For many business class travellers, the airline lounge is the best part of the flying experience.
A refuge of calm and comfort, the business class lounge is also one area where an airline can fly its flag and show off its style, personality and points of difference to its most valued, high-yield clients.
Here are four of the Asia-Pacific region’s outstanding achievers.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Hong Kong
This is one of the smallest of the business class lounges yet its personality and service elevate it to the major league. When guests enter the lounge they are escorted inside, given an overview of the facilities and offered a choice of seating either on the balcony overlooking the main concourse or in the inside lounge.
The waiter service is unique to Virgin and the menu is strong on miniaturised versions of true-Brit favourites, such as steak and mushroom pie, fish burger, Stilton and apple salad, pear crumble tart with warm custard, and sticky toffee and apple pudding.
Decor and furnishings have an Austin Powers accent Yeah, baby! from the funky, fruit-tint pleather chairs and recliner lounges to the video games consoles in the lounge. Music is matched to the time of day. In late afternoon it’s a soothing Motown mix that suggests a cool club with nostalgic touchstones.
The lounge has a full-service bar with French Champagne and mostly French reds and whites, plus an international range of beers and spirits.
Those who would rather work than play are also well catered for with three PC-equipped workstations. Power points have universal-pin adaptors built in.
Qantas International Business Lounge, Sydney Airport
Qantas has gone several extra yards here and created a refreshing, original business lounge that breaks new ground in several areas.
Clean-limbed and calming with a minimalist, Scandinavian aesthetic and flooded with natural light by day, the lounge is big on the little touches. There’s Stella Artois and Cascade beer and cider on tap, showing a fine appreciation of market nuances. In open space with their backs against the big windows rather than tucked away in semi-dark is a row of 11 iMacs running dual operating systems. The showers offer Molton Brown toiletries.
From midday there’s a gelato bar, with the choice of flavours made on the premises. A barista works a hissing espresso machine and there are also DIY coffee machines in the two buffet areas. At the far end of the lounge is a dedicated kids’ area a business lounge concept that was pioneered here and scheduled for an upgrade that will include the iMacs.
The buffet is a real standout with plenty of fresh food as well as cooked items. The breakfast buffet includes a choice of breads and rolls, fresh fruit, Bircher muesli and cheeses. Along the Caesarstone bar are plates with rosella pears, dates, nuts, kiwifruit and muesli slices and a small but high-quality selection of Australian wines. Some food items are cooked to order, which might be pancakes with banana, honeycomb butter and maple syrup or Canadian-style bacon for breakfast, or an Asian-style prawn salad for lunch.
The view, overlooking a roof to the tarmac, is one of the few fault lines, but by night the glow of the city more than compensates.
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge, Singapore Airport Terminal
Restful, hushed and as staunchly traditional as a pinstriped suit, the world’s favourite airline puts comfort, relaxation and service at the forefront in its Singapore business class lounge.
Dark and mostly brown, this is a substantial lounge and even when the airline’s A380s are on the loading dock, space abounds. Clubby lounge chairs dominate the floor, video screens are turned to low and easily avoided and the magazine racks are well supplied with international titles.
In the far reaches of the lounge is a small area where use of mobile phones is forbidden and where you could actually take a nap, although couch space is minimal. The showers are superb and equipped with razors, combs, toothbrushes, a close-up mirror and hair dryer and L’Occitane aftershave, eau de toilette and moisturiser. There are a couple of splashy elements in the decor, such as the striking symmetrical floral arrangements on pillars in the entrance foyer and the wall of vertical neon pillars in shades of blue, but for the most part, it’s brown, caramel and chocolate that dominate.
Even on a quiet Saturday morning the buffet is huge and of high quality, with a choice of four cereals, fresh fruit, a cheese selection that features a ripe Normandy brie and fresh juices. The Asian breakfast buffet is positively lavish.
Cathay Pacific, The Wing, Hong Kong Airport
Set under the high arch of the terminal ceiling, this airy, double-level club lounge makes a power play with glossy good looks from top to bottom and separate spaces with something for just about every business travel taste. The entry offers a big lounge area, showers, six PC workstations in an alcove and another dark, quiet zone equipped with big leatherette lounge chairs, each with a power socket.
The lounge reveals its true colours on the floor above, a cool space dominated by glossy black-and-white marble, grey walls and coffee-coloured timber. A neat touch is the pod-like Cathay Solus chair, a purpose-built unit crafted by Italy’s Poltrona Frau, each with a mini shelf for a laptop and power point. Along one side of the main lounge is a long, marble-topped bar with views across the boarding gates to the runway.
At the far end of the lounge, past the magazine racks, the Coffee Spot is typically more peaceful. With a barista and a selection of rolls and pastries, this is a prime choice if quiet is key. Behind the Coffee Spot is the Japanese-inflected Noodle Bar, with vertical timber screens separating the booths and a sculptural arrangement of bamboo in a black marble planter as a centrepiece. Drinks at the long bar include a French Champagne and a choice of French, Italian, Australian and Californian still wines.