Originally devised as a perk for frequent fliers or First and Business class passengers of a specific airline, airport lounges have become increasingly accessible and sought after by passengers who want to escape the bustle of a crowded terminal for a few hours, or spend their layover more comfortably.
While they vary greatly in terms of amenities offered – from the basic rest stop before a delayed flight to premium spaces complete with spas, hair salons, pool tables and bars – for many frequent flyers, the investment is worth it.
As passenger numbers are predicted to double and reach 7.2 billion in 2035, the popularity of lounges is also expected to rise. Airports everywhere are therefore keen to invest in attractive spaces that can act as an oasis for those passengers who are willing to pay extra.
In December last year, airport lounge access company Priority Pass revealed the results of its annual Lounge of the Year Awards, based on the ratings of its 72,000 members. Elite salons in Kingston, Tallinn, Dubai and Quebec topped the list in the 13th edition of the awards.
“The continued focus on lounges we are seeing from airports, airlines, financial institutions and other organisations worldwide can only be great news for both business and leisure customers,” said Justin Banon, director of Priority Pass, “translating to a wider choice of venues offering exceptional service, refreshments and unique facilities to meet different traveller’s needs.”
We take a look at some of the world’s best airport lounges.
Club Kingston wins world’s best lounge
Club Kingston at Jamaica’s Kingston Norman Manley International Airport took the top spot, after being voted the world’s best lounge by passengers.
Inside the 6,100ft2 space, all guests departing from the airport, irrespective of class or airline, can enjoy a decidedly Jamaican atmosphere created by artwork and décor sourced from across the island, against a backdrop of mellow reggae music.
The menu offers local food and drink, including traditional Jamaican patties and pea soup, as well as signature cocktails at the bar such as the ‘Club Kingston Classic’, ‘Priority Passion’ and ‘VIP Splash’.
Business travellers also have access to a conference facility, private meeting rooms and dedicated work stations, while those about to embark on a long-haul flight can use the shower and spa facilities – all within a culturally themed lounge that effortlessly combines the traditional with the modern.
Tallinn Airport Business Lounge: Europe’s finest
Tallinn Airport’s philosophy to be “the cosiest airport in the world” can easily be spotted in its premiere business lounge.
Despite its name, the lounge aims to steer clear of “a very office-like feel” and instead aims to “offer the comfort and tranquillity of the lounge of a great design hotel”.
With a children’s play area, a library where travellers can select an in-flight read, massage chairs, sleeping pods, an outdoor terrace, an office corner, and a clear view of the sun rising over the airfield for those lucky early morning fliers, Tallinn was crowned the best European lounge.
During their stay, visitors can also taste locally sourced food, beer, wine and spirits beside a warming fireplace.
Ahlan Lounge: best for business in the Middle East and Africa
Dark, classy and subdued, the business class lounge at Dubai International Airport was named lounge of the year for the Middle East and Africa region.
Its top selling point is the effort to create a personalised dining experiences for the visitor, who can choose from a buffet offering an array of Arabic delicacies and an à la carte menu, topped off with its signature ‘Refresh’ cocktail.
The lounge is only able to host 177 guests at a time, with the space split between a restaurant, a spa area, a child-friendly play space and a business centre, for which it also won the accolade of ‘best business facilities’.
“We’re seeing major investment in new and existing airports across the Middle East,” Banon said. “The region is renowned for its quality carriers and distinctive, luxury lounges so this is a strong endorsement for Ahlan Business Class Lounge in Dubai.”
SATS Premier Lounge: steeped in Singaporean culture
Also playing on its rich local culture as a way to convey luxury and comfort, Singapore Changi International’s SATS Premier Lounge topped the Asia Pacific category.
Well-known for its displays of real orchids, Peranakan porcelain and artwork depicting local scenes, the lounge also keeps in check with any local cultural events that help immerse visitors in the country’s culture. For example, the lounge serves mooncakes during the annual Mooncake festival, while all around the year traditional dishes such as its signature Laksa meal can be found on the menu.
“Creating the right ambience, with comfortable seats, elegant design and private space is key,” said Nazri Bin Othman, senior vice president for passenger services at SATS. “But this goes beyond the physical environment, as our hosts connect with our guests and deliver attentive, engaging service which enhances their overall experience.”
Québec City’s Salon VIP: a second-time winner
Promising luxury, relaxation and comfort before take-off, Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport came out on top in this year’s North America category for its VIP lounge.
Complete with a central fireplace, a free massage chair, an entertainment area with plasma TV screens and wireless headphones, as well as a full bar service and a light menu, this is the second time the lounge has received recognition, after winning the same award in 2015.
“It shows we were right to put the passenger first,” said Gaëtan Gagné, president and CEO of the airport. “Again this year, our airport is among the best thanks to the quality of its passenger experience.”
All photos courtesy of Priority Pass