Browsing Tag: Airline Lounge

A view from upstairs to downstairs of the LANTAM lounge in Santiago

A view from upstairs to downstairs of the LATAM lounge in Santiago

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of LAN Airlines’ new VIP Lounge in Santiago, Chile (SCL). The new lounge impresses in nearly every way, especially when compared to its predecessor at SCL. As you may recall, AirlineReporter Associate Editor Blaine Nickeson visited the old one back in March and described it as “very crowded and a little dated.” This new lounge is none of that.

Seating area with computers for use in the background

Seating area with computers for use in the background

The new lounge occupies two floors at the west end of the check-in concourse. Located adjacent to the Priority Check-in Area, the lounge is up a few steps (or a short ramp) from the priority security screening area’s exit. Alternatively, for passengers passing through the regular security checkpoint, it can be accessed via elevators that are located just past the duty free shop.

An Aeromexico Boeing 767 - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

An Aeromexico Boeing 767 – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

I recently had the opportunity to experience the premium product on two major North American (non-US) carriers. I thought it would be a good chance to evaluate and compare the two different products and see how they stack up! I was invited to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by a good friend of mine whose fiancé is Brazilian. They planned a trip to Argentina and invited close friends. Given that going to South America would mean I had visited all the continents (well, apart from Antarctica), I had to agree. In planning this trip, I decided to use miles to make the trip more affordable.

Much to my surprise, there was no point in booking a flight one-way using miles and the return flight paying cash. Interestingly, it cost the same amount (or more) for a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, compared to a round-trip ticket. This just further reinforced my plan to use miles. I was able to use Alaska Airlines miles to fly Aeroméxico on the flight down, and United miles to fly Air Canada on the return. Funny how that can work, right?

Afternoon offerings include hot soup, artisinal bread along with Hummus, crackers and other more refined snack options - Photo: Mal Muir |

Afternoon offerings include hot soup, artisinal bread along with Hummus, crackers and other more refined snack options – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter

Domestic airline lounges in the USA do not have the best reputation. A place to get a drink and sit out your flight delay in a dark, cigar lounge atmosphere? United does not like that thought, and they have decided to do something about it.

At first they started renovating their clubs, bringing them up to a new standard. Now they have come into the second phase, and are going to be updating the food and snacks on offer. For many frequent fliers, this should be a welcomed change.

The entry way to United Club in Terminal 2 at O'Hare - Photo: United

The entry way to United Club in Terminal 2 at O’Hare – Photo: United

I have been through my fair share of United Clubs. I have been a Star Alliance Gold member for years, and like many of you, I am inherently familiar with Goldfish crackers, Tillamook cheese, and yogurt (or chocolate) covered pretzels/raisins. I have had my binge sessions while waiting out a delayed flight snacking on those things while powering my devices.

Considering that an annual club membership could run you as much as $500 a year, the meager snack offerings don’t seem all that great.  Those days are now going to be history.  United has decided to follow the feedback of their guests, and also a similar trend among their competitors, to offer something a little bit more substantial, even palatable.

A nice big sign welcomes you to the Virgin America Loft

A nice big sign welcomes you to the Virgin America Loft – Photo: Mal Muir /

Virgin America has tried to differentiate themselves from all the others by providing a better product than others, not just in flight but on the ground as well. They have all but taken over Terminal 3 in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). When Alaska Airlines moved out of the terminal over to Terminal 6, it left a big empty space in the upstairs area at T3. This space was at one time the Alaska Airlines Boardroom, but as of early December, this is now Virgin America’s first airline lounge, known as “The Loft”

Unlike most airline lounges, there is no memberships for sale; the lounge is open to anyone with a Virgin America ticket and a willingness to pay the entry fee of ($40). Not even the top tiers of Virgin America’s own frequent flier program, Elevate, get unlimited access (they get a few passes). Thankfully they do allow access to passengers who have Virgin Australia Velocity Gold & Platinum members free of charge (of which I am one coincidentally). It is also the lounge for those passengers who are flying Virgin Australia Business Class to Australia.

BONUS: Video tour of Virgin America’s The Loft at LAX

The lounge is located upstairs above the main terminal area, but unless you knew it was there, you would probably walk straight past it. If you did notice the sign directing you up the steps there is still a very non-descript doorway, which with the push of a button, you are allowed into a very modern and fashionable lobby. The dominating feature of this lobby is the glass partition with the engraved Virgin America aircraft (something that would look great on any AvGeeks wall).

Even though T3 was packed full of people, (thanks to the daily arrival of the international flights from the South Pacific and Asia and their connecting passengers) when I was visiting the lounge was nearly empty. This gave it a feeling of an oasis away from the mass.

As you leave the lobby behind the glass partition are the bathrooms (sadly no showers for those wanting a quick freshen up after a long day in the LA sun) and from there the lounge is divided into two main areas. To your left is the “TV room” with some very comfy, albeit unique looking seats in clusters around very low tables. To your right is the main lounge area and bar, with the a buffet connecting the two. As you would expect for an airline lounge in North America your snacks are free.

The TV Room area of the Loft

The TV Room area of the Loft – Photo: Mal Muir /

The spread for breakfast was a wonderful array of small pastries and muffins, cereals, breads for toast (and all the usual adornments such as peanut butter, jelly etc.) and even some cold bites like a smoked salmon bagel or a fruit salad wrap.

The lunch spread was also lovely with cold salads and wraps along with sushi and some cold meats and cheeses for a sandwich (with every condiment you could want). And if you want to plan ahead, you can check out The Loft’s food menu on Virgin America’s website.

Peckish?  Time for some Lunch!

Peckish? Time for some Lunch! – Photo: Mal Muir /

Pair that up with the fully staffed bar serving cocktails, beer on tap and also wines in lovely big stem less glass ware and you have yourself a great experience.

Feel like something on the softer side? There is also Espresso (with a choice of beans), the usual soft drinks and some lovely flavored ice water (lime and a pineapple strawberry combination on offer that day). Even a pair of binoculars adorns the bar to allow you to check out the Hollywood sign (though I know a number of AvGeeks who would use them to check out who is on the downwind leg for landing).

Binoculars provided to check out the Hollywood Sign, or that 747 on Downwind to 24R

Binoculars provided to check out the Hollywood Sign or that 747 on Downwind to 24R – Photo: Mal Muir /

One thing that does remain from the old Alaska Boardroom days is the floor to ceiling windows. In my opinion, they provide some of the best runway views available at LAX. With a straight view out onto the taxiway and the parallel north runways (24L & R), this is a prime location to sit back and enjoy the view with a drink or a snack. You don’t even need a great lens or set up to get good shots. A small point and shoot camera should get some nice close up shots of the heavies as they go past.

The seats in this area are comfortable & relaxing, combined with the free Wi-Fi, this could mean that long layover between flights is spent being as productive or as chilled as you desire.

For someone who has 4 or 5 hours to wait after an international connection or between flights in LAX, the Virgin America Loft seems like good value considering the price and all the inclusions on offer in the lounge. Your entry fee would easily be covered after a number of cocktails and some food at the usual terminal pricing (and of considerably better quality compared to a Burger King or Starbucks probably). For me though, those views are the sell, the rest is just a bonus!

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos
The Koru Club at LAX offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The Koru Club at LAX offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

First of all, I have to be honest and say that I have become a bit of a spoiled traveler. Before starting this blog, I rarely got to see the inside of an airline’s lounge. I thought they were just for the uber elite (either wealthy or status earners). Now, I realize that lounges aren’t this magical land that a rare few can access, they are something that almost anyone can get into (with a fee, of course).

On my recent flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to London’s Heathrow (LHR) (for Farnborough), my ticket did not give me club access. The problem was I had almost a six hour lay over at LAX (after flying in from Seattle) and I didn’t want to do it in Terminal 2 at LAX.

This became my temoporary office for a few hours in the Koru Lounge.

This became my temporary office for a few hours in the Koru Lounge.

Taking a look at what the Koru Club offered and knowing how great lounges can be, I was ready to pay the $55 for a day pass. Don’t get me wrong, I surely don’t have much money to throw around, but the idea of being able to spend a good chunk of my lay over (I arrived at LAX at 10:30am, but the lounge doesn’t open until 1pm), the $55 seemed like a good deal.

When you break down what it might cost to access internet at an airport, buying a meal or drinks, the $55 becomes a good deal quite quickly.

Luckily for my wallet, Air New Zealand reached out and asked if I would like access to check it out and prepare before my flight. Um…yes please.

There is a nice selection of food and drink options at Air New Zealand's LAX lounge.

There is a nice selection of food and drink options at Air New Zealand’s LAX lounge.

Access to the lounge is on the second floor of Terminal 2, past security. It is a lounge operated by Air New Zealand, but Virgin Australia customers are able to get access too.

Some lounges seem too fancy and I feel a bit out of place. Others feel pretty cheap and I would be embarrassed if I was the airline. The Koru Club is a lounge that is just right for my taste. It is not too large, has plenty of seating options, free Wi-Fi, showers, a decent selection of food and drinks.

The lounge offers a sandwich bar. Good thing -- I love sandwiches.

The lounge offers a sandwich bar. Good thing — I love sandwiches.

Another important quality I look for is great views of the airport. During my wait, I was able to spot so many different types of aircraft — MD-11, A380, Boeing 747 — it was eye candy for sure.

As with most places around an airport, I wish they had more power outlets. The four place table, where I spent the majority of my time, only had two outlets and I used both of them the entire time (luckily no one else came to sit down).

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