The only thing that makes long delays at the airport bearable

Sydney Airport was recently ranked the world’s sixth worst airline for flight cancellations and ninth worst for flight delays. According to flightaware.com, in the past two months almost 6% of flights out of Sydney have been canceled and 34% have been delayed.

It’s a global story. Sydney’s all-time worst performance since the first records in 2003 have been ignominiously beaten by several international airports, including Toronto Pearson, where 52% of flights were delayed, Frankfurt (45%) and Heathrow (40%).

With so many last-minute plane cancellations and delays, it seems travelers are doomed to spend more time than ever at airports, testing hard seats at gates, wandering like lethargic ghosts through shops duty-free and to sit sadly at fluorine-lit tables. cafes, feeding indifferent cups of $6 coffee.

But for those with lounge access, it’s usually a different experience. I say “generally” because not all airport lounges are alike and some, especially paid ones, are sometimes so lackluster and meager in their offerings that I prefer to try my luck in the main hall where at least the passing parade from other travelers is endlessly fascinating.

With lounge access, I can shower while in transit on a long-haul flight, which makes a huge difference in how fresh I feel when I arrive at my destination. This means I can avoid eating on the plane and pace my meals according to my own biological clock, not a common microbiome. If there’s a delay, I’ll be notified and can get through it in relative comfort with free Wi-Fi and snacks, and a locker for my carry-on if I want to wander around.

If I’m flying economy class, that’s the best benefit the airline’s gold status brings, as it’s getting harder and harder to get upgrades these days. And while some airports, like Changi and Doha, have plenty of comfy chairs, great cafes, and activities to fill long layovers, many don’t. I can’t sleep in an airport lounge, even if I’m tired. But in a private sleeping pod in a dark corner of a living room? You bet.

In recent years, airlines and credit card companies, competing for the high-end travelers who are their cash cows, have worked hard to outdo each other with increasingly comfortable and luxurious exclusive lounges. The pandemic has proven the wisdom of this. With travelers now spending so much time stuck in airports, lounge access has become as popular a perk of business and first class as an elongated seat.

Any first-class salon worth its salt these days has a wellness center, full concierge service, kitchens run by a Michelin-starred chef, excellent baristas, vintage champagne top notch and nap cabins for long layovers.

At Air France’s La Première lounge at Charles de Gaulle, culinary legend Alain Ducasse oversees the menu and gets pampered by high-end beauty brand Sisley Paris. The first-class Swiss lounge in Zurich features a high-tech wine cellar containing over 1000 bottles of premium wines. Cathay Pacific’s first-class The Wing lounge has full bathrooms in its spa suites, where you’ll no doubt be able to drink a few bubbles amid the bubbles. The Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai has a cigar bar. Etihad has a Six Senses Spa and Style&Shave barbers in its first-class salon in Abu Dhabi. The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in London has arcade games, pool tables and a hair salon.

LATAM’s new 43,000 square foot salon in Santiago, Chile houses an art gallery and runs on 80% renewable energy.

On a recent trip, I had the opportunity to hang out at Singapore Airlines’ new four-lounge complex in Terminal 3 at Changi Airport. The resort includes Silver Kris Lounges for Business and First Class, and a Krisflyer Gold Lounge for passengers of all classes with Star Alliance Gold Elite status. The icing on the cake, if you’re so lucky, is the ultra-exclusive private room for suites and first class passengers.

I could happily move in and settle there. It’s like a chic apartment, outfitted with Poltrona Frau leather recliners, exquisite stained-glass ceiling fixtures by Czech glassmaker LASVIT, huge bathrooms, and living rooms with plush zero-gravity beds from Tempur, which allow relaxation in complete weightlessness.

Gourmet options include laksa with lobster, and coulée is my favorite champagne (Taittinger Comte de Champagne, take note.)

Unfortunately, I only stopped there for a short time. With access to lounges like these, I would almost demand that my flight be delayed.

lee.tulloch@traveller.com.au

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