Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: Star Alliance Business Class lounge at LAX

Spoiler alert: This is the best U.S based lounge I've ever been to (but to be fair, the competition are not really putting up a fight, I guess it's much like Air Canada being named the best airline in North America...).

As my trip to Santa Monica came to an end I was scheduled to fly United back to Tel-Aviv via Newark. As my departure from LAX has been delayed from 10:55pm to 1:55am, I had planty of free time on my hands, and after a long dinner with local friends I've calmly made my way to LAX, returned the car, and took the shuttle to the United terminal. After checking my luggage, still having plenty of time on my hands, I've asked one of the United agents if I would be able to pass security at the Tom Bradly terminal. She answered yes, and also recommended that I walk over to the terminal which should take about 10 minutes compared to 30 minutes by using the shuttle. I followed her recommendation and 10 minutes later I entered the nearly empty TSA line at Tom Bradly's.

The Tom Bradley terminal
I went through without a problem and made my way to the lounge which is located above the restaurants area.

Lounge entrance

When I showed my boarding pass at the lounge entrance, the lounge receptionist kept insisting that my flight has already departed and I had to spend a couple of minutes convincing her that despite my misleading boarding pass, my flight was actually delayed to 2:00am. Once we settled that, I was in.

Although at that time (11:00pm) the lounge was almost empty, it's obvious to see that it can comfortingly accommodate a large crowd.  It has many separated and themed seating areas which lets you pick the atmosphere that fits you best, from a dining area to a quiet library room, to a cinema room and to an indoor terrace overlooking the terminal (a terminal which I must say is impressive regardless of the lounge, unlike the rest of the LAX terminals that resemble a central bus station more than an international airport).

Here are some photos of the seating areas:

The dining area

Main bar area

Cinema room

The terrace

Terminal views from the terrace

There are also a few showers in the lounge which I didn't tryout
Entrance to the showers area
Now, it was time to check out the food section and when I got to the buffet I immediately knew I'm gonna love this lounge:

Yep, no more C.Y.A signs asking you to ask the staff what you can or cannot eat, the staff who normally doesn't really know and either misleads you or just decides to C.Y.A himself and tell you there is nothing you can eat, even if there is a fruit basket right in front of him...
This allergens index just makes your life so much easier that it's just irritating that so few places have it. This is the first U.S lounge I've been to that bothers himself to mark the fool allergens, although it's very similar to the experience I've had in the SilverKris lounge at Heathrow. The closest
experience I've had in the U.S was at the Delta Sky Club in Orlando (which accessed by being a Star-Alliance Gold member flying out on Lufthansa, and kudos to Lufthansa for not making us use the crappy United Club instead), where the bar held a folder containing the ingredients and allergens lists for every food item their caterer provides. It is still up to you to match the description in the folder with the actual offering in the buffet.

Here are some photos of the buffet (at 11:30pm - Dinner time just before closure):

And these are the Gluten Free options:

Only the salad and the cheese selection
Vegetables and Hummus

There is also a self-service soup station with lots of clearly labeled Gluten Free toppings, including bean noodles. Unfortunately, the broth itself was unlabeled. It's a shame, since a Gluten Free broth (which it may or may not have been) coupled with the toppings could provide a large variety of dining options. A soup is also one of those things that could be easily converted to be Gluten Free without additional effort or cost, so why not?

The unlabeled broth

Personally, I just finished dinner with friends before driving to the airport so I didn't eat much. I just grabbed myself some of the Red Wine Poached Pears as a desert, which were excellent!

Wine and spirits are a big motif in this lounge. Starting with the "wine wall" beyond the buffet, to the double sided full-service bar between the terrace and the lounge area, and some self service wine and spirits stations:

Eventually my flight was cancelled, but that's a topic for a different post... Next time I'm flying out of LAX I'll make sure I leave enough time to enjoy this lounge again.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: Singapore Airlines' London Heathrow SilverKris Lounge

I've just created this blog and started thinking on where to start, and figured out I'll start with one of the most Gluten Free accommodating lounges I've had a chance to visit. It was during a business trip I took a few months back and didn't consider the fact that I'll be opening a blog when I was taking just the minimal amount of photos (planned for a Flyertalk review), but I promise to make up to it during my next trip through Heathrow.

Anyway, the new SilverKris lounge was opened exactly one month before my visit (as the receptionist pointed out to me). My original intention was to visit all 4 Star Alliance lounges during this visit and decided to start with the SilverKris lounge assuming that the best airline operating out of terminal 2 will also have the best lounge. As I was starving after a spending the day in the city I headed to the food section. First thing that caught my eye was the allergens legend. That's right, not a sign stating "Please ask our staff about any food allergies" but rather had (almost) every food item marked with its relevant allergens icons which can be mapped through the legend.


Sample food marking
Hot dishes

Out of those hot dishes, the Spiced Butternut Squash soap, and another dish of Pad Thai were gluten free and were delicious!

Deserts were next on the list. The cheesecakes you can see here in the photo didn't have any labeling on them, yet seemed too good to be just left alone, so I've asked one of the staff members to check with the chef (saw at-least two chefs working non-stop through the kitchen window) and gladly she came back with the all clear on the gluten! Yippee!

For celebrating their new lounge they also offered us a Singapore Sling ice-cream. Also gluten-free.
Singapore Sling Ice-cream
The buffet also features a quite boring self-serve drinks and snacks table.
Drinks and snacks

By this time I was full and went ahead to visit the rest of the lounge.

The lounge features a full service bar which always seem to be unattended when you approach it, yet, the second you glare at it, the bartender pops out from somewhere and takes your order. As I was already in the spirit I've ordered a Singapore Sling, which was OK, but  when you're ready for your drinks I recommend visiting the United Club nearby which features the most amazing and longest airport lounge bar I've even seen, with an impressive cocktail menu. I'll get a better review of the United Club the next time I'm there but you can see a part of it two photos down, and to the left...

The SilverKris full service bar (with an hidden bartender)

The United Club bar (to the left of the photo)

And for the rest of the lounge:

Personal work pods which, while small, give a decent work-space and privacy:

Coffie and soft drinks station:

And a small children play area:

That's it for this lounge. My original plan was to visit all 4 of them (Singapore's, United's, Air Canada's and Lufthansa's), but since both the SilverKris lunge and the United Club exceeded my expectations (I'm mostly used to the crappy U.S based United Clubs), I decided to skip the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, and assumed I'll stop at the Lufthansa Senator Lounge on my way to my Swiss flight to Zurich at Concourse A as this is where I read all the short-haul flights depart from, but about 15 minutes before boarding it was announced on a B gate and I figured it wouldn't make sense to walk all the way back to A.

Do you know any other airline lounges using such clear marking regarding what you can and cannot safely eat?