Most airport lounges are places to wait before getting on a flight. Some are even designated as departure lounges only, which is to say that you need to show a departing boarding pass to get in (either a business class or above boarding pass, or a coach boarding pass and something else to demonstrate you’re entitled to access like an eligible elite frequent flyer card).
But there are also designated arrivals lounges, usually places to shower up after a long flight.
This is especially important in some markets where many long haul flights arrive in the early morning — business travelers turning up and needing to go straight to the office, a place to clean up and even have a suit pressed, leisure travelers who get into the city too early to check into their hotel and at least they can shower (and burn off some time to make an early check-in more likely).
Flights from North America to Europe are nearly all overnight — there are a couple of exceptions where East Coast to London flights take off in the morning and arrive late at night. These are the classic example of such flights, and a reason why arrivals lounges are common in Europe.
There aren’t many in Asia, though Cathay Pacific offers one (“The Arrival”) in Hong Kong. Departures from the US around midnight will get in in the very early morning. But certainly not all flights to Asia are like this, and most depart either late morning or early afternoon from the US and arrive in Asia late afternoon. Arrivals lounges are often only open in the morning.
One of the reasons I love Intercontinental Hotels’ Royal Ambassador status — I’ve said in the past this is the best benefit of the program and whenever I lead off with that statement people assume I’m going to say ‘free minibar’ but I’m not — is guaranteed 8am check-in. That’s hugely valuable for arrivals in Europe, though would also help with early morning arrivals in Hong Kong, in Sydney, Singapore, or even U.S. domestic eastbound redeye flights.
I wrote about the Air France Paris Arrivals Lounge back in January. It was only my second time visiting that lounge, and it was a long schlepp from where I landed — Air France no longer flies out of terminal 2C where the lounge is located, and I suspect not many people even know about it let alone make the trek over there. But it features showers, coffee and juice and water (I grabbed more than my share of water bottles — water is so hard to come by in Europe sometimes!), meats, cheeses and croissants. It does the trick.
When I flew American’s new 777-300ER business class to London in March I visited their Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3 and really liked it. I haven’t visited enough arrivals lounges to make a broad declaration about how it compares, but it excelled for me in the things most important — a large quantity of showers — 29, excellent coffee, hot food, and an efficient pressing service.
Onboard my flight in business class I was given a flyer letting everyone know about the arrivals facilities open to business and first class passengers as well as American’s Executive Platinum members and oneworld partner top tier elites. (I would have imagined the arrivals lounge was open to American Platinums but apparently not.)
Of course the most important thing in an arrivals lounge is the ability to shower up after a long flight, and then change into fresh clothes. I don’t know any lounge that has more showers than this one. If I had a complaint it would just be that I prefer individual bath amenity bottles over soap and shampoo mounted on the wall, but that’s not a huge issue (and the Thai Airways first class spa even has their L’Occitane amenities mounted to the wall!).
Fairly low-tech but what’s innovative about the shower rooms is that there’s a pass-through in the door for clothing. Put your clothing into the door, press a button to notify an attendant, and they will take your clothes through the other side of the door and press them… and return your clothes into the closet that’s built into the door when they’re done.
That way you can take your clothes off (or out of your suitcase) in the shower room and pass them to the attendant to press without the awkwardness of finding a way to cover up while doing so. Very efficient.
I also liked that the lounge had hot food in addition to continental breakfast. East Coast to Europe overnight flights don’t get much breakfast, largely because they’re short flights so the second meal service doesn’t make sense to be particularly extensive but also because it’s Europe — coffee and a croissant (or a ‘bacon roll’ is breakfast. The Air France arrivals lounge in Paris has only cold items. So a nice distinguishing benefit to American’s lounge at Heathrow.
On the way out of the lounge I noticed a car service driver waiting in the sitting area off the entryway. I asked the staff about this, and said that drivers often wait for guests in the lounge — that it isn’t something they advertise but that lounge regulars know it’s something they can do. I’ve never had a car service meet me at Heathrow 🙂 but many business travelers do of course, this seems like a great way to do it.
Of course there’s no putting green in the Heathrow Arrivals Lounge, like at the Admiral’s Club in Austin…
Have you availed yourself of an arrivals lounge? What’s been your experience?