This month we delve into that quiet and revered airport sanctuary! TheDesignAir once again, with strategic print partner Airways magazine bring you the very best Top 10 Airport Lounges in the world 2015. As well as appearing online, they will appear in print in every monthly glossy issue of Airways magazine, available around the world. We are impressed with the standard of lounges being opened around the world. This arena seems to be where the battle is now seen between carriers. Lounges around the world have become more than just a place to relax or work before a flight. The last couple of years have seen these previously uninspiring vacuous spaces become areas of luxury and comfort, with a large emphasis on branding spaces. In a bid to win over consumers, airlines have invested heavily into premium products, and this is increasingly evident in their airport experiences. Many of the latest openings scored highly, indicating an increasing trend in airlines offering a more premium, more aesthetically and ergonomically considered space for far more well travelled passengers Our team of judges have reviewed the very best products and whittled down their ‘Top 10′ to experience in 2015 and rate them out of 100. As always, we look at the entire package when judging each product, but we place a heavier weighting on aesthetic and design – after all, that is our forté here at TheDesignAir. Check out our last ranking here.
8. [Joint] British Airways Concorde Lounge, LHR [-4]
Having been rolled out two years ago, British Airways’ new First Class product supplies a real reason to fly First Class with BA. Reserved for First Class passengers only (no frequent flying economy passengers here), the best bit about the lounge is its fine dining restaurant. The menu is fairly extensive and both the food and the wine are truly at the top of their game. If you need some time to relax, BA offers ‘Cabana’ style rooms, with comfortable day beds and en-suite facilities. Obviously, flying First Class means that you have access to the Elemis spa, which is part of the larger lounge concept at Terminal 5. Forgot to book the Opera in New York? Don’t forget to check out the Quintessentially concierge, available only here at the Concorde Room, a lounge living up to its name, where time really does tend to go faster than you think.
8. [Joint] Qatar Airways Lounge, DOH [New Entry]
A sweeping staircase over a tranquility pond is just the introduction to Qatar Airways’ latest flagship lounge. A fantastically spacious lounge, covering two levels and 10,000 square meters, it is almost the size of ten Olympic-sized swimming pools and can play host to up to 1,000 guests at a time. Housing both the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge and the First Class Al Safwa lounge, this is the home to a wealth of amenities, including a Formula 1 simulator, a hotel, a spa and even squash courts. The design is the height of modernity and offers a luxurious start to any journey with Qatar Airways.
8. [Joint] Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, LHR [New Entry]
The original and most acclaimed luxury lounge in the world, Virgin Atlantic’s flagship lounge at London Heathrow has earned its place in our top 10 this year due to its continued and applauded brand partnership. Constantly reinventing itself, and bringing new technology and current trends to its most treasured passengers, Virgin Atlantic hasn’t allowed its lounge to become tired over the years. Continually trained mixologists, a luxury spa and hairdressers, mixed with a design that is inherently Virgin, contribute to keeping this product one of the very best and one of the original blueprints for the luxury lounge concept. Whilst the airline has had a recent injection from Delta, Virgin Atlantic has shown it truly has one of the best ground products that money can buy.
7. GVK Lounge, BOM [New Entry]
This brand new opulent and breathtaking pay-for lounge is spread across an area of some 30,000 sq. The GVK Lounge has the capacity to accommodate 440 guests and hosts some of the most innovative facilities and latest technologies in the form of Concierge Services, a Smoking Zone, luxury catering, a fully serviced bar, a Luxury Spa, a Shower Area, a Relaxation Area, a Library and a Business Centre. The only pay-for lounge featuring in our Top 10 list, it has a design element that epitomises the very pinnacle of modern Indian design.
6. JAL First Class Lounge, HND [New Entry]
As yet another new development this year, Japan Airlines opened this brand new addition to its first class wing in Tokyo Haneda this month, which, in our judges’ eyes, is both the height of modernity and luxury. Its crowning glory, called ‘RED Suite’, is JAL’s new adult hideaway; basically a space where the adults can get comfortable and forget about the airport for a couple of hours, whilst enjoying really comfortable and unique surroundings. Designed more for today’s Phileas Foggs than for super modern travelers, the lounge fuses classic ‘Gentleman’s club’ chic with a contemporary twist. The lounge is the epitome of luxurious design. Expect bowler hat lights, your own shoe-shine butler, table football, a champagne room and vintage navigation maps adorning the walls.
5. China Airlines Lounge, TPE [New Entry]
Having been open only a few months as part of China Airlines’ next Generation program, the lounge is the latest in a line of developments for the carrier. Situated in Taipei, this new lounge is the brainchild of Ray Chen, who had been employed to redesign the entire passenger experience. The luxurious and warm design aesthetic was inspired by the Song Dynasty, with the conceptual use of a “southern china style garden.” The well designed VIP lounge houses 222 seats, including a dedicated VIP zone for the airline’s most esteemed flyers, a large lounge area, an Internet and office zone, a quiet rest area with day beds, and a large dining area with an impressive tea bar. Additionally, China Airlines has included essential amenities such as showers, a breast-feeding room, and, naturally, free fast Wi-Fi access over the entire lounge area.
4. Cathay Pacific Lounges, HKG [-3]
Since the launch of The Bridge, Cathay Pacific has dominated Hong Kong International airport. Last year’s winner operates five effortlessly designed lounges located into every nook and cranny of the gargantuan airport. Among The Bridge, The Cabin, The Wing, The Pier and The Arrivals lounges, it is The Bridge that has now become the main attraction. Split into two sections connected by a walkway, on entering, the hardest decision you have to make is ‘left or right’, as each wing offers a slightly different experience. Cathay has managed to infuse a sense of unity in its design, whilst offering every traveler something to fall in love with. But it’s not just the clean lines, marble finishes, artworks, textures and soft furnishings that make these lounges sing to us. It’s the service level, whereby every staff member has evoked feelings of sheer delight every time we have visited.
2. [Joint] Qantas Lounge, HKG [new entry]
Also having opened this year, one of Qantas’ latest worldwide lounges has brought yet another luxury design element to Hong Kong International Airport. Designed in collaboration with SUMU design and CAON studio, the lounge has a distinct and contemporary eclectic design style, paying its respects to Hong Kong’s unique culture and varied design aesthetic. Situated in one of the best airports in the world, this Qantas lounge lives up to its host’s reputation, offering a variety of zones, from dining to relaxation, to work and entertainment. Among the elements that we love are the open ceiling, luxurious and varied seating styles, and the long bar, which provides a central focal point in the space. This design is so complex and complete that even a frequent traveler will discover something new at each visit
2. [Joint] Finnair Premium Lounge, HEL [new entry]
Having opened this year, Finnair is one of many carriers to have appeared on our list for the first time, and for good reason. Finnair has always paved its way as a designer airline, and the carrier’s latest lounge matches the new inflight experience, offering passengers a true example of Scandinavian design excellence. The Premium lounge, next to the current business class one, features three distinct areas, all bathed in mood lighting and soft finishes. The ultra-white lounge is also home to a children’s play area, a wall of Apple Mac computers, a staffed bar and even a sauna for those wanting to add a real Finnish touch to their flights.
1. Qantas First Class Lounge, SYD [+1]
Qantas is on a roll; having opened a handful of lounges in 2014 alone, the airline seems to have managed to successfully develop a winning formula. Although the lounges have been created by a collection of different designers, the original flagship lounge, designed by its Creative Director Marc Newson and architect firm Sébastien Segers Architecte DPLG, the lounge has really shown itself to be the ultimate template to follow. Although it is a few years old now, the lounge has refused to age, and still offers a contemporary haven in Sydney Airport. Whilst it features an impressive square footage, offering swathes of personal space, the area is compartmentalised to provide more intimate areas. For those seeking the ultimate hedonistic experience; if you have the time, there is a spa that can offer a 50 minute long full body massage surrounded by a living wall of lush green foliage. After the massage, why not visit the restaurant, with a menu created by Neil Perry (of Rockpool restaurant fame), serving fine Australian cuisine on tables designed to look like helipads and a wine list that any Michelin-starred restaurant would be proud of.
There are also a library, a business centre (naturally), and a sweeping panorama of the airport. What really contributes to set this lounge apart is the feeling that it was designed from the ground up, a space that wasn’t ever meant to be anything even resembling what it now is. The wooden veneers, clean white seating, splashes of red and living walls offer a calming, contemporary environment that doesn’t challenge the eye, but naturally provides a sense of relaxation and luxury. That is a difficult blend to master, but this lounge just seems to do so effortlessly.
Now that Qantas is operating the longest in the skies from Sydney, there is good reason to rest up and enjoy the lounge for as long as possible before boarding. With other lounges also scoring high in our list, there seems to be a trend for Qantas to have really managed to cement its on-the-ground offering as one of the best in the world.