The World’s Best First Class Airline Lounges

The World’s Best First Class Airline Lounges

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I’m an airline product geek, and every year I like to publish a list of what I consider to be the world’s best business class seats, the world’s best first class airlines, the world’s best first class lounges, etc. In this post I wanted to share my updated ranking of the world’s best first class lounges.

First, I wanted to talk briefly about my methodology for ranking first class airline lounges, and then I’ll get into my rankings, with an explanation of each.

Why you should trust OMAAT lounge reviews

Hopefully I don’t have to explain this to regular OMAAT readers, but I feel like this is worth mentioning for those who aren’t regular readers…

All the time I see media outlets ranking first class lounges, though they’re almost always just going off stock media images and how airlines describe their lounges, rather than actual firsthand experience.

Why should you trust OMAAT lounge reviews?

  • I pay for all of my own flights, either with cash or miles
  • I don’t let the airlines know that I’m reviewing their products, and go out of my way to remain as anonymous as possible (there are very limited exceptions, which I specifically disclose)
  • I’ve visited virtually every first class lounge in the world, most several times, so have lots of context for what makes a great lounge
  • I don’t have any sort of financial relationship with any airline
  • This is my passion, I’ve been reviewing airlines for 15 years, I’ve written hundreds of airport lounge reviews, and have logged millions of miles

There aren’t many sites that can say all of the above, and in the case of some other rating agencies (like Skytrax), I certainly wish we’d see a bit more transparency regarding the financial relationship they have with the airlines they rank.

My methodology for ranking first class lounges

Let me emphasize that my rankings are entirely subjective, and that’s by design. One of the challenges with reviewing airline lounges is that everyone is looking for different things.

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 long haul flights and aren’t hungry. Other lounges can save you time getting through security and to the plane, but it depends on the circumstances.

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. I’m not saying anyone’s rankings should be in the same order as mine, though I think most people can at least agree with my general list of the top lounges.

Let me also note that I’m only putting one lounge from each airline on the list, even if that carrier has multiple great lounges.

Why I’m not fully updating rankings this year

Since the start of the pandemic it has been tough to update my list of the world’s best first class airline lounges:

  • Many international first class airline lounges continue to remain closed, given the lack of long haul business travel, especially in some regions of the world
  • Some airlines have greatly scaled back their fleet of planes featuring first class, making me wonder if some of these first class lounges will stick around
  • Even among the lounges that are open, lounge services have largely been scaled back to minimize contact between people

Nonetheless I think there’s value in keeping this list updated, so here’s what I’m going to do:

  • I’m not going to change my rankings compared to early 2020 (the last time I formally published my rankings)
  • With each lounge I’ll note the general status of things — whether the lounge is open, and if a lounge isn’t open, what the likelihood is that it will reopen (I’ve added a section at the bottom of each ranking with “the latest for 2022”)

Hopefully the above makes sense, and in 2023 I hope to be able to update these rankings in a way that fully reflects the long-term changes airlines are making to their lounges.

The world’s 11 best first class airline lounges

With the above out of the way, below are what I consider to be the 11 best first class airport lounges, starting with the best.

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 the carrier’s 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.

Air France first class lounge car service

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.

Air France first class lounge restaurant area
Air France first class lounge dining
Air France first class lounge dining

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 thought of all the details.

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 500EUR.
The latest for 2022: Air France’s first class ground experience is more or less operating as usual right now, which is another thing that sets Air France apart.

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 its 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 exterior

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 bar

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

Lufthansa first class car service

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.
The latest for 2022: The First Class Terminal reopened as of September 2021. With Lufthansa retiring its A380s, the carrier’s first class footprint has been greatly reduced, as first class is currently only available on 747-8s.

3. SWISS First Class Lounge Zurich (ZRH)

SWISS’ first class lounge in Zurich is spectacular, and features a gorgeous design.

SWISS first class lounge entrance

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 dining area

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 bedroom

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 terrace

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.
The latest for 2022: The SWISS first class lounge Zurich is unfortunately currently closed, though hopefully it reopens in the coming months.

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

In terms of design, Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge 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 first class lounge entrance
Cathay Pacific first class lounge bar

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

Cathay Pacific first class lounge dining area

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

Cathay Pacific first class lounge nap room

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

Cathay Pacific first class lounge massage area

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.
The latest for 2022: The first class section of The Pier is unfortunately currently closed, and it’s anyone’s guess when it reopens. This was closed even before the pandemic, as Hong Kong saw a slump in business travel. I wouldn’t be surprised if this lounge never returns in its original form.

5. Qantas First 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 class lounge seating

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 class lounge dining

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

Qantas first class lounge spa treatment room

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.
The latest for 2022: The Qantas first class lounge reopened as of November 2021, and it’s currently even open to select other passengers, as the neighboring business class lounge hasn’t yet reopened.

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 minimalist and industrial design, but personally I do. While many other lounges feel crowded, this one feels empty no matter how full it actually is.

Qatar Airways first class lounge seating
Qatar Airways first class lounge water display

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 it offers private bedrooms for passengers with long layovers, and I’d say these are the second best airport bedrooms after those in the SWISS lounge.

Qatar Airways first class lounge bedroom

While all of those things are great, the lounge also has some confusing policies. The lounge has a spa, but all treatments are outrageously priced. Want to use the hot tub in the lounge? That will cost you ~$55. Lounge agents also seem to enforce inconsistent rules about who can use the bedrooms.

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 (regional first class flights are eligible), or it’s possible to buy access to the lounge for 600QAR (~165USD) per person when flying Qatar Airways business class.
The latest for 2022: The Qatar Airways first class lounge is once again open for business, and is operating as normal.

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. The airline will pick you up at your arriving flight and take you to your departing flight later (typically by buggy).

Thai Airways first class lounge buggy service

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 it’s not quite to the level of what you’ll find in some other lounges.

Thai Airways first class lounge seating

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. As you’d expect, this is by far the best spa treatment offered by any airline.

Thai Airways first class lounge spa treatment room

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Star Alliance first class same day.
The latest for 2022: The Thai Airways first class lounge is currently closed, and for that matter I wouldn’t be surprised if this is permanent. Thai Airways seems to be planning to retire its Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 fleets, leaving the airline without planes that have first class.

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 Airways first class lounge entrance
Etihad Airways first class lounge gym

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

Etihad Airways first class lounge dining area

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

Etihad Airways first class lounge nap area

Still, 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.
The latest for 2022: The Etihad Airways first class lounge was reopened, but with limited hours. I wouldn’t confident that this lounge sticks around in its current form, given that Etihad Airways may retire its entire Airbus A380 fleet, meaning that Etihad would only have five Boeing 787-9s with first class. It seems unlikely that the airline will keep a dedicated first class lounge for just five planes.

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 super 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 seating
Emirates first class lounge seating

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 dining area

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. The lounge doesn’t have an intimate and residential-feeling design, like you’d find in Cathay Pacific’s 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 Skywards Platinum member, or you can buy access for $200 if traveling on Emirates in economy, or buy access for $100 if traveling on Emirates in business class.
The latest for 2022: The Emirates first class lounge is open and operating as usual.

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.

Singapore Airlines first class lounge seating
Singapore Airlines first class lounge dining area
Singapore Airlines first class lounge dining

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Singapore Airlines Suites or first class same day.
The latest for 2022: The Singapore Airlines Private Room is closed, and we don’t have a timeline for when it will reopen.

11. Oman Air First Class Lounge Muscat (MCT)

A few years ago 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.

Oman Air first class lounge dining area

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.

Oman Air first class lounge dining

How to access this lounge: You must be flying Oman Air first class same day.
The latest for 2022: The Oman Air first class lounge is open. Oman Air has expressed interest in joining the oneworld alliance, so it’s possible that eventually oneworld Emerald members may get access to this lounge.

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.

Etihad Residence Lounge
Etihad Residence Lounge service
Etihad Residence Lounge dining

The latest for 2022: With Etihad in all likelihood retiring its entire Airbus A380 fleet, that also spells the end of the Etihad Residence. Unfortunately this lounge service will probably be a thing of the past.

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.

Unfortunately many of these lounges continue to remain closed, and for that matter we could see lasting changes to the services that they offer. Personally I’d be surprised if the Thai Airways first class lounge reopens, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Etihad first class lounge doesn’t stick around in its current form.

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

Conversations (26)
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  1. harry hv Guest

    The Concorde Room is nice but there's no desks. If you want to work you're sent into the "boardroom" to share a large table. Food is so-so, microwave-reheated. As for connecting passengers, no Porsche pickup here, on the contrary you're still subject to BA's spiteful treatment of latecomers - "computer says no". BA's computers will always cancel your ticket if you're not past security 35m ahead, even if the plane isnt yet at the gate.

  2. idealflyer Guest

    Very good list, but I would include one more. An airline rich in lounge history but losing much popularity. BA First lounge or Concorde Room should have gotten a nod along with the spa services. And honorable mention to Turkish Airlines whose business class lounges rival some other airlines First class lounges.

  3. robbo Guest

    Very good summary, without even knowing it, when I went back over the list, I have been to all of them. I fully concur with the order you have them in. TG F Lounge is a bit dated now last time I was there.

  4. kimshep New Member

    Perhaps it is 'confusion' on my behalf, but I have always understood Cathay's First Lounge in HKG to be the 'Wing Lounge'. Certainly, the Pier is universally recognised as a superior lounge product ~ but I wonder what I am missing?
    The fact that Cathay has had up to six (6) lounges in Hong Kong and that the Pier has been repeatedly opened and shut (current status is closed) may have a bit to do with this?

  5. Hiro Gold

    Lucky, you've left out that the Private Room has been refurbished and it's totally new.

    Also, Swiss has another first class lounge at Concourse A, which has been open for months. The one you're referring to is the E one, which is used mostly by long haul flights

  6. crosscourt Guest

    You could fire a cannon in the emirates first lounge in dubai crand not hit anyone. its a sterile place. as for the shower rooms, atrocious. you feel you are in a sauna, no air and you cannot make the water cool.

    1. Mike Guest

      Must agree. Showers at the emirates lounge are very problematic. Not as problematic as the ones in Qatar. Water is boiling and the room has no ventilation. Fully understand that cold water in that part of the world is never cold, but been to enough hotels to know that there is something very wrong with that water supply

  7. NYGuy24 Member

    I was not impressed with the LH FCT. I mean it was ok but it isn't all that it is made out to be. Found the service to be mostly inattentive, there is a cigar room but they don't give out free cigars anymore and you can't buy individual cigars but instead to have to buy a whole box, it is somewhat a pain to get to if you are transiting (actually have to walk...

    I was not impressed with the LH FCT. I mean it was ok but it isn't all that it is made out to be. Found the service to be mostly inattentive, there is a cigar room but they don't give out free cigars anymore and you can't buy individual cigars but instead to have to buy a whole box, it is somewhat a pain to get to if you are transiting (actually have to walk outside along the road to get there) and there are few rooms with beds (during my stay of several hours the rooms were taken). I found CX The Pier to be a way better experience on pretty much every level. The SQ first class lounge wasn't bad, but was a bit meh in design. They are apparently refreshing it. Still I enjoyed my meal there. I was rather disappointed with the Emirates Dubai F lounge. My experience with this particular lounge was during the pandemic, but still people should be aware. Much of the lounge is currently closed. The food was alright. Had a massage. Still it felt more like a business lounge experience. I was disappointed by the experience after all the hype.

  8. Gregory Wallace Guest

    You left off the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul. Not only is it architecturally stunning, the food spread is truly remarkable. Turkish Airlines always claims it has the best food in the world, and they are right. The lounge is unblievable.

    1. Hiro Gold

      That's not a first class lounge. That's a business class lounge, which makes it more impressive.

    2. Aaron Guest

      It's a nice lounge but is not quite up to the level of most of these lounges. Best food? Maybe for a business class lounge but not up there with what Air France, Swiss, Cathay, or what many of those other lounges are offering.

    3. Matt Guest

      It is a very nice lounge but I actually liked the old one more than the new one. Food selection had been significantly reduced during the pandemic.

  9. Rainer Guest

    Swiss First Lounge in E will re-open in March

  10. Bruce Guest

    Flew SQ F through SIN over the holidays and the staff said the successor to the private room will open sometime in q3 2022

  11. Mike Guest

    Hey Ben, i was is DOH yesterday flying QSuites (AA award) and had an 8hr layover so I figured I would pay for Al Safwa access. No such luck. I inquired twice with 2 different staff, and both gave the the same answer. It seems now it must be a QR issued ticket in order to pay for access.

  12. Endre Guest

    First class expert here :) Disclaimer: I fly in First whenever possible (paid only and no points trick). My top 3 First class lounges are AF La Premiere, Cathay The Pier HKG and JAL Narita First Class.
    Let's hope border restrictions are lifted in 2022 with the Omicron wave

    1. Curious Guest

      Endre, as you put so much emphasis on how much you spend on flying all the time: Would you mind sharing how much your net worth is?

  13. bc Guest

    Where would the Capital One Lounge in Dallas fall on this list? Not even close?

    1. tjp74 Guest

      Not even close. It won't even be close to the "Business class" version of these lounges.

    2. Super Member

      That's like asking the Michelin Restaurant guide where Chipotle falls on their list. Like, it's good food, but not even on nodding terms with the caliber of discussion.

  14. Steve S Guest

    FWIW a data point from NOV/DEC 2021. My wife and I were flying Qatar J on award tickets we were able to get in the business class lounge without issue but on both directions we repeatedly tried to buy access to first class lounge but we're told we cannot. Our layovers were 6 hours and 8hrs so would have been nice. Given what I read about award tickets and getting into the business class lounge...

    FWIW a data point from NOV/DEC 2021. My wife and I were flying Qatar J on award tickets we were able to get in the business class lounge without issue but on both directions we repeatedly tried to buy access to first class lounge but we're told we cannot. Our layovers were 6 hours and 8hrs so would have been nice. Given what I read about award tickets and getting into the business class lounge we felt just happy to be in there. Don't get me wrong, J lounge is superb and we did enjoy. But I wonder if not being able to buy access to first class lounge has something to do with the award ticket?

    1. Mike Guest

      If it was QR issued award no problem. If it was AA or BA etc. Then it no longer qualifys (unless you have QR Platinum status)

  15. Endre Guest

    TG plans on keeping F on some of its 777, especially those used for flying the monarch to his sexil in Germany. From what I have heard a while back, the spa won’t offer the same services once reopened, there are even rumors it will close permanently. TG will harmonize its fleet as part of their restructuring plan. After all, TIT, only Buddha knows what will actually happen.

  16. eponymous coward Guest

    LOL, two lounges that have vanishingly small chances of being reopened to actual visitors in 2022 (and possibly ever)are some of the “best first class lounges of 2022”. You might as well be writing evergreen content on the Braniff and TWA first class lounges.

    I get it, the beast that is OMAAT must be fed with evergreen content, but sheesh. This seems about as realistic as plugging Alaska miles as a great way to fly Cathay in winter 2022.

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tjp74 Guest

Good for you!

1
Super Member

That's like asking the Michelin Restaurant guide where Chipotle falls on their list. Like, it's good food, but not even on nodding terms with the caliber of discussion.

0
harry hv Guest

The Concorde Room is nice but there's no desks. If you want to work you're sent into the "boardroom" to share a large table. Food is so-so, microwave-reheated. As for connecting passengers, no Porsche pickup here, on the contrary you're still subject to BA's spiteful treatment of latecomers - "computer says no". BA's computers will always cancel your ticket if you're not past security 35m ahead, even if the plane isnt yet at the gate.

0
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