Reopening of airport lounges for domestic travelers: Travel Weekly
Travelers returning to the skies this summer will find that a wide array of domestic lounges have reopened. However, many that cater primarily to international travelers remain closed.
Among the three major US carriers, Delta has opened 47 of its 52 Sky Clubs, having recently reopened a second lounge in Boston on June 8.
American operates 27 of its 42 Admirals Club lounges in its home network in 21 cities and has also reopened lounges in Mexico City and Sao Paulo. However, American has yet to reopen any of its five flagship lounges, which cater almost exclusively to business travelers and first-class international travelers.
United are reopening their domestic lounges at a slower pace than their main rivals. Currently, the carrier has opened 11 United Club lounges, including at least one in each of its eight hubs in Chicago O’Hare, Newark, Washington Dulles, Houston Bush, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Guam, as well as Honolulu United Club. . The carrier says it will have 21 lounges open by midsummer, with new additions in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas.
United has yet to reopen any of its five Polaris lounges, which serve international business class travelers. The closures will continue until international traffic reaches sustainable levels, the carrier said.
Alaska, the fourth US airline with a network of lounges, has reopened its three Alaska lounges in Seattle as well as lounges in Anchorage and Los Angeles. The carrier has permanently closed its New York JFK lounge. A new salon in San Francisco is slated to open later this summer.
Similar scenarios are playing out in networks of US lounges that are not owned by airlines. American Express has reopened 11 of the 12 United States-based Centurion lounges it operated before the pandemic. The only exception is LaGuardia, which is under construction; when completed, it will reopen in a larger space in the new terminal B at the airport. The only foreign Centurion lounge in Hong Kong remains closed. In January, American Express also opened a new Centurion Lounge in Denver.
Escape Lounges is gradually opening its network of lounges in the United States Customers must remain masked, by federal mandate, when not eating or drinking. Photo credit: Courtesy of Escape Lounges
Escape Lounges, which operates a network of 13 common-use lounges in the United States that charge daily access fees, reopened five of those locations, including two in Ontario, California, and lounges in Phoenix; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Reno, Nevada. Reopens in Oakland, Calif., And Hartford, Connecticut, are slated for later this month, Acting COO Sid Higgins said. None of Escape’s five UK lounges have reopened.
Ongoing travel restrictions are the main reason many lounges serving international travelers remain closed. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has yet to reopen any of its Clubhouse lounges, including its famous JFK Clubhouse. At London Heathrow, the situation is complicated as the lounge is located in Terminal 3, but Virgin operates temporarily from Terminal 2 due to terminal consolidation linked to the pandemic.
However, some international fairs have reopened. Lufthansa, for example, reopened its First Class Lounge at Frankfurt Airport on June 1. The Swiss Business Lounge in New York JFK, run by the Lufthansa Group, is also open, but only four hours a day. Other lounges will reopen in the coming weeks, Lufthansa said.
Priority Pass, whose members have access to a network of more than 1,300 lounges around the world, said more than 50% of those lounges around the world are currently open.
Some lounges, like the Swiss Lounge in New York, have shorter hours. And Lufthansa requires proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or a negative Covid-19 test for entry.
Lounges across the United States are still required to enforce the federal airport mask mandate, except when customers eat and drink.
Service protocols have also been changed at many salons, but not necessarily for the worse. The Escape Lounges once served its freshly prepared buffet meals. Now customers can enjoy table service after accessing the menu via the QR code. Dining options remain as varied as ever, Higgins said, including rotating seasonal offerings.
Escape has also replaced physical newspapers and magazines with a digital library of thousands of publications. And he took advantage of the Covid-19 hiatus to renovate lounges in Reno, Minneapolis, Oakland and Hartford. “We have taken advantage of the restrictions to really improve service for our customers,” Higgins said.