The Lounge Act
Providing travelers with luxury lounge accommodations is a competition heating up like a jet engine in the airline industry. Cigar rooms, personal assistants, day beds and bathroom soaking tubs are replacing the usually cramped "Captain's Seat Bar" that many travelers are accustomed to as a place to throw back a domestic beer before boarding or during a layover. As the airline industry remodels its fleets with lavish amenities and creature comforts, they are now extending these decadent options to their terminals at a rapid rate.
Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam just opened a luxury lounge in the new international terminal at LAX. United Airlines offers a 22,000 square foot lounge at Heathrow Airport's newly remodeled Terminal 2, and Newark International Airport in now home to a 5,000 square foot lounge for Lufthansa's premium passengers.
Turkish Airlines flagship 60,000 square foot lounge at Istanbul's Airport is one of the largest of its kind in the world. A recent remodeling and expansion now provides travelers a library, billiard hall and golf simulator. Travelers can also find massages, made-to-order meals, a cinema and a kids' play room.
Cathay Pacific opened its recently opened its sixth lounge at Hong Kong International Airport that offers shower suites fresh pizza's and breads. These lounges are relatively new in the United States, but Delta may have blown the roof off of the concept in 2013 by opening outdoor decks at JFK and Atlanta International Airport.
Over the past year and a half, more than a dozen airlines have opened, upgraded or revamped their lounges. Competition for the international business traveler is one of the factors that has sparked this trend. Despite the staggering economy global business travel is on the rise and companies are investing more into keeping those making the overseas trips happy doing so.
The Global Business Travel Association predicted U.S. spending on international outbound travel would jump 12.5 percent in 2014 to $36.7 billion, after just 1.8 percent growth in 2013 and what it called an "anemic" 0.8 percent expansion in 2012.
Typically travelers are willing to trade miles for access to the exclusive lounges, however, there are a few alternatives that offer even more options to today's frequent flyer. Priority Pass is the world's largest independent airport lounge access program. Membership offers great value for your money and allows you to use any of 700 airport lounges whenever you travel. The program offers three packages for U.S. residents that range from the Standard Membership which will cost you $99 per year with a $27 charge to access any of their participating lounges to the Prestige Membership which runs $399 annually but allows for unlimited access to any participating luxury lounge.