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Some airport VIP lounges are so exclusive that there are no signs pointing you in their direction: if you're invited, you'll know where to find the secret entrance, which is sometimes away from the 'regular' lounges used by other travellers.
Whether stopping by for a quick à la carte meal, a private place to work or simply somewhere to escape the crowds and avoid being seen, here eight lounges that no ordinary frequent flyer card or business class boarding pass will get you into.
The Qantas Chairman's Lounges
Where you'll find them: In the domestic departures area of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra airports, usually behind a door marked "private lounge", or in Brisbane, behind an unmarked golden entryway:
Who gets in: Exclusively for travellers holding Qantas' by-invitation Chairman's Lounge status, and iO (invitation-only) members of Emirates Skywards.
What's inside: In a nutshell, imagine a Qantas First Lounge but at a domestic departure terminal, and with signature green colouring in Sydney, Canberra and Perth in place of the standard First Lounge red.
The design is less "gentlemen's club" in Melbourne and Brisbane, which adopt more modern design colours and styles...
... while Adelaide is stronger on the marble and wood panelling, in a nod to the former Qantas First Lounge in Brisbane:
Each lounge offers Rockpool dining with the menus typically offering a subset of dishes from the Qantas First Lounges, but always with the signature salt and pepper squid and pavlova in a glass...
... but the biggest drawcard is often the peace and quiet – an escape from the typical airport experience – with no boarding calls to interrupt your train of thought. Instead, the staff hold onto your boarding pass as you arrive, and come and find you when it's time to board.
Virgin Australia's The Club
Where you'll find them: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth domestic airports, behind subtle white glass doors labelled "private".
Who gets in: As the name hints, this space is exclusively for members of Virgin Australia's by-invitation The Club program, also known as Velocity VIP.
What's inside: Being Virgin's 'secret weapon' to compete with the Qantas Chairman's Lounge, members of The Club can enjoy à la carte dining, a quiet place to work and relax, and more personal space compared to the airline's regular airport lounges.
Members also have access to Virgin Australia's Concierge team at participating airports, who can provide assistance as needed, whether that's greeting you when your aircraft arrives or providing a swift and subtle exit.
Air New Zealand's Elite Priority One lounges
Where you'll find them: Confirmed sightings at Sydney and Auckland international airports, behind black glass doors marked "by invitation only", with private rooms also available to Elite Priority One members within the Star Alliance first class lounge in Los Angeles, which Air New Zealand manages.
Who gets in: Only those personally invited to join Air New Zealand's Elite Priority One program by AirNZ's CEO Christopher Luxon: you'll get a surprise gift in the mail, including a travel wallet with a subtle "1" circled inside...
... and as of 2017, pink and black baggage tags to match, again with the "1", if you look closely:
What's inside: Rather than operating as a 'mini first class lounge', the Elite Priority One lounges primarily serve as quiet areas for members and their guests to relax before their flight, with a dining area, and of course, facilities for getting any work done.
The space in Auckland spans two levels, although the lounge in Sydney is considerably smaller, as are the VIP rooms in Los Angeles, which are more designed for individual, group or family use rather than as general shared spaces:
American Express 'Centurion-only' Lounge, Hong Kong
Where you'll find it: Tucked away inside the regular AMEX Centurion Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport (which, despite the name, is really for Platinum cardholders). The Centurion-only space within that lounge begins with a private reception desk, and the remainder is beyond a tinted glass door.
Although AMEX operates Centurion Lounges at a number of other airports, this is the only Centurion Lounge with a separate Centurion-only space.
Who gets in: Exclusively for travellers with an American Express Centurion card: an above-Platinum charge card issued by American Express by invitation only (which, in Australia, attracts a $5,000 joining fee and a $5,000 annual fee).
What's inside: Glide through that black door, turn right, and you'll emerge in a private 'lounge room' area, with on-brand blue and black chairs catering to solo travellers, and a few to larger groups (Centurion members can be joined by two guests or their immediate family)...
... or proceed through to the next room and you'll discover the restaurant and dining area:
With table service throughout the space, there's a good range of breakfast items, starters, mains and desserts, and a few tasting plates if you have time to graze, such as the 'combination platter' with baked BBQ pork in puff pastry, crispy spring rolls with kimchi and pork, and fresh prawn with black truffle – and do make time for the barbequed pork with honey as a main, which I'd highly recommend.
As goes without saying, there's Champagne. The main 'Centurion Lounge' (for Platinum cardholders) has Champagne too – currently, Mumm NV – but you'll sometimes find a nicer drop in the Centurion-only space, such as Drappier:
Singapore Airlines' The Private Room, Singapore Changi T3
Who gets in: Passengers travelling with Singapore Airlines in Suites Class or first class only.
What's inside: Following the common theme of these other exclusive lounges, privacy and personal space come as standard...
... and a first class dining room, particularly handy before the airline's shorter overnight flights such as Singapore-Sydney, so you can eat on the ground and sleep in the sky:
AusBT review: Singapore Airlines' The Private Room, Singapore
British Airways' The Concorde Room lounges
Who gets in: First class passengers of British Airways only, along with Concorde Room cardholders and BA Executive Club Premier members (the airline's invitation-only tier).
Where you'll find them: In Terminal 5 at London Heathrow, and Terminal 7 at New York JFK. If you're eligible for access, the staff will point you in the right direction, as the entrances can sometimes be easy to miss.
What's inside: Beyond the typical waiter service, Champagne bar and private booths, the London Concorde Room was refreshed in late 2017 to bring a fresh style to the space...
... and a variety of seating zones for something a little different to your typical airport experience, in what BA describes as "a private oasis in the middle of a bustling airport."
Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt
Where you'll find it: As the name suggests, this isn't just a first class lounge, it's an entire first class terminal! Detached from the main buildings of Frankfurt Airport, you'll find it here, a little further along the roadway with a private entrance and valet service:
Who gets in: Exclusively for passengers departing on a Lufthansa first class flight; connecting from a Lufthansa first class flight to another flight operated by Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian, or the Lufthansa Private Jet service; and for elite Lufthansa HON Circle members departing on a Lufthansa, SWISS or Austrian flight.
If that list doesn't have you covered, you won't get beyond the terminal's private entrance, even if you're flying with another Star Alliance airline in first class.
What's inside: After your personal assistant escorts you through security, your journey could begin with a visit to the Wining & Dining area, where the bar stocks over 130 whiskies...
... with round-the-clock à la carte service, too:
The rest of the space is given over to work and relaxation, with five private offices equipped with telephone and fax facilities, two quiet rooms with day beds, and four shower rooms – one with a bathtub, and Lufthansa's iconic rubber ducks which many passengers retain as a keepsake:
Seating throughout the rest of the lounge is designed to provide privacy, with many solo seats around the space...
... all of which allow you to keep your Champagne handy until it's time to fly:
For those so inclined, there's an enclosed cigar lounge, too:
United Airlines' Global First Lounge, London Heathrow
Where you'll find it: Along the B-gate pier at Heathrow Terminal 2, accessed via an almost-hidden pathway behind the regular United Club.
Who gets in: Reserved for United and Star Alliance first class passengers, and travellers with VIP-tier United Global Services status flying in United Polaris business class.
Given United is progressively phasing out first class across its entire international fleet, many of United's flights from London already top out at business class, making access here more and more difficult. Despite spending several hours here on my most recent visit, I could count the number of other passengers I encountered on one hand!
What's inside: Being London, the designers used local inspiration in styling this space – the most obvious element being this replica of the face of Big Ben. Not just any replica, mind you, but one manufactured by the same company that made the original.
Beyond the working spaces, relaxation zones, VIP suite and other seating, it's impossible to miss the dining area in the middle, where Laurent-Perrier Champagne is practically on tap...
... and as for the food, well, this photo says it all:
AusBT review: United Global First Lounge, London Heathrow
Over to you, AusBT readers: what are some of the most exclusive lounges you've visited on your travels, and have you visited others like the Qatar Airways Al Safwa lounge in Doha, or the Air France La Première lounge in Paris? Share your experiences with others via the comment box below!