BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (MainStreet) -- For international business travelers, a trip to the airline VIP lounge is a staple of life on the road, especially in an era of lengthy airport delays and carrier hubs that aren't always in the direct path of where you're headed for business. Luckily, some of the most luxurious airport VIP lounges await international business and first-class customers with amenities and services that not only make a layover tolerable, but have travelers wishing it were a little longer.
With more than 100 destinations worldwide and an impressive fleet of new, long-haul
A380s on order,
operates from its hub at Doha International Airport servicing U.S. cities including New York, Houston and Washington, D.C. First- and business-class customers find a separate Premium Terminal offering limousine service and dapper bellmen to help with luggage and check in to the airline's lounge, and inside the Qatar Airways Premium Arrivals Lounge offers personal concierge service for appointments at the in-house spa, where travelers can buy anything from Swedish massage to oxygen facials. Dining varies between a buffet-style cafe and full-service dining room with an elaborate sushi bar and high tea. Those in need of a little shuteye also find "privacy rooms" with beds tucked in Italian linens to sleep away even the longest of layovers.
London Heathrow's Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounge gets a lot of the VIP attention with its hair salon and spa, charcuterie bar and James Bond-style martini bar.
as Australia's largest domestic and international airline, but business travelers likely associate the airline with its Sydney lounge, where a dedicated check-in allows first-class passengers to show up just 60 minutes before international flights. A private porter ushers travelers into the Marc Newson-designed Qantas International First Lounge, where an assigned concierge helps with restaurant reservations or appointments at the in-lounge spa with treatments using Payot Paris that can be as short as just 20 minutes or as long as an hour. Newson designed almost every inch of the space, from its overall architecture to the asymmetrical wood paneling and geometric carpeting -- even the cutlery in the dining room. Leading the restaurant is Sydney Chef Neil Perry, who also creates the Qantas in-flight menu, presenting a full-service dining experience complemented by Australian wines and reserve champagnes.
Few can debate the style of
's flagship lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. Known as The Wing, the multi-level lounge is in the midst of an overhaul of its first-class and business-class levels that will wrap up later this year. Frequent first-class fliers are used to finding showers at the world's better club lounges, but Cathay offers private cabanas with rain showers and deep soaking tubs to wash away any memory of in-flight turbulence. Afterward, a full-service dining room awaits with an all-day buffet that mixes hot and cold Western and Asian dishes with additional access to The Pier, the airline's other premium lounge, and its famous Noodle Bar. Closer to home, Cathay Pacific recently inaugurated its first U.S.-based branded lounge in the International Terminal Building at San Francisco International Airport. The space is outfitted with custom chairs by Poltrona Frau, an outpost of Noodle Bar and a series of those shower suites.
At London Heathrow it's
's Upper Class Lounge that gets most of the VIP attention with its hair salon and spa, charcuterie bar and James Bond-style martini bar. The Concorde Room by
in Heathrow's Terminal 5, however, proves an even more exclusive invite -- only for the airline's first-class passengers, which are far fewer in number per plane compared with Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class. The more ornate lounges have a more aristocratic touch, including a full-service restaurant with private booths complete with fine bone china, crystal chandeliers and white-glove waiter service. A separate champagne and cocktail bar snubs anything that's not a Brut and bubbles away any pre-spa trepidation. And the lounge's holistic retreat is none other than an Elemis Travel Spa, offering more than 20 shower suites with lengthy treatment menus of massage, facials and skin treatments.
The private First Class Suite on
's A380s are a sign of what's in store for travelers in the actual airport -- and that's VIP lounge bliss. The Silver Kris lounges, available to all premium-class passengers at Singapore Changi Airport, means a private check-in reception with porter and even direct immigration access -- a sexy space with exotic wood paneling and white concierge booths where passengers get help even with filling out cumbersome immigration forms. What feels like a private hotel lobby at an
reveals a series of grand lounges divided by flying class: The business-class dining room is etched in onyx and white marble and adorned in subtler, classic decor; first-class access is divided between those flying in its A380 Suites and those not, with the more exclusive private rooms and elegant private dining area offering what many consider the best VIP airport lounge in the business.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.