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What we have here is a good news/bad news situation: The bad news is that with the double whammy of flight delays and snarled airport security, travelers are likely to spend more time in airports than ever before. The good news is airports are growing more attractive if you can get into posh passenger lounges, where options for eating, drinking, working and relaxing abound.
Here are 10 airport lounges where you won't mind being grounded:
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL, United Airlines Red Carpet Club. The largest lounge in SFO's glittering, circa-2000 international terminal, this business-class redoubt has a large expanse devoted to work cubicles; a sweeping runway view for people who'd rather daydream; and a hosted bar good for two free drinks. The only downside is the minimalist food offerings. Downstairs,
United(UAL - Get Report) has a smaller, quieter, gracious first-class lounge graced with art pieces. The Red Carpet Club is open daily from 8 a.m. till 10:30 p.m. Located in the international terminal, just past security, up one floor.
The Red Carpet Club lounge, run by United Airlines at San Francisco International Airport, offers places to work or escape from the daily grind.
MIAMI INTERNATIONAL, American Airlines Admirals Club. Expansive, with comfortable seating, big-screen TVs tuned to news and sports, some basic hot and cold snacks and a good bar just off a central "great room." The lounge is helpfully divided into snug work spaces and quiet places to chill, with half a dozen private shower rooms. A good place to pass time before those early morning/late night flights to Latin America -- a mainstay of
AA(AMR) in this gateway city. Open daily from 4:30 a.m. till 11:30 p.m. Located in the main terminal, concourse D, across from gate D30 and up one floor.
NEW YORK JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL, Lufthansa Airlines Premium Lounge. Opened in January,
Lufthansa(DLAKY) spent $10 million upgrading and enlarging this lounge. Actually, it's a 16,000-square-foot complex of three lounges: first class, located on the third level, serves the German carrier's highest-level frequent fliers and includes a dining room and shower facilities; the Senator lounge, on the second level, boasts parquet floors, showers and a bar stocked with German beers and wines; business class, on the main level, is 75% larger than its predecessor, with a cinema-style theater with four LCD televisions and 18 seats. The food throughout is handled by Vienna's DO & Co., which also caters Formula 1 events. Located in terminal 1, directly behind security.
LONDON HEATHROW, British Airways Galleries.
BA(BAB) spent a reported $125 million designing and building a suite of six passenger lounges in one-year-old terminal 5 at Heathrow, the world's busiest airport for international travel. It shows in quality of materials and attention to detail. The first-class lounge has a dining room, dozens of wide-screen PCs with free access, a Champagne bar and, in a nod to environmental concerns, a virtual hearth. The business-class lounge has good food and a huge work area for firing up your laptop, plus free Wi-Fi. Located past security on level 5, in terminal 5.
LONDON HEATHROW, Virgin Atlantic Airways Clubhouse. When Sir Richard Branson's cheeky upstart carrier opened its Heathrow Clubhouse lounge for Upper Class (Virgin's combined first-and business-class) flyers back in the '90s, it seemed the Mother of All Airport Lounges, with its manicurist, massage therapist and putting green. The competition has intensified, but Virgin's signature lounge is still a gem, with, among other things, a library for quiet time away from cell phones, a cocktail bar, observation deck and restaurant-style meals. Located in terminal 3, lounge zone H, on the way to gates numbered in the 20s.