CHARLOTTE, N.C. (
) -- Not much luxury remains in commercial aviation today, with the days of white-gloved Pan Am flight attendants long past.
But five U.S. airlines still offer airport clubs as a refuge from some of the harsh realities of air travel. The availability of airport clubs is among the major differences between the four global, network carriers and the two principal low-cost carriers.
Clubs are important to frequent fliers like Peter Brunk, sales vice president for Milwaukee-based IBCC Industries, a U.S.-owned, China-based manufacturer. Brunk flies 50 to 65 times a year on domestic and international flights, spending about 100 days a year in China. He usually flies on
(UAL - Get Report)
, although says he sometimes thinks about a switch to
"My needs are mainly peace, quiet, privacy or at least a place to work without being interrupted by the noise of other travelers, the beep-beep-beep of golf cart transports, and the never-ending gate announcements," Brunk says. "(Another) major key benefit many do not take advantage of is the ability to modify reservations or even make them with a personal gate agent inside of the club. When flights get cancelled, this is often a great option if it is available."
Also, Brunk said, "I use my United club membership to provide a little nourishment before a domestic flight, especially when flying in a regional jet where any food is unlikely, and where even serving coffee might not happen due to the brief length of flight or typical in-flight turbulence. I arrive a tad earlier than most in order to get settled in the club, check e-mails using the free Wi-Fi and making occasional calls that need to be made."
As for carriers that don't offer airport clubs, they are happy with their choice. "Adding airport clubs costs money, which would mean we would have to raise fares and this does not fit with our business model," says
spokeswoman Misty Pinson. "Our customers want low fares."
In any case, we wanted to find the best airport clubs, so we asked each of the five U.S. carriers with airport clubs to selected their best. Here are their choices: