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The Best First-Class Airport Lounges

Private rooms for working and napping, full-service restaurants, and day spas are all part of the on-the-ground experience.

Most of the hassle involved with flying takes place on terra firma, not at 30,000 feet. Long lines for check-in and security have become de rigueur; transferring terminals can involve seemingly endless walks; and getting to the remote city edges where most airports are located involves time and expense. And then there are the hours spent waiting at the gate. Not surprisingly, airlines have taken this into account when it comes to the first-class experience, doing all they can to ease the trials of modern air travel.

Perhaps the best example of this holistic approach is offered by Lufthansa at Frankfurt Airport. First-class passengers whose journeys begin in Frankfurt have an airy, two-story terminal—home to a 13,000-square-foot lounge with leather armchairs and recliners done in deep beiges, browns, and blacks—all to themselves. Valet parking is available upon arrival, bags are taken by porters at the curb, and passengers are checked in and escorted through the line-free security process by a personal assistant. For first-class Lufthansa travelers with layovers in Frankfurt, there are two first-class lounges in Terminal 1: one in Pier A, another in Pier B. (Those passengers are also welcome in the first-class terminal but must exit and reenter security areas en route.) All three lounges offer private offices with Internet connections, printers, and copiers, and individual quiet rooms with daybeds for napping. (The staff ensures that sleeping passengers are woken in time for their flights.) Showers and tubs come equipped with Lufthansa’s signature rubber duckies. At the restaurants, light fare like antipasti and fresh fish is served by Vienna’s DO & CO, which is known for catering Formula 1 races; all meals are complimentary. Opened last year, the Pier B lounge has some extra features: The spa area from the German cosmetics firm Babor includes two Jacuzzis, and there’s a game room with Nintendo Wii systems. And when it’s finally time to board, passengers are driven to the plane in a Porsche or a Mercedes-Benz.

Qantas

Designed by Australian superstar Marc Newson, Sydney Airport’s Qantas First Lounge features a Payot Paris day spa offering complimentary facials and massages, an indoor vertical garden with more than 8,000 plants, and an open-kitchen restaurant by Neil Perry, one of Sydney’s top chefs. Travelers check in at a dedicated first-class desk, and their bags receive priority handling, meaning they’re the first to be unloaded upon arrival.

Singapore Airlines

A lush private driveway leads to the first-class check-in entrance at Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. Upstairs, within the first-class lounge, is the Private Room Singapore Airlines built to serve suites-class passengers, those in the private cabins on the airline’s new A-380s. There are showers, workstations, and a restaurant, and since there are only 12 suites per plane, there’s never a chance of crowding.

Etihad Airways

For first-class passengers Etihad provides car service (in a Mercedes or a BMW) from anywhere in the Emirates to Abu Dhabi International. Inside the airport, the Diamond First-Class Lounge has a Six Senses day spa, a family room with full-time babysitters, and meeting rooms outfitted with videoconferencing equipment. In addition to the restaurant, there’s a Champagne bar and a cigar lounge stocked with Cubans and Cognac.