooking the terminal. Spread out at the 80-foot, aptly named Long Bar, or dine at one of four restaurants, including the Haven (strictly for first-class passengers) and a Japanese noodle bar. The Spa offers a complete line of services, but nothing tops the private cabanas, complete with personal showers, beds and oversized tubs. True road warriors, however, can spend their time on the wireless Web from anywhere in The Wing.
Clubhouse: Virgin Atlantic, San Francisco International Airport
Shortly after SFO's International Terminal opened its doors last year, Virgin's $3.2 million Clubhouse followed suit. Most striking are the multicolored, floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and the city's skyline. A rotating digital-art exhibit showcases local artists, and in an extension of the Upper Class "Freedom" menu, where you're free to eat whatever and whenever you want, the Clubhouse serves light snacks and entrees at any time of the day or night.
Terraces Lounge: British Airways, JFK International Airport
Dubbed "an air travel environment for the 21st century," Terraces is indeed more backyard than board room, with trickling water fountains, the sounds of birds chirping, fully reclining lounge chairs under white umbrellas, and--no joke--the subtle scent of cut grass. A Molton Brown Travel Spa has hydrotherapy showers, reflexology treatments and specially designed pre- and post-flight massages.
Silver Kris: Singapore Airlines, Singapore Changi Airport
Service-conscious Singapore's 30,000-square-foot lounge accommodates 200 first-class and 450 business-class passengers. Tropical plants and aquariums abound, walls are covered with works by local artists, and 42-inch plasma screens show news and sports continuously.
Extra Travel Tip
No time for down time? London's Heathrow recently opened the "Island," a pay-as-you-go airport lounge in Terminal 3. Open daily from 5 AM to 2 PM, admission is $36 per person and allows access to one of 29 showers, steam cleaning and shoe shining, satellite television, and Internet connections.