Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - Star Alliance First Class / Business Class Lounge, LAX

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The big morning After eating breakfast at The Concourse Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, I got onto the hotel's complimentary shuttle to the terminal.

"What airline?" asked the driver.
"Singapore," I replied.
"You're going far! At least the airline will probably feed you," said Dave, a good-natured bro headed to upstate New York.
"You have no idea, Dave," I thought.

After a five-minute ride, the shuttle pulled in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the departure point for almost all international flights out of LAX.

The sight of the "Suites" check-in line was a thrill: the journey was about to begin! The check-in agent told me I was the first customer in Suites to check in.

This way to the holy grail

 Suites Class check-in

I expected three boarding passes and was surprised when the agent handed me two. The Los Angeles to Tokyo leg has the same flight number as the Tokyo to Singapore leg (SQ 011). When traveling the full Los Angeles - Tokyo - Singapore route, you get just one boarding pass for the whole flight; you don't get separate ones for each leg of SQ 011. (My other boarding pass was for the Singapore - Shanghai leg).

The check-in agent told me I could use the Star Alliance First Class Lounge and pointed me to security. I didn 't see a TSA Pre-Check at the international terminal, and the priority line did not have a separate first-class line. But the line was short, and soon I was in the lobby of the newly remodeled Tom Bradley International Terminal.

 Tom Bradley International Terminal

 In case you forgot to bring your special lingerie

This was my first time at the post-remodel international terminal. Before, the departure area was unimpressive - not much light; low ceilings; gates far apart; few shops. Now, LAX looks like a world-class airport. It's bright and airy. I'm curious whether they remodeled the arrival area - it used to look like a dump.

Even as a passenger without lounge access, the new LAX looks like a great airport to spend a couple of hours. By comparison, San Francisco's international terminal looks austere.

I took the elevator up to the Star Alliance lounges. The business and first class lounges are next to each other and connect through a back door. For about an hour, I was the only passenger on the first-class side.

Star Alliance First Class Lounge
As I walked into the First Class Lounge, I was surprised at its small size. The lounge was never crowded when I was there. But if three or four flights departed around the same time with full first-class cabins, I think the lounge would feel a bit cramped.

But for now, with just me, it was quiet. Like, super quiet.

The lounge agent is on the other side of the glass wall.

And on the other side of the white wall (behind the TV), there's one of them fancy Eames lounge chairs. I don't think you're supposed to sit in it, though - there's no ottoman, and you'd be staring directly at the lounge agent if you sat here.

A fancy chair for fancy creeping

As you enter the lounge area, there's a buffet on the left and a dining area in the back.

The buffet was pretty modest. There's also a self-serve bar with a reasonable selection.


The lounge agent offered me a menu.

I wanted to save room for the Singapore Airlines feast, so I ordered just a slice of pumpkin pie and a coffee.

Aren't you fancy with your dusted cinnamon?

The lounge has one single-stall bathroom for each sex - that means there can be a wait.
The flowers are real!

The bathroom had conditioner, but no shampoo. Not that it matters - the bathroom also didn't have a shower. I don't think the first-class side has them (but the business-class side does).

 I guess someone took one as a souvenir.

The lounge agent came by my seat every ten minutes or so to see if I wanted anything to eat or drink - I think I disappointed her by not ordering more. So to avoid being a further disappointment, I escaped to the business-class side.

Star Alliance Business Class Lounge
There's a glass door connecting the back of the two lounges; you need a code to get back into the first-class side. But why go back? The business-class side is way cooler.

The business-class side is very large and has various seating and lighting arrangements to please a variety of audiences, including an indoor terrace overlooking the terminal and an outdoor roof patio.

But before you head over to the cool-kid business-class side, I'd suggest eating with the rich kids over in first class. Over in businessland, you don't get the first-class side's menu, but the buffet has lots of selections, including this make-your-own-pho station.

 Californians love pho

Hot items

Cold wraps

Decorative wine

If you want to be inside the terminal but away from the crowds, there's a terrace area that feels like you're almost outside. The terrace has a separate bar (although nobody was manning it when I was there).

 The completely unoccupied terrace

But the best part of the lounge was the rooftop patio area overlooking the tarmac. The wi-fi works outside.

Because it was 72 degrees - frigid by Los Angeles standards for mid-November - the lounge staff turned on the outdoor heat lamps and gas fireplaces.

The first class lounge was fine, but the Business Class Lounge truly stood out for me - it's the best non-first-class lounge I've seen. The outdoor areas are unique and the food looks good. The lounge is a huge upgrade from the pre-remodel Star Alliance Business Class Lounge - squeaky wood-laminate flooring with a sad crockpot of stroganoff and soggy noodles.

So even if you're traveling in first class, make sure to visit the Business Class Lounge (or skip the first-class side entirely). And even if you're in economy but are a Star Alliance Gold member (Premier Gold and above on United), you get access to the Business Class Lounge.

The Iggy Itinerary
1. Introduction
2. Booking

Outbound (LAX-NRT-SIN-PVG)
3. Lounge Report - Star Alliance First Class / Business Class Lounge, LAX
4. Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Los Angeles > Tokyo-Narita (A380-800)
5. Lounge Report - ANA Suite Lounge, Tokyo-Narita
6. Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Tokyo-Narita > Singapore (A380-800)
7. Lounge Report - The Private Room, Singapore
8. Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Singapore > Shanghai-Pudong (A380-800)

9. Lounge Report - Air China Business Class Lounge, Shanghai-Pudong
10. Asiana Business Class, Shanghai-Pudong > Seoul-Incheon (767-300)
11. Lounge Report - Asiana First Class Lounge, Seoul-Incheon
12. Lufthansa First Class, Seoul-Incheon > Frankfurt (747-8i)
13. Review: Hyatt Regency Mainz
14. Lounge Report - Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt
15. Lufthansa First Class, Frankfurt > Vancouver (747-400)
16. Lounge Report - Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Vancouver
17. Air Canada rouge - Premium rouge Class, Vancouver > San Francisco (A319)


  1. Everyone loves pho. Everyone.

  2. That looks like a truly great biz class lounge. I don't like the harassment by the lounge agent though in first.