The first Oneworld-branded lounge could open at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport in Seoul, playing host to business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers of American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Malaysia Airlines, JAL, Qatar Airways and Qantas, among others.
Those Oneworld members all fly into and out of Seoul’s ICN Terminal 1, but none have their own lounge.
Seoul has previously been strongly tipped as sitting on the shortlist for the first in a network of Oneworld-branded and backed lounges which the alliance initially announced in 2019.
“The idea is that we develop these where no single airline has a massive presence, but we have multiple airlines flying into the same airport, maybe with daily flights,” then-CEO Rob Gurney told Executive Traveller at the time.
“So while collectivity we (as Oneworld) have a lot of flights, no single airline could justify the cost of the lounge.”
Oneworld’s rivals Star Alliance and SkyTeam each have their own network of branded airport lounges to complement the lounges of individual airline members.
A recent post on social media platform Twitter X by Bloomberg transport journalist Danny Lee shows a construction notice on some hoarding outside what he describes as the former Seoul T1 lounge of Jeju Air, with Lee saying the Korean text on the notice translates as “Oneworld lounge improvement construction.”
Approached by Executive Traveller for comment, a spokesperson said “the development of Oneworld branded lounges is actively progressing, and we look forward to sharing more details including its locations in the coming months.”
However, the development of a Oneworld lounge at Seoul tracks with what we’ve previously heard – that the opening of the first Oneworld lounge would take place before the end of this year, with more to follow from 2024.
Jeju Air’s lounge at Seoul Terminal 1 opened in early 2019, but pulled down the shutters after the pandemic hit in 2020.
Designed along a relaxed ‘guesthouse’ vibe with elements to mimic a living room, dining room and kitchen, playroom and yard, the short-lived JJ Lounge was a bold move for the low-cost carrier.
Located on the 4th floor of T1, near Gate 28, the 550m2 space was listed as having seating for 140 passengers – putting it about half the size of British Airways’ Singapore lounge, for comparison.
That would certainly be a squeeze during peak travel times, with so many Oneworld airlines departing from Seoul T1.
However, a more creative layout could boost the passenger capacity, and it’s not known if the project may also have annexed adjacent space at T1 to expand the lounge’s overall footprint.