Lounge Life (Part 1)

Aside from a trip to the Admirals Club when I was in high school, I had never been to an airline lounge before this year. What a year of firsts! My current lounge credentials are obtained through credit cards: Priority pass lounges and American Admirals Club access through the Citi Prestige and Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access (plus a redundant and guestless Priority Pass membership) through the Amex platinum. I also get two United Club visits per year via the annual free passes that are included with the Mileage Plus Explorer card. You want reviews? I know you do. Every travel blog reviews stuff – I even found a review for a fucking bag of snack mix the other day. Conclusion: if you want readers, you gotta review. So here you go.

Overall, I think lounges are funny, in that (at least in the US, and I haven’t visited any of the fancy international lounges yet), their only value is determined relative to the rest of the airport. Most lounges would make shitty hotel lobbies, for instance. Pretty much any mid-level hotel will have nicer seating and furnishings in its lobby than you’ll find in the average airport lounge, but given that waiting out a 2-hour delay in a crowded terminal is a soul-suckingly awful experience, even a shitty hotel lobby is preferable. Therefore, I’m not reviewing a random Admirals club as it compares to the Emirates first class lounge in Dubai. Instead, my ratings are based on the following criteria, each worth ten points: furnishings, cookies, other non-cookie snacks, alcohol, views, bathrooms, outlets, and other amenities.

Alaska Airlines Board Room, SEA
s: worn down and could use a refresh, but overall comfortable for waiting out a layover. 6/10
Cookies: cinnamon animal crackers. Will do in a pinch, but disappointing. 2/10
Snacks: pancake printer is nice for the novelty, but it prints fairly rubbery pancakes. Maybe it needs new toner (AKA dough). Salads always look gross. Haven’t tried the soup, because I’m not generally a soup fan, AND WHY DO LOUNGES ALWAYS SERVE SOUP? 4/10
Alcohol: actually I haven’t had any alcohol here, but you get good beer and cocktails for free, so I’ll give this one a high score. 9/10
Views: great tarmac views, although you only see Alaska’s planes, so it gets a little repetitive after a while. 7/10
Bathrooms: clean, fairly private. Didn’t smell like piss the few times I’ve used it. 8/10
Outlets: most seats have outlets available. Why every lounge isn’t just a sea of power strips is beyond me, but whatever. 10/10
Other amenities: nothing really jumps out at me here. I’ll give it a few points for having a good division between the quiet area downstairs and the party atmosphere upstairs. 3/10
Final score: 49/80

I couldn’t find any pictures of the United Club at SFO, so you get this graphic instead. The United Club SFO is not this nice, so don’t get excited.

United Club, SFO (International Gates)
worn down and could use a refresh, but overall comfortable for waiting out a layover. (Yes, I copied and pasted this from the last one. It’s a pretty universal description of most lounges.) 6/10
Cookies: some weird brownie crunch stuff. Not bad, but still lower-tier. 4/10
Snacks: Good hummus, and I like that there are Skittles. Don’t Skittles seem like the kind of food that kids eat? It’s fun watching all these distinguished looking business people chomp down on some Skittles, reminding them of the childhood they lost and will never get back. This gets a high score for that alone. 7/10
Alcohol: Piss beer for free, everything else you pay for. Don’t insult me with your Coors Light, United. $600 per year for a membership and you can’t even give me Sam Adams? Fuck you. 1/10
Views: some good angles, but heavily obscured by its position in the terminal. 5/10
Bathrooms: Didn’t use, but this lounge gets really crowded, so I’m skeptical. 6/10
Outlets: One section has good access, the other doesn’t. 6/10
Other amenities: The lobby of this lounge is really nice. In fact, the first time I went to this lounge, I was really excited for what I’d find simply due to how nice the lobby is. The resulting disappointment could either be viewed as a positive or a negative. 4/10
Final score: 39/80

Unlike the United Club banner, this actually is the Admirals Club at SFO.

Admirals Club, SFO (International Gates)
 Newer than the other two, but surprisingly worn given that it was refreshed recently. Looks like it gets a lot of use, even though it was pretty empty while I was there.  7/10
Cookies: Excellent chocolate chip cookies. Not “artisanal” or anything fancy, but a good, utilitarian cookie can really hit the spot. 9/10
Snacks: Not great once you’re done with the cookie. Yogurt pretzels and dry fruit mix abound, and the food for purchase is way worse than what’s out in the concourse. Also, the dried fruit has a really high banana chips to everything else ratio – personally, I hate banana chips and adjusted the score accordingly, but you may want to take this into account. 7/10
Alcohol: Same deal as United. 1/10
Views: Very nice, and a good amount of window seating, too. Although you mostly look out at United planes (ironically), you can still catch the big boys taxiing by. I saw an Emirates A380, which was pretty impressive next to a bunch of 737s and the like. 8/10
Bathrooms: Pretty decent, but Terminal 2 at SFO has strangely clean bathrooms, so it isn’t a huge benefit. 6/10
Outlets: Good overall access. 8/10
Other amenities: From an ambience perspective, I like this lounge. They tried to do something different with the fake trees and the circular layout in the middle, so it doesn’t feel as generic as some of the other lounges. Especially given some reviews I’ve read of other Admirals Clubs, I have a feeling this is one of the nicer ones around. 7/10
Final score: 53/80

Stay tuned for more lounge reviews in part two of this gripping post!

Requisite question designed to spur a flurry of responses in the comments section: What’s YOUR least favorite lounge in the US?

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