They are a calm oasis in the heart of the hustle and bustle of an airport, and among the few places where air travel retains a sense of ceremony.
Certainly, they are the very best places for people who love to remind themselves of the romance of travel by watching planes take off and land.
Airport lounges have gone beyond generic luxury living rooms / bars for first-class passengers. The latest in lounges reflects the culture of the airline as well as the destination, and have become art, design, wine and culinary, even wellness or entertainment hubs only accessible to fortunate travellers passing through.
Two airlines on two continents have recently opened two very different lounge concepts for air travelers to relax, recharge, and celebrate their upcoming flight.
Alaska Airlines at SFO
The 8th Alaska Airlines lounge in the U.S. follows the pattern of its predecessors in emphasizing the local cuisine and culture, along with the carrier’s laid-back, West Coast version of full service aviation.
At Alaska Airline’s San Francisco International Airport (SFO) lounge, travelers will find 9200 square feet of Bay-Area inspired amenities and flavors.
A gallery wall, featuring fine art by local artists, greets guests entering the Terminal 2 lounge. Inside, a powerful painting titled “Offshore” dominates the main space with the artist Anne Neely’s message of climate change in honor of the airline’s commitment to “environmental responsibility and communities.”
Kids get in on the local-inspired action, too, with a children’s play area decked out with San Francisco Giants art and fan-favorite mascot Lou Seal. It’s a ‘home run’ for parents who love to see their kids happy and tired out by the time they board their flight!
The Bay Area beverage selection might help traveling parents’ nerves, too. You’ll find a full bar featuring complimentary local craft beer on tap, wine from local vineyards and even an espresso bar – staffed with a trained barista.
Pair your beverage with more regional tastes. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with made-to-order pancakes, the treats from a local candy bar, and travel-themed cookies by Oakland Fortune Cookie Factory.
For a truly one-of-a-kind local snack, head to the vintage-style ‘sourdough toast cart.’ Sourdough bread has been a part of San Francisco's food scene since Gold Rush days, and local bakeries keep the tradition alive. Available at lunch and dinner meal times, the sourdough cart in the Alaska Airlines lounge will offer a variety of sweet and savory toppings, such as ricotta with figs and honey, and burrata with pesto.
Air France at CDG
Air France has unveiled its brand-new flagship lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). While its location in Terminal 2F of the main airport in France’s national capital gives the iconic national carrier home field advantage to provide the ultimate in French-style travel, expectations are also very high.
So naturally, they brought in famous designers to craft the over-32 thousand square foot lounge, with nearly 600 seats over two floors. The Canadian and French designer team Jouin Manku were inspired by the concepts of ‘levitation’, ‘grace’ and a ‘haven of serenity’ in designing a space for air travelers to experience ‘a real moment suspended in time’ and decompress and refresh before they board short- and medium-haul flights within Europe.
Imagine yourself coming off an overnight flight from North America with time to spend in the lounge before your European connection. There’s left luggage space upon entry, so you don’t have to haul your bags through the lounge if you don’t want to.
In addition to staff, a giant sculpture, inspired by aircraft wings and symbolizing flight, technology and ‘the avant-garde’ greets arrivals to the lounge and passing by it gives passengers entry into the lounge’s escapist cocoon in CDG.
Vast, curving floor-to-ceiling windows feature the romance of travel through their runway views, and epic arches in the design feel other-worldy. In addition to the runway views, a sweeping staircase to the second floor dominates your eyes (pictured, top).
Terazzo, lava stone, leather and other premium materials add to the authentic elegance of the space, while Air France’s symbol, and the winged seahorse appears to remind passengers of the airline’s long history in flight.
The lounge is not just a feast for the eyes. It is technology enabled, with wifi and ubiquitous device charging.
French ‘savoir vivre’ is demonstrated through the lounge’s gourmet cuisine in coppery, champagne-colored dining stations on both levels, with French culinary offerings in the spirit of a French bistro changing throughout the day, including a pancake station in the mornings, aperitifs service, cheese and dessert offerings, and a wine and champagne selection curated by one of the world’s top sommeliers.
In addition to celebrating French hospitality, the cuisine emphasizes regional and seasonal products to be eco-responsible, too. Single-use plastics are limited, and recycling emphasized. Water fountains are located throughout the lounge to avoid the need for bottled water.
If you’ve already over-indulged in French fare, a ‘detox’ area has a relaxing atmosphere and a wide range of herbal teas. A Clarins treatment area offers guests a new ‘Traveller Spa’ concept with express beauty or radiance treatments, or even 20-minute tailor-made facials to refresh travel-weary skin. And a wellness area with showers and a changing room is also available for guests to recharge between flights.
Of course, we’re used to airport lounges being accessible to business- and first-class air travelers, but one more thing we love about both of these new lounges is that even economy-class passengers can enjoy the local delights and pre-flight luxuries by purchasing a day pass to the lounges on their next flight from San Francisco or Paris.
Images courtesy of their respective airlines.
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