The World’s Best First Class Airline Lounges [2019]

Filed Under: Advice

The World’s Best First Class Airlines
The World’s Best First Class Airline Lounges
How To Use Miles For The World’s Best First Class Airlines


Recently I published my updated rankings of the world’s 12 best first class products, and recently Tiffany wrote about how you can redeem points to fly those products.

In this post I wanted to provide updated rankings of what I consider to be the world’s best first class lounges, and also share how you can access those lounges.

Let me emphasize that this is entirely subjective, and it’s especially difficult when we’re talking about lounges, since everyone values amenities differently.

Some airline lounges have bedrooms that are almost like hotel rooms. That’s valuable if you have a long layover, but worthless if you have a short layover. Meanwhile other lounges have top notch food, but that’s of limited use if you’re between longhaul flights and not hungry. Other lounges can save you time getting through security and to the plane, but it depends on the circumstances.

So I’m going to try and balance the above amenities, though you can shift around which lounge is best based on what you value the most.

Lastly, for those who find this post through Google and aren’t regular readers, let me emphasize that I’ve actually visited every single first class lounge I rank (and paid for the ticket, either in cash or miles), and have visited almost every international first class lounge out there. If you’d like to see more lounge reviews, check out the trip report index.

With that out of the way, here are what I consider to be the best first class lounges, starting with the best (note that I’m only including one lounge from each airline):

1. Air France First Class Lounge Paris (CDG)

Air France’s first class is the whole package. Not only does Air France offer one of the world’s best first class inflight products, but their ground experience in Paris is equally impressive.

If you’re connecting in Paris, you’ll be picked up at your plane and driven to the first class lounge, and then later on will be driven from the first class lounge to your connecting flight.

There’s so much to love about the Air France first class lounge, though my favorite thing is probably the restaurant, which has an Alain Ducasse menu. In my experience it’s the best food offered in any airline lounge in the world. It’s not just that the food quality is excellent, but the service and presentation are equally good.

Once you’re done with a great meal, you can get a complimentary 30 minute spa treatment, and can choose between services like massages, facials, etc.

There’s not a first class ground experience in the world that’s as seamless and has as much attention to detail. It doesn’t matter whether you’re originating in Paris or connecting, Air France has all the details covered.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Air France first class same day, or select business class passengers can buy access to the lounge for 300EUR.

2. Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)

Rather than just offering a great first class lounge, Lufthansa has taken it to the next level with their First Class Terminal. This allows you to skip the main terminal at Frankfurt Airport altogether, and instead drive right up to the First Class Terminal, and then be driven to your plane when your flight is ready to board. All formalities, including check-in, security, and immigration, are handled in the lounge.

lufthansa-first-class-terminal-2

The lounge itself is beautiful, with attentive service, a great restaurant catered by DO&CO, a cigar bar, nap rooms, and collectible rubber duckies.

lufthansa-first-class-terminal-8

As an aviation geek my favorite part is being driven across the tarmac to the plane. This is one of the few situations where I hope my plane is parked as far from the terminal as possible. 😉

So why doesn’t Lufthansa get the number one spot? Because the experience is inconsistent. It’s fantastic if you’re originating in Frankfurt, but if you’re just in transit, the experience isn’t nearly as seamless.

The only time you’ll be picked up from your flight by car is if you’re arriving at a remote stand. Otherwise you’ll potentially have to walk thousands of steps and navigate your own way through the maze which is Frankfurt Airport. The horror. 😉

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Lufthansa or Swiss first class same day, or Miles & More HON Circle members can use the lounge when flying a Lufthansa Group airline same day, regardless of the class of service.

3. Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich (ZRH)

Swiss’ first class lounge in Zurich opened a few years ago, and is spectacular, which gorgeous design.

swiss-first-class-lounge-zurich-7

In addition to service throughout the lounge, the Swiss lounge has an excellent restaurant, and after the Air France lounge I’d say it’s probably my favorite restaurant in an airport lounge.

swiss-first-class-lounge-zurich-25

But there are two other features that make this lounge exceptional. The first is that the lounge has private bedrooms for those with long layovers. The beds are as comfortable as the ones you’d find in top hotels, not to mention the bedroom has a view of the tarmac and runways, which made me not want to sleep.

swiss-first-class-lounge-zurich-40

Furthermore, the lounge has a large terrace with views of the gates. In summer they’ll even have ice cream out there for guests to enjoy.

swiss-first-class-lounge-zurich-54

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Lufthansa or Swiss first class same day, or Miles & More HON Circle members can use the lounge when flying a Lufthansa Group airline same day, regardless of the class of service.

4. Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong (HKG)

In terms of design, Cathay Pacific’s The Pier in Hong Kong is one of my two favorite lounges. The lounge is designed in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a really swanky hotel or even home, rather than at an airport.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Pier-Lounge - 13

The Pier also has a good restaurant with a la carte dining.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Pier-Lounge - 28

On top of that, the lounge has private rooms where you can relax, or just watch planes pass by outside.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Pier-Lounge - 54

Guests also receive a complimentary 10 minute foot massage, which is a nice teaser.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Pier-Lounge - 63

How to access this lounge: You must be flying oneworld first class same day, or oneworld Emerald members can use the lounge in conjunction with a same day oneworld ticket, regardless of destination or class.

5. Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney (SYD)

This lounge nails all the basics. The lounge is physically stunning and spacious, with lots of natural light and panoramic views.

Qantas-First-Lounge-Sydney-19

I love the food in Qantas first class lounges. The menu is designed by Neil Perry of Rockpool Bar & Grill, and my favorite is the salt & pepper squid (though nothing on the menu will disappoint).

Qantas-First-Lounge-Sydney-44

On top of that, passengers receive a complimentary 20 minute spa treatment, with the choice between a facial or massage.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying oneworld first class same day, or oneworld Emerald members can use the lounge in conjunction with a same day oneworld ticket.

6. Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha (DOH)

The Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge feels sort of like a museum. The ceilings are probably 40 feet tall, and there’s so much space. Not everyone will love the design, but personally I do. While many other lounges feel crowded, this one feels empty no matter how full it actually is.

Qatar-Airways-Lounge-Doha - 12

Qatar-Airways-Lounge-Doha - 23

The lounge also has a restaurant with solid food, though not to the level you’d find in the Air France or Swiss lounges. One other feature I love about the lounge is that they offer private bedrooms for passengers with long layovers, and they’re the second best airport bedrooms after Swiss’ lounge.

Qatar-Airways-Lounge-Doha - 51

While all of those things are great, the lounge also has some stupid policies. They have a spa, but all treatments are outrageously priced. Want to use the hot tub in the lounge? That will cost you ~$55. Lounge agents will also make up rules about who can and can’t use the nap rooms.

This is a great lounge, though it could be so much better if they didn’t have such inconsistent and illogical policies.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Qatar Airways first class same day, or anecdotally it’s possible to buy access to the lounge for 250QAR when flying Qatar Airways business class (though recently the cost may have been raised to 600QAR).

7. Thai First Class Lounge Bangkok (BKK)

Thai is another airline that does a great job taking care of you every step of the way at the airport. They’ll pick you up at your arriving flight and take you to your departing flight later (typically by buggy).

The lounge has several semi-private living rooms for passengers to use, with more privacy than you’ll get in most lounges. There’s also lots of a la carte food, though I don’t think it’s quite to the level of what you’ll find in some other lounges.

The highlight of the lounge? First class passengers receive a complimentary hour-long full body massage. That’s a great way to relax before a long flight. So as you’d expect, this is by far the best spa treatment offered by any airline.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Star Alliance first class same day.

8. Etihad First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi (AUH)

The lounge is well designed, with a restaurant, gym (which none of the other lounges have), a spa, etc.

Etihad-First-Class-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 4

Etihad-First-Class-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 26

The food in the lounge is pretty good, though the airline has definitely cut back on catering since opening the lounge.

Etihad-First-Class-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 5

The lounge also doesn’t have any proper nap rooms, other than a relaxation area with seats that recline a bit.

Etihad-First-Class-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 15

This is an all around very solid lounge.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Etihad first class same day, or be an Etihad Guest Platinum member traveling same day on Etihad.

9. Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai (DXB)

Th Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai is more of a concourse than a lounge. That’s because the lounge literally spans the entire length of the terminal. On one hand that’s crazy impressive. You have a lounge that’s tens of thousands of square feet, and at times there will only be a few guests.

Emirates-First-Class-Lounge-Dubai-22

Emirates-First-Class-Lounge-Dubai-25

The lounge also has a restaurant with a la carte dining, a cigar bar, a spa with complimentary 15 minute treatments, and more. One other awesome feature is that you can board your flight directly through the lounge, assuming your flight departs from the “A” Concourse.

Emirates-First-Class-Lounge-Dubai-68

The problem? The lounge is so big that it actually feels incredibly sterile and unwelcoming. You feel like you’re sitting in a terminal rather than in a top first class lounge. You miss out on the power of a residential-feeling design, like you’ll find in the Cathay Pacific lounge, for example.

This is probably the first time in history that a lounge being too big has been a complaint.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Emirates first class same day, or be an Emirates Platinum member, or you can buy access for $200 if traveling in Emirates but not in first class.

10. Singapore Airlines Private Room Singapore (SIN)

The Private Room is a lounge within a lounge within a lounge. While it doesn’t have amenities like nap rooms, spa treatments, or offer escorts to/from the gate, it features a great restaurant with a la carte dining (including the ability to customize dishes), and an all around very elegant atmosphere with refined service.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Singapore Airlines Suites or first class same day.

11. Oman Air First Class Lounge Muscat (MCT)

Last year Oman Air opened a beautiful first class lounge at Muscat Airport. Long term the airline will have only two planes with first class, so it’s quite impressive that the lounge is so huge.

In addition to the cool design, the lounge has attentive service, a la carte dining, and a spa in the business class section where you can get a treatment.

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Oman Air first class same day.

Honorable Mention: Etihad Residence Lounge Abu Dhabi (AUH)

This can’t be included on the list since it’s not technically a first class lounge. Specifically I’m talking about the Etihad Residence lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport, which is exclusively for passengers booking Etihad’s uber-luxurious three room onboard suite, known as the Residence.

The fun begins on the ground, as you get a private lounge, a butler looking after you the whole time, whatever meal you’d like, as many massages as you’d like, etc. They also take care of you every step of the way, from the second you arrive at the airport until the moment they introduce you to your onboard butler. You don’t even have to check-in.

Bottom line

Most people dread having time to kill time at the airport, though the above lounges make spending time at an airport a pleasure. From an hour-long full body massage, to being driven to your plane in a luxury car, to getting a private bedroom that makes you feel like you’re in a hotel, these lounges have it all.

I’d like to emphasize that I think anyone would be reasonable to think that the above lounges should be in a different order, but hopefully this is at least a useful list in terms of the 11 all around best first class airline lounges.

I’m curious to hear what you guys make of my rankings! Are there any other lounges that should have been on the list?

Comments
  1. Nice review but don’t you think the Emirates lounge is way overrated? Yes it’s big but the Food is pretty bad and they serve Moët long waits for showers. Also Malaysia Airlines new first class lounge deserves a mention. They have all the features you would expect and good food. They also have private room for first class passengers.

  2. Interesting that the much-lauded Singapore Airlines ranks so far down the list. Although, I’ve flown their business class plenty of times and I can safely say that their business class lounges are also not industry-leading.

  3. Kind of funny you rank first class airlines and lounges you’ve only experienced once or it’s been a long time since you used them.

    But you got my click, so I guess you win.

  4. So what’s interesting is you’ve picked one best lounge per airline for inclusion. I’d rate Cathay Pacific’s The Wing first class lounge over the Singapore Airlines Private Room because of the cabanas. I’d rate some of Lufthansa’s first class lounges over the Private Room as well. Maybe Cathay’s lounge in London belongs here, or would that just be if we’re grading on a London curve?

    Since ground service plays a role in the overall ranking here I’m surprised you didn’t include Garuda in Jakarta.

  5. Surprised the Concorde Room didn’t make the list 😉

    So is the first class Pier lounge significantly better than the Wing First class lounge?

  6. To access the LH FCT HON needs a same day LH Group flight but to access any LH or LX First Lounge a HON may access with any Star Alliance carrier.

    EK Plat traveling on QF or EK and EK F also have access to the QF F Lounge.

  7. I think for Business Class such a list would be a lot more valuable. And I think the Signature Suites in Toronto would be up there…

  8. Enough with the salt and pepper squid. It’s not very good. Neil Perry does some good things with food for qantas but that is not one of them, at least how it is presented in the first lounge. The tamarind duck on the current menu is pretty good, although I suspect it gets cooked a. It better off airport.

  9. I am surprised the Thai First Class Lounge at BKK made the list. I was there about 3 weeks ago. It is so ‘dated’ I believe any United Polaris lounge now offers better soft product.

    BTW, the Thai First Class lounge at BKK is no longer exclusive for First class passengers. I got access to it flying BKK->HKG in business, a flight that used to have a First-class cabin, but no longer. Flying business, I got no buggy to the gate, and I am not even sure I could get a full-body massage. However, the lounge was the same as that which I used when I flew the same route several times previously in First class and got the buggy and was offered massage, which I refused.

  10. @Justin: cause SQ lounges are just not great.
    And in comparison to the rest of Changi airports their lounges are even lower rated.

  11. @Ed:

    Thank. You. So many bloggers salivate – likely literally – and gush over that squid. Having had it in both QF F lounges, I can’t see the appeal. Have none of them ever actually had decent calamari? In the end they’ve always disappointed and come across as what I would expect if Burger King served “squid fingers” in addition to their chicken variety.

  12. An addition – Velocity members holding Platinum status gain access to Etihad’s First Class lounge when flying on EY.

  13. I personally though the first class lounge for JAL was outstanding, but all of these look nice as well.

  14. The Qantas Melbourne First Class Lounge is worth a mention – has same facilities as SYD but with “The Pier” Cathay Lounge in HKG intimacy.
    Also the meal presentation tends to be better than SYD.

  15. I rate JL F lounge over SQ The Private Room. I am surprised that JL F lounge is missing from the list.

  16. Of those I have visited, I agree wholeheartedly with your list. (Air France, Lufthansa Frankfurt, Cathay Hong Kong, and Emirates Dubai). I’ll be in the Singapore Private room in June and am looking forward to it.

    Your article makes me want to visit all of them. Keep your great work coming.

  17. The Hawaiian Air “first class lounge” at Lihue is a joke, a bad joke. More like a closet with coffee, soda and pretzels. Seating for 8!!
    Why bother?

  18. I have been in almost all of the lounges you mention, but I am surprised that the Thai F lounge is even on the list. Also I believe the Emirates lounge should be significantly below the Etihad and the Qatar F lounges.
    And I agree that you put SIA at the bottom of the list.

  19. I love the Wing and will be enjoying it again soon.

    Emirates combined F/J lounges at JFK & MSP were brilliant on a recent 5th freedom trip to Milan.

    I still have fond memories of waiting for a long delayed Concorde flight. Champagne and strawberries and cream.

    Having just flown my first six QF flights I found all their onboard offerings to be inedible rubbish. As well as their J lounges. Cannot imagine that their F lounges could rank as high as you have placed them! If true they really should consider reallocating some funding to improve their J offerings.

  20. I am surprised to see the JAL F lounge at HND isn’t on this list. The food, layout, and service are spectacular.

  21. JAL Haneda F lounge is good. They are working on updating the Narita F and J lounges at the moment, upstairs main concourse right now. It means no entry for OWE on non-JL flights as I found to my cost the other week. Surprisingly the admirals club was the best alternative.

  22. For the cathay pacific first class lounge, I’m not sure I’d say it’s one of the best. In my experience, the food is awful and that disqualifies it from being a decent lounge.

  23. Waiting for Endre to say that The Pier should be the number 1, because on all his paid first class tickets, he spend about 8h in the lounge.

  24. @Ben – do you think the QR lounge in Doha is worth paying for the upgrade from the business class lounge? I would say food quality is the most important thing for us (we’ll be there at breakfast time) followed by serenity and service.

  25. Any non-airline specific “first class” contract lounges to include? It probably doesn’t make the top 10, but the GVK First Class lounge in BOM (accessible by BA F / OWE pax for example) has outstanding a la carte dining – both Indian and non-Indian dishes (including a tasty lobster thermador), top-notch service, complimentary 15 minute massage or facial, with additional spa options for purchase, a feeling of calm with tarmac views. Bar is limited, but the lounge is a haven in a busy airport and several notches above the GVK business class level. Just an example!

  26. Cannot believe you put EK’s lounge down so far on the list… that is insane IMO, but each to their own I suppose. The smoking room of EK’s lounge is more luxurious and opulent that most other airline lounges – period!

    As a dedicated OW traveler I doubt I will see the top 3, but now that QF is doing codeshare with AF via HKG I might get the chance next year 🙂 Not knowing anything about those airlines I cannot really comment but was surprised to see the top 3 being European when the trend this past decade has certainly been asia or the mideast for “best” anything to with flying…

    QF lounge is OK but tired an boring now…. what a first world problem, right? Bored of the first class lounge lol.

    The new JL lounge at NRT is pretty amazing too – saw it the first time the other day.
    It would certainly be in my top 10.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *