How to hustle your way into the best business class lounges around the world

Access to airport lounges is one of the best perks of being a high flyer. Your business class boarding pass or shiny frequent flyer card is the passport to a welcome haven from crowded terminals, food courts and 'restaurants' which are typically overrated and overpriced.

That said, not all airport lounges are created equally.

Some are more or less an exercise in box-ticking with the mandatory buffet, drinks fridge and padded chairs which have seen better days.

Others go far beyond with upmarket furnishings, elegant design, à la carte dining rooms, tended bars and day spas

Diversity is the spice of life

The good news is that you're not always restricted to a single airline lounge, and not even that of the airline whose brand is stamped upon your boarding pass.

In the best situations you'll be able to choose between several lounges. In fact, you'll be able to visit all of those lounges and decide in one which you'll settle down.

The most common instance of this is where several airlines belonging to the same alliance each have their own lounge at an airport.

The Goldilocks phenomenon

There are three major alliances – Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam – and a business class passenger or top-tier frequent flyer booked on one alliance member can generally use the lounges of any other alliance member.

A good example of this is at London Heathrow Terminal 3 where Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific – all members of the Oneworld alliance – each operates its own lounges.


I rate T3's Cathay Pacific lounges as the best of the bunch, and unlike Qantas, Cathay has its own dedicated first class and business class lounges. As a result, any Qantas business class passenger or Gold-grade frequent flyer jetting out of London on QF2 has full and free use of the Cathay Pacific business class lounge, which happens to be right next door to the Qantas lounge.

If you're booked into first class on the Qantas A380, or hold Platinum One or Platinum frequent flyer status, stroll on through to the cosy Cathay Pacific first class lounge.

When in Changi

Another example, and a very timely one, is found at Singapore's Changi Airport. Qantas flies into and out of Changi Terminal 1, as does Oneworld chum British Airways – and BA, like Qantas, has its own airport lounge at T1.

So to does Emirates, which is not a member of the Oneworld alliance but is a partner with Qantas: and by dint of that partnership, selected Qantas passengers can also visit the Emirates lounge.

This puts three Singapore lounges on the list for many Qantas travellers.

And it's timely because Qantas' own Singapore lounge has become so popular of late that its now turning away Qantas Club members, who are now being redirected towards the nearby SATS Premier Lounge – a third-party lounge which sits a few notches below the Qantas lounge – and given 5,000 Qantas frequent flyer points in make-good 'compensation'

I've always rated Qantas Singapore Lounge rather highly, but since Qantas dropped Dubai and returned to Singapore as the stopover for its London flights, the lounge has been filled to the gills each evening.

This has been exacerbated by the seasonal switch to two Airbus A380s between Sydney and Singapore, alongside the daily superjumbo out of Melbourne.

Choices choices

Fortunately, Qantas business class passengers plus Platinum and Gold frequent flyers can choose between the Qantas, BA and Emirates lounges: so if you're Singapore-bound with Qantas, which should you choose?

Head to the Qantas Singapore Lounge for the best meals and cocktails. The former comes as a choice between two daily specials cooked on the spot at the open kitchen, backed a decent buffet.

For drinks, bartender Ronald is a rockstar among regular customers  when it comes to cocktails – I'm especially fond of his espresso martini.

In fact, what really makes the lounge is superb personal service from the team, starting at the top with Qantas concierge Shirley Lee, who seems to remember every frequent flyer by name.

The downside? Those evening crowds don't make for a relaxing respite.

Across the pond

Not even one minute's stroll from the entrance to the Qantas lounge is the British Airways lounge.

Despite being much smaller, it always offer more room to move – and while there's no tended bar, many travellers prefer a self-pour arrangement.

A little further away – perched above Gate C1 – is Emirates' Singapore Lounge. Again, it's much quieter than the Qantas lounge during peak travel times.

And while lacking the a la carte menu of the Qantas lounge, the buffet offers ample choice with an wide array of freshly-plated dishes.

There's even Champagne (Moët) if you're seeking a proper French drop to whet the pre-flight whistle.

So next time you fly, regardless of the airline, do a little research and get a little savvy when it comes to the lounges available – you might find several willing to open their doors to you.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

Follow David Flynn on Twitter

Have you ditched your carrier's lounge for a better neighbour? Share your experience in the comments section below.