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Los Angeles' international terminal boasts world-class business lounges for the Oneworld and Star Alliance airlines.
The Oneworld LAX lounge is a joint venture between Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, but is of course open to eligible passengers on any Oneworld airline – including domestic American Airlines flights and flights departing from terminals other than TBIT.
The Star Alliance LAX lounge is managed by Air New Zealand but also welcomes Virgin Australia's business class passengers and Gold frequent flyers booked on VA2 to Sydney and VA8 to Brisbane.
On a recent stopover at LAX we took the opportunity to sample both lounges: here's how they stack up.
Oneworld Lounge vs Star Alliance Lounge: design and ambience
The Star Alliance lounge has a subtle 'LA modern' vibe evoked by everything from the furniture, fixtures and materials to the lighting.
It's built around a single main walkway from end to end...
... and feels very spacious, especially if you nab a seat on the indoor terrace underneath the terminal's arching roof.
Complementing that indoor space is a great outdoor deck….
... boasting tarmac views...
… plus heating during the colder months.
Even the water feature makes a nod to the heydays of Hollywood.
Inside there are clearly-delineated zones for working and relaxing, including this quite zone near the lounge's entry.
That's clearly a tough act to follow – so how does the neighbouring Oneworld LAX business class lounge compare?
Not all that well, to be honest.
It's at an immediate disadvantage because unlike the Star Alliance lounge, there's no open-air extension into the terminal or outside.
Hence, the Oneworld lounge is built as a square around a soaring atrium which cuts through several floors of the terminal itself.
The atrium brings in some natural light during a sunny day...
... but of an evening of course there's no natural light, and on the whole the lounge looks and feels darker.
The 'cut-out' to allow for the atrium also makes for some relatively tight spaces...
… although the circular seating around a very LA fireplace, located past the bar, brings more elbow room.
On the whole, for design and ambience, we rate the Star Alliance lounge as coming out on top.
Oneworld Lounge vs Star Alliance Lounge: bar
It's great to see more and more airport lounges getting serious about having a proper bar.
Not some walk-up self-serve shelves with a fridge tucked away under the counter, mind you. We're talking about fully tended bars.
The bar in the Star Alliance LAX lounge serves drinks and snacks to passengers seated in the main part of the lounge as well as the terrace overlooking the terminal.
The Oneworld LAX lounge has a square bar located between the lounge entry and that funky fireplace zone.
With both lounges stocking the Chivas Regal 12 YO Scotch whisky, this fight comes down to cocktails, coffee and Champagne (or more accurately, 'sparkling wine').
For the latter, Oneworld stocks the Gloria Ferrer Private Cuvée Brut, produced locally in California using the same ‘méthode Champenoise’ as traditional Champagne from the French region of the same name…
… while Star Alliance offers travellers the Charles Lafitte Brut Prestige – a French sparkling, which is also not to be confused with Champagne.
It’s a matter of personal taste, and while neither are top-shelf, having tried both I’d lean toward Oneworld’s Gloria Ferrer label.
As for cocktails, the bartenders in the Oneworld lounge were happy to mix up everything from a Dry Martini to a Cosmopolitan, while the cocktail bar in the Star Alliance lounge awkwardly remained unstaffed throughout our visit.
The Oneworld Lounge also offers great barista coffee that’s definitely up to Australian standard – a welcome break if you’ve had nothing but Starbucks during your time stateside.
… while the only coffee you’ll get in the Star Alliance lounge comes from a machine.
This round easily goes to the Oneworld Los Angeles business lounge.
Oneworld Lounge vs Star Alliance Lounge: dining
Late-night departures from LAX make it advisable to enjoy a meal in the lounge so that on your flight home you can settle straight down for a movie and plenty of sleep.
Star Alliance’s make-your-own noodle bar is very popular with travellers…
… as are a respectable choice of hot dishes such as the brown butter and sage chicken breast with cranberry squash sauce, root vegetable medley and roasted coconut rice…
… and on the lighter side, an autumn squash and lentil salad, caramelised zucchini and sundried tomato gemelli pasta, a selection of cheeses and healthy wraps…
… with suitable crackers, croutons and crisps on the side…
… and tasty desserts to complete the meal:
The Oneworld lounge's dining space also includes a well-stocked buffet...
... which during our visit offered a much wider variety of fresh salads…
… and fruits for either eating or blending into your own juice creation.
However, the selection of hot dishes was more basic, such as chicken curry with rice and baked potatoes…
… and a vegetarian option, alongside brownies for dessert:
There are also Californian food carts in the main part of the lounge for delightful quick bites ranging from tacos to hot dogs.
Tastes in food can be quite subjective and each lounge has its strengths, so we're declaring this one a tie.
Oneworld Lounge vs Star Alliance Lounge: work
Something we love about the Star Alliance LAX lounge is that there are twin AC and USB power sockets almost everywhere…
… including the terminal terrace and outdoor deck.
if you can't see a power socket in the Star Alliance lounge, you're probably not trying!
Power is less plentiful in the Oneworld Los Angeles business lounge, especially the seating around the atrium.
There are of course AC sockets around the workbenches, as well as the fireplace and at the round dining table (below)...
But you'll almost certainly want to connect to the Internet, and that's a different story.
Even when the Oneworld lounge was practically full in the evening with five planeloads of Aussie-bound travellers, we were still able to pull down almost 15Mbps (with an upload rate of 6.32Mbps) – and once the Airbus A380s to Sydney and Melbourne departed, speeds rocketed to 74Mbps on the downlink and 61Mbps up.
Simply put, even when the lounge was at its busiest the connection was equal or better than that of most Australian homes.
WiFi speeds at the Star Alliance lounge consistently hovered near 8Mbps down and 9Mbps up.
This one's close to a tie, but we'd lean towards the Star Alliance lounge because its Internet speeds, while markedly slower than in the Oneworld lounge, were still basically usable and there are far more AC and USB ports for charing up your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Oneworld Lounge vs Star Alliance Lounge: showers
Oneworld’s business class lounge features 16 shower suites with Aurora Spa ASPAR amenities provided...
...while Star Alliance offers eight shower suites in its own lounge:
Critically, those eight suites are shared between both the Star Alliance business class and first class lounges, whereas the separate Qantas First Lounge has an additional seven suites for an all-out total of 23, provided in a separate area for first class passengers and top-tier travellers.
As a result, score one for the Oneworld lounge.
Oneworld Lounge vs Star Alliance Lounge: the verdict
As you can see, both lounges have their merits and many similarities, as well as strengths in different areas.
The Star Alliance lounge at LAX offers better design and, at least during our visit, less crowding; it's got the edge for AC/USB power sockets, but expect a queue for the showers.
The Oneworld Los Angeles lounge has better drinks to sip alongside its decent dining options, and you've got a better chance of freshening up before your flight home.
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