A lounge used to be that private space back home where you kicked off your shoes, cracked open a beer and settled down to watch the telly. In 2013 new-speak, trainers have eclipsed shoes, Prosecco has replaced beer and the television has been consigned to technological history.
And the lounge has moved out of your house into the sphere of public transport. There it has found new life in airport terminals for frequent fliers who generally don’t like the idea of public transport at all — and see Delta or Lufthansa as a ludicrous conspiracy of modernity that denies them access to the private jet that is rightfully theirs.
So the ties and the suits gather in their smart departure lounges, waiting for the last call to Dallas or Dublin. Enroll in the right frequent flyer plan, burn the ozone and you too could get the gold or platinum card that promises terminal heaven. Those without the right entrance privileges are consigned to terminal hell.
In truth, some airline lounges rate as superb examples of interior design. Virgin’s Clubhouse lounge at London Heathrow’s Terminal Three consistently pulls high praise while over at Terminal Five British Airways’ Galleries lounge sets new standards of comfort for jaded travelers who need a little pampering.
Bathrobes and rubber ducks
Most airlines gloss over the fact that, no matter how smart the lounge, their prize travelers will still rub shoulders with the hoi polloi at some stage in the boarding process.
Lufthansa has devised a cunning way round this issue at Frankfurt-am-Main airport, where they have a dedicated first-class terminal. Covering a vast 1,800 square meters over two floors, Lufthansa’s first-class facility is big enough to host an indoor game of football (or soccer). And it surely isn’t regular Cheapo territory. We understand that clients are cosseted in fluffy bathrobes, given rubber ducks to play with, and are then beamed over to their designated seat on the flight without having to put down their glass of champagne.
Things have come a long way since the days when some transatlantic flights would touch down at Shannon to refuel. “First class passengers are offered tea and cookies in the lounge,” advised a 1949 brochure promoting the delights of the brief Shannon stopover.
Next week, we return to the lounge theme, looking at railway station lounges across Europe. They are often very nice spaces. No fluffy bathrobes, no rubber ducks, nor do you need to have flown twice around the planet to secure access to them.