OK, road pro, as you know airports and airlines are again packed post-pandemic with many clients and prospects expecting face-time from coast to coast – and beyond. At least spend part of that time away from your family and Zoom calls at any of a dozen true top-tier airport lounges en route to meetings.
We consulted with certified ratings provider Skytrax, which surveys airport lounges across the globe and rates them based on overall comfort, level of service, amenities, cuisine and much more – nearly 40 criteria data points in all per location.
Turns out, North America’s best-rated airport lounges are a genuine mixed bag of concierge-style business and personal service, regional hospitality and cuisine, sophisticated ambiance, designer labels, and many intangibles.
If you’re going to start logging a lot of miles for business, at least do it with panache and figure out how to hole up at these top-rated airport lounges in the United States and Canada.
Houston George Bush International Airport
H.W. no doubt would beam with pride every time he entered United Airlines Polaris Club, one of the world’s best – at least as a civilian and not aboard Air Force One. Here, he would be ensconced in luxury without the limitations of The Secret Service, well, in theory. Skytrax says Polaris sets the “benchmark” among 5-star airport lounges with its Saks Fifth Avenue linens, private shower rooms and expansive hot and cold buffet that reflects the local cuisine like gazpacho served table side, pull pork barbecue, empanadas, local honey-infused granola, andouille and chicken etouffee and much more. Other notables at H.W. Bush International are the business- and first-class airport lounges for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and American Airlines 4-star rated facilities.
The sleek, sophisticated design of the Air Canada Signature Suite, available only to business-class passengers on long-haul flights, was conceived by acclaimed Montreal architect Heekyung Duquette and includes a spectacular ‘cloudscape’ chandelier by Moss & Lam, a mural by Ottawa artist Gavin Lynch and other pieces by other widely admired Canadian artists Pascale Girardin and Nicolas Ruel.
Signature Suite further distinguishes itself with solid 5-star marks in a la carte dining, a la carte standards, cold buffet, hot entrees design by chef David Hawksworth, wine and beverages from Diageo and Moet and Chandon, and coffee, tea and hot drinks service. Just a slight tier down are Air Canada’s Maple Leaf, Domestic and Transborder locations also at Pearson.
The United Airlines Business Class Lounge earns its highest marks at O’Hare for its convenient location, availability and comfort of seating area including quiet areas and work stations, wine and beverage offering, and technical capabilities including speed and ease of use of wifi. Sip top-shelf Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, Balvenie Single Malt or Whistlepig Whiskey before you tuck into tasty bits of Americana like scratch-made butternut squash soup, pear salad or a bit of island-inspired mahi mahi. Skytrax also gives a nod to the Swiss Airline’s First Class Lounge, calling it “small” but with a good level of “prestige” thanks to its smart décor and design which includes electrical sockets built into tabletops.
The Oneworld and Star Alliance lounges on the 5th and 6th floors at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX are the stuff of legend both covering more than 60,000 square feet in total. Star Alliance, however, is the sexier of the two, with its warming outdoor firepits, panoramic views over the runways toward the hills, water features and sophisticated décor. Oneworld caters to road warriors with two large buffet lines, full bar with international wine selections, and lots of space to work, play, rest. The vibe in the cavernous space that accommodates 600 passengers changes depending where you are. Calm and quiet where people work, to busy families on holiday, to the international jet set to, well, the rest of us. Air Canada and Korean Air airport lounges also receive a nod from Skytrax.
New York JFK
The Concorde Room and Club Lounge locations from British Airways, along with American Airlines Flagship venue, are like genteel bastions of civility within an otherwise chaotic JFK. The three joined forces during the pandemic, redesigned each space, and created partnership where business- and first-class passengers on their respective airline gain access to all three, a program that launched with their reopening earlier this year in Terminal 8. A new check-in area for first-class passengers creates a private jet-style experience, which is made even better with the new top-tier Chelsea Lounge above Gate 14. Soho and Greenwich Lounges put you in a New York state of mind before your hop over “the Pond.”
Honorable mentions go out to additional Air Canada airport lounges in Vancouver and Winnipeg; the JAL Japan Airlines lounge at San Francisco; and the ANA All Nippon Airways at Honolulu.
Take a load off before your next flight, sip champagne or an espresso along with a chef-prepared meal while you call back to the office. You won’t stay long at these exclusive airport lounges, just long enough to recharge before your next meeting.
Hard working business travelers appreciate the top-shelf cocktails and other amenities available at the United Airlines Polaris Club at H.W. Bush International, the ‘benchmark’ among elite airport lounges says rating agency Skytrax.