Inside America's Top Airport VIP Lounges In A Post-Pandemic World – Forbes


PS Suites at LAX offer drop off and pick up service directly from the commercial airplane stairs
Traveling looks a lot different from before the pandemic, and airport lounges often feel like a strange, heartless environment for its dedicated members. On a recent survey of airports across America, countless lounges are still closed or have limited hours, especially International lounges. Self-service amenities are luxuries we will see less of, while buffets and self-service bars mostly use prepackaged food and drink.
There are, however, a handful of options for luxury travelers who want to spend their connection time in a first-class atmosphere away from the airport crowds while feeling relatively safe. I spoke with several experts and airline executives, and they provided input on how luxury lounges are changing and which lounges are the best for your money.
Brian Kelly, the founder, and CEO of The Points Guy, provided his take on the current state of the airline lounge industry.
How has the pandemic affected the luxury airport lounge experience?
“The pandemic has had massive implications on luxury lounges, and throughout the pandemic, most lounges were closed. Today, many of the nicest lounges in the world, including the Lufthansa First class Terminal, American Airlines flagship, and United Polaris Lounges, are still closed even though traffic has increased since its mostly leisure travel, not business travel that many airlines rely on to make lounges worthwhile. But now that leisure travelers are traveling again, lounges are crowded, especially because there are many capacity restrictions in many states. For example, the Centurion Lounge in Miami had a 45-minute wait for Platinum holders. It’s going to be a while until lounges can be open at full capacity and offer the full experience that they offered pre-pandemic.”
Centurion Lounge in Dallas, one of expert Brian Kelly’s favorites.
Has business increased dramatically for summer travel?
“It’s definitely increased, but the face of business travel is going to be different because now there is a lot of leisure travel since people can work remotely. It’s going to be a mix of business and leisure travel, but we don’t anticipate business travel to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, especially since Asia is remaining closed off to Americans.”
What changes have you noticed in the lounges that were developed out of necessity and client desire?
“You should still expect limited hours and consolidated locations as we continue to emerge out of the pandemic and the travel industry staffs up to meet the increase in demand. Next, food and beverage options will vary depending on which club and which airport you visit – for example, some lounges may not have hot meals and only pre-packaged options. Most buffets have attendants that will hand you food to prevent transmission between others. On the positive side, the clubs are cleaner than ever. For example, when you enter a United club, you’ll notice a poster detailing their CleanPlus initiative with Clorox. Lastly, masks are still required throughout the flying journey, which includes airports and lounges, so be prepared to wear a mask while in the lounge.”
What are your top five favorite lounges in the U.S. and why?  

Pre-flight Antigen swap COVID test in the PS suite with Beverly Hills Concierge Health Center’s Dr. … [+] Ari Gabayan
Among the countless airline lounges available to frequent fliers and credit card holders, here are the top options, as well as a few that go above and beyond the average membership lounge.
The absolute finest and most exclusive luxury service is PS (formerly the Private Suite) at Los Angeles International Airport. They have gone through changes to adapt to the pandemic, including the newly launched PS Direct, which chauffeurs travelers from their domestic commercial flight door straight to their home or hotel in a BMW 7-Series sedan, bypassing the airport and the PS terminal entirely.
PS has implemented off and on-site COVID-19 testing for those traveling, including using the reliable Beverly Hills Concierge Health Center to conduct Rapid Antigen Swab Test services in your private suite by a doctor.
According to PS Co-CEO Josh Gausman, “We made the decision early on to remain open for our members and guests throughout the pandemic. Our service remained the same except for some temporary pausing of amenities like massage and manicure. The silver lining of 2020 was that we were able to move quickly on major facility enhancements and redesigns without detracting from the PS experience. Although our business took a hit early last year, we are at the tail end of a fast recovery. Summer reservations are higher than we’ve ever seen them, and we are serving many new members each day.”
The future is bright for this particular model of the private airport lounge. PS plans to be in every major airport in the US and is currently in active discussions with JFK and MIA. As travel continues to change shape due to COVID, expanding locations is very much top of mind for the brand, prioritizing safety and privacy. Amina Belouizdad, PS Co-CEO, adds, “We have enrolled many new Members that were previously on the fence about their desire to avoid the airport. Our unique ability to provide guests with a safer and less stressful experience during a pandemic has served us well.”
The new Centurion Lounge at La Guardia in New York
Centurion Lounge
Almost every Centurion Lounge is now open. The new Centurion Lounge at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) just launched with 10,000 square feet in the airport’s brand-new Terminal B. The new lounge joins the Centurion Lounge at John F. Kennedy Airport, which opened last Fall. New York City chef Cédric Vongerichten will continue as the Executive Chef of the Lounge. Centurion will soon be opening locations in London’s Heathrow Airport and Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport.
All Centurion lounges include socially distant seating, reduced capacity, increased frequency of cleanings, hand-sanitizing stations, and more. The bars will be open with a full wine list, and special mixology cocktail menus are making a slow comeback. Masks will be required to enter the lounge and can only be removed when eating or drinking.
Pablo Rivero, Vice President, Loyalty Travel Experiences & Benefits for Centurion, says, “We want to continue to provide a premium travel experience while keeping our customers and colleagues safe, requiring us to adjust our operations. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, we transitioned from self-serve buffet-style stations to food offerings served by our staff. This not only provided a more elevated dining experience for our guests but also improved the safety of our colleagues.”
American Express continues launching new locations despite the pandemic, “Because we know that travel will continue to be core to our customers’ lifestyles, we didn’t pause on Centurion Lounge network investments,” says Rivero. “In fact, since the pandemic started, we’ve expanded our offerings with new openings at New York’s John F. Kennedy and Denver’s International Airport, recently reopened a Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia Airport, and are looking to open our Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow Airport in the coming months.”
American Airlines Flagship lounge
American Flagship Lounge
Flagship Lounge is American Airlines’ most premium lounge experience. The airline will begin reopening its premium Flagship Lounges in September, starting with its popular hub in Miami. According to American, Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), and New York (JFK) will all be reopening later this Fall. LAX Flagship First Dining will remain closed.
Chase Sapphire Lounge
JPMorgan Chase will soon be in the airport lounge business starting in 2022 and will be known as Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club. Boston appears to be among the first locations with possible new locations in Los Angeles and La Guardia.
Delta Sky Club Lounge
Delta has nearly all of its Sky Clubs open, most recently having reopened a second lounge in Boston and brand new lounges opening in Ft. Lauderdale and Salt Lake City. The future is a bit more optimistic for Delta as there are discussions for launching the first Delta One lounge at LAX.
Claude Roussel, Managing Director – Delta Sky Clubs tells me, “For much of the pandemic, we adjusted our service offerings by doing things like adding more cleaning protocols, limiting seats, creating digital menus, asking guests to swipe their own credentials at check-in, and shifting our food offerings to a pre-packaged, grab-and-go selection of fresh foods, hot breakfast sandwiches and soups.”
Roussel continues, “Thanks to the support and guidance of Delta’s Chief Health Officer, our continued mask requirement and increasing vaccination rates nationwide, we are thrilled return to a more traditional style of service, including the return of our signature hot food offerings throughout the rest of this year. We can’t wait to give our guests fresh and healthy food options including breakfast favorites, regional specialties and an all-day selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, quick snacks and indulgent desserts.”
Turkish Airlines Lounge at IAD
Priority Pass Lounge
This is my least favorite lounge experience in the U.S., with the majority of the better Priority Pass lounges located in International destinations. Priority Pass is a membership service that allows you to access airport lounges and experiences worldwide. You can fly with any airline and in any class and still enjoy the Lounge experience.
There are several better lounges in the U.S. that Priority Pass members can access, including; Turkish Airlines Lounge in MIA and IAD, Prime Class Lounge at JFK, and Air France lounges at JFK, BOS, and IAD. Most lounges are open with capacity restrictions and pandemic rules in place.
Qantas Los Angeles International First Lounge


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.