Four of the best new airport lounges opening in 2018

The business class experience isn't restricted to above the clouds. Airport lounges are also raising the bar: not just in what they offer but the environment they create for high flyers while on the ground.

Qantas: contemporary class

This week sees Qantas open its all-new Qantas Club in Melbourne, with the adjacent Qantas Business lounge undergoing its own makeover before the year is out.

Travellers will see a vastly more spacious, less cluttered and generally 'open' design complemented by lighter woods and colours.

Melbourne's impressive transformation, which comes at the hand of Qantas' long-time lounge partner Woods Bagot, is an iteration of what's already seen at Qantas' domestic Perth and Brisbane lounges, and a world apart from the original and now-dated flagship Qantas Club template.

Room to move

There's far greater variety in seating, tables and raised workbenches, too, with plenty of AC and USB power sockets scattered around the lounge.

The Qantas Club also gets its own tended bar serving premium beers, wines and spirits

That said, something the new Qantas Club won't have will be outdoor views. A reconfiguration of the overall lounge space has the Qantas Business lounge taking over the former Qantas Club area against those large windows with views to the tarmac, with the Club lounge shifting towards the centre of the terminal.

Cathay Pacific: residential chic

When Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific decided to revamp its lounge network the airline turned to London-based designer Ilse Crawford.

Crawford's focus on a 'home away from home' vibe made the lounges into elegant retreats where travellers can snatch an hour or two of calm before their flight with ample carpeting to soften the acoustics, and gentle lighting to create a more personal and personable space.

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The pinnacle of this is The Pier First Class lounge at Hong Kong, which has aptly been described as looking like an apartment owned by a friend who not only has better taste than you but a lot more money as well.

A second home

"Travellers can feel a little bit disoriented and tired, and lounges often don't help you by creating a big, big space with many niches" Crawford tells High Flyer.

"So we're trying to create something that is more like a real space and has rooms, and also a connection of the rooms which makes sense, creating a layout that's intuitively easy to navigate."

Crawford is especially proud of the "amazing showers" in her Cathay lounges.

"An environment can either say 'I care about you' or it can say 'I don't care about you'… to me, an amazing shower is just being able to feel that the designer has really anticipated your needs."

United Airlines: the business class lounge

United Airlines is busy rolling out its own new-look international lounges, which share the same Polaris brand as the carrier's business class.

Indeed, the Polaris lounges are restricted to business class (and first class) travellers: even the airline's own top-tier frequent flyers are shunted to the less-impressive United Club lounges.

With two already in Chicago and San Francisco, three more – at NY-adjacent Newark, Houston and Los Angeles – will open in the next half year.

Market targeted

However, United's Director of Premium Services, Alex Dorow, says that while each Polaris lounge will be immediately recognisable as part of United's portfolio they will also be "distinct to the market, because we want to ensure that as a customer it's not monotonous. You want to feel that you're in San Francisco, or LA, or Chicago."

That means local touches from artwork to food, including a different à la carte dining menu based on its flight destinations.

The bar at the LAX Polaris lounge, for example, "will really feel like you're in California, especially in Southern California, with the unique tiles that are indigenous to that area," Dorow says, along with a strong focus "on wine and spirits which is attributed to the California clientele, more so than any of our other hubs."

"I can't make your flight go any faster, but I can certainly take care of you on the ground and give you a very custom experience to make that flight more comfortable."

American Express: the boutique lounge

American Express opened its own lounge at Melbourne's international terminal earlier this year, with entry available to select AMEX card-holders regardless of which airline they're flying or what cabin class they're in.

Designed by Sydney-born and now Hong Kong-based Mitchel Squires, the lounge – like its Sydney sibling – uses its compact footprint to create a cosy exclusive feel.

Squires has divided the space into three separate 'zones' for dining, a quieter space "and a business bureau in the back of the lounge."

"When you go into a lounge as a business traveller and there's a bunch of families and kids there, you want to get away from that,' says Squires. "Dedicated business hubs always cater for the business traveller."

As somebody who does plenty of travel, Squires explains that "when I approach lounge design I'm also also catering to what I look for in a lounge."

"On business trips I'm looking for good food, and then a quiet place for my own business activity. On leisure trips I'm looking for more of a social zone and a relaxing area."

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of . His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of 51698009 readers.

Check out the gallery above to take a look inside the most exciting new airline lounges of 2018.

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