Oneworld sets bar high
Overview: Oneworld alliance partners Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific debuted a luxury lounge June 17 for first- and business-class passengers flying out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. And although the lounge is branded specifically for these three airlines, which footed its bill, the club actually is open to passengers on all Oneworld partners including American Airlines, Japan Airlines and others. Qantas is the lead player and the one responsible for bringing in the outside management firms that oversee food service and overall operations. The look and feel of the lounge pay tribute to L.A.’s midcentury legacy – including an entire wing lined with Eames lounge chairs and ottomans. A communal circular fireplace provides a great place for socializing. Natural light pours into the lounge from floor-to-ceiling windows of a central atrium. The lounge currently accommodates up to 400 customers.
Location: The lounge is on the upper deck (Level 5) of the newly revamped Tom Bradley terminal, adjacent to a new food court and a full-service steakhouse.
Access: Business-class and first-class passengers on Oneworld-affiliated flights departing from Tom Bradley have access to the lounge with a valid boarding pass and invitation from their airline.
Service: Qantas hired Sofitel to manage the lounge. This is the first time a luxury hotel brand has assumed the management of an airline lounge in Los Angeles. Sofitel operates Qantas lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore, for example, while Peninsula Hotels manages Cathay Pacific’s swanky clubhouses in Hong Kong. As such, service throughout the lounge feels more like what you would encounter in the lobby lounge of a luxury hotel rather than at a typical self-serve airport club like the Oneworld facility this one replaces. Cocktail waitresses roam the club making sure everyone has a drink. Savvy mixologists prepare a full roster of cocktails. And the baristas turn every cappuccino into a work of art.
Food/drink: Sydney-based celebrity chef Neil Perry oversees the food service for the lounge, which includes a lavish buffet of hot and cold salads and full-sized entrees made from scratch, not merely little snacks. Two mobile carts also serve made-to-order tacos and hot dogs. Perry offers two types of tacos, one filled with fried fish and another made with spicy pulled pork. The pork is outstanding. Perry hasn’t yet grasped the local technique for cooking tortillas, and his fish doesn’t have the right kind of batter to be called authentic California- or Baja-style, but there’s no denying the quality of ingredients or made-from-scratch efforts. And everything is free, so it’s hard to quibble.
Amenities: The lounge is very laptop friendly and features electrical outlets at most seats.
For customers who wish to freshen up before their flight, the club offers nine shower suites, with body products from Australia-based Aurora Spa. And customers traveling in first class – as well as Qantas platinum fliers and Oneworld emerald members – gain access to exclusive services such as complimentary shirt pressing and shoe shining.
Still to come: Early next year, a separate first-class lounge for up to 200 passengers will open next to this one. The existing space will then transition to business-class only, with the addition of seven more shower suites and a separate family zone. The upcoming first-class lounge also will feature a full-service Neil Perry diner, the chef’s first full-service restaurant in America.
Bottom line: This a huge improvement from the former Oneworld product at Tom Bradley. Frankly, it’s not as visually spectacular as the competing Star Alliance lounge that opened in this terminal in September, what with its outdoor terrace and views of the runway, but the Sofitel service at Oneworld is a definite triumph over Star Alliance. Perry also sets a new standard for food and beverage in an airport club at LAX.
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Oneworld sets bar high