Reviews

Review: Star Alliance first class lounge, Los Angeles LAX

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, July 17 2015
Star Alliance first class lounge, Los Angeles LAX
Country

United States

City

Los Angeles (CA)

Airport

Los Angeles (LAX)

Alliance

Star Alliance

Airline

Star Alliance

Cabin-class

First

Notes
The Good
  • A choice of (French) champagne
  • A la carte dining
  • Separate rooms for VIPs
The Bad
  • Showers only in the adjacent business class lounge
X-Factor
  • Privacy, and lots of it
Location
Dining
Work
Overall

Introduction

Spoiling Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum frequent flyers in Los Angeles is the Star Alliance first class lounge, complete with a choice of champagne, a dining room with full table service and access to an outdoor heated terrace that's reminiscent of a more casual Aussie BBQ.

Run by Air New Zealand on behalf of Star Alliance, it's normally open only to passengers actually flying in first class – yet the Kiwi carrier makes an exception for Virgin Australia, helping it compete with Qantas which opened its own first class lounge in Los Angeles late last year.

Australian Business Traveller put the Star Alliance first class lounge to the test on a recent visit to LAX: here's what we thought.

UPDATE: From December 19 2016, Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum members will no longer have access to this lounge, moving to the new Etihad Airways lounge instead.

Location & Impressions

After clearing security at the Tom Bradley International Terminal – or arriving on a connecting Delta flight and jumping on the airside transfer bus from Terminal 5 – you'll find the Star Alliance lounges on level six, accessible by lift or escalator from the terminal's main atrium area.

Compared to the open and inviting entrance to the terminal's Star Alliance business class lounge (below), the first class door is off to the side and much more subtle...

... so subtle, in fact, that we missed it the first time around: the only thing giving it away being the small Star Alliance first class logo on the side, if you know what you're looking for:

That sets the tone for a relatively modest lounge that comes without the bling of day spas and cocktail bartenders, instead offering something else that many first class passengers hold dear: privacy, peace and quiet.

Access

Continuing with the 'privacy' theme, if you wander through those doors but aren't welcome in the first class lounge, you still won't sneak a peek at who's inside – a great design feat for a smaller lounge.

We'd peg this as Los Angeles' most exclusive lounge, given that top-tier Star Alliance frequent flyers don't have access to first class lounges unless actually travelling in first class. On the guest list are:

  • First class passengers of Star Alliance airlines departing from TBIT, currently including Air China, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and SWISS
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum members travelling to Sydney or Brisbane with Virgin Australia (until December 19 2016)

As if that weren't restrictive enough, further secluded are two private rooms – practically 'lounges within the lounge' – available to VIPs, Air New Zealand Elite Priority One guests and members of The Club, Virgin Australia's by-invitation tier to rival the Qantas Chairman's Lounge.

You'll spot one of the doors blended into the blue wall below:

Inside, they serve as quiet places to relax...

... watch TV or enjoy your favourite food and drinks, which the staff can have waiting for your arrival.

A divider can also be opened to transform the two private rooms into one larger room as needed.

Dining

Lounge guests can help themselves to a modest buffet of snacks and nibbles – mostly consisting of desserts and fruit during our evening visit...

... and to a selection of soft drinks, spirits, wine and champagne.

In the bubbly department is a choice of Beau Joie Brut (NV), and our preferred drop: G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut (NV).

For more substantial meals and desserts, take a seat at the dining tables – conveniently close to the champagne...

... and place your order from the a la carte menu:

The dishes are small enough that you can sample several in the one sitting, or can enjoy something little without feeling compelled to eat an entire plate of food: a fitting choice before Virgin Australia's 10:20pm departure to Sydney or the later 11:50pm service to Brisbane.

We kept things simple, ordering up a very tasty Bradley Burger with turkey, cranberry mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, green leaves and tomato with root chips on the side...

... followed by the Brittany crêpe for dessert – and yes, it's as scrumptious as it looks.

Top marks for service, presentation, taste, portion size and speed.

Work

Wherever you look AC and USB power points are plentiful and pop out from the cocktail tables with a gentle press:

There's also fast and free Wi-Fi, and plenty of space around each seat for your drinks and snacks – either on each side...

... or on the table in front:

The armrests on the chairs above are at a perfect height for laptop work, although there are no traditional desks and office chairs that are more comfortable during longer periods.

You could certainly use your laptop in the dining area, but the four dining tables would be more courteously kept for hungry travellers.

Relax

Enjoying a beverage in the Star Alliance first class lounge is quite a relaxing way to spend an evening, especially when it's quiet.

But to truly unwind, make a visit to the adjacent business class lounge and its heated rooftop terrace: offering a BBQ-like environment and views of the tarmac.

Oddly, you'll also need to duck next door to use one of eight shower suites, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a first class lounge that's otherwise so privacy-centric, having to leave that bubble and nip into the business lounge for a shower isn't the greatest setup, although there was fortunately no queue during our evening visit.

Returning to the first class lounge afterwards is easy: there's a shortcut door in between the two lounges, but which requires a PIN if you're moving from business class to first class.

(You'll find the current re-entry PIN on the dining menu, next to the Wi-Fi password.)

But once you're back inside, all that's left to do is nurse a glass of champagne or three until your flight is ready for boarding.

Also read: Virgin Australia business class review: Brisbane-Los Angeles

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Virgin Australia.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

TomGoddardd

TomGoddardd

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 286

Doesn't look very nice compared to some of the other First lounges, a bit bland

Michael Kao

Michael Kao

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 339

As Chris suggested in the article, many first class lounge just offer privacy, peace and quiet rather than lots of blings of services. For award traveler like me, of course I like more blings, but obviously I am not the target customer the airlines are aiming for, but rather we are talking about CEOs, celebrities and politicians. I can't imagine Leonardo Dicaprio would care to have complimentary spa treatment. 

bossaboy

bossaboy

Outsourced ex-airline staff

04 Jun 2014

Total posts 14

....agreed....

petrhsr

petrhsr

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

People who travel first class generally have the "blings" of life all sorted out, without having to rely on getting an appointment at an airport lounge for a facial or a massage.  What's needed are more hidey-holes and "cabana" type arrangments, where passengers can wait in private.  Meh to the bling, if I have to be in a lounge, I don't want to see anyone else unless it's necessary - just like onboard the aircraft.  For my money, the biggest advantages of first class travel are the effortlessness and the privacy.

tmk

tmk

21 Nov 2014

Total posts 3

I don't understand, why do Air NZ run a lounge only available to guests travelling in first class when they don't even offer first class?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2947

It's not an 'Air New Zealand lounge', per se, rather a branded 'Star Alliance lounge' run by Air NZ on behalf of every Star Alliance airline flying from that terminal.

While NZ doesn't offer first class on its flights to Los Angeles, other Star Alliance airlines do have first class and would expect a separate lounge in such a major city.

(That, and both Oneworld via Qantas and SkyTeam via Korean Air have separate first class lounges for first class passengers in the same terminal at LAX, so there's a lot of competition.)

aviation

aviation

18 Mar 2014

Total posts 94

Futher to Chris' comments, Air NZ run the entire lounge (i.e. the business and first lounges). It wouldn't make sense having them run the business lounge and someone else the first lounge.

PK

PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 113

Unsurprisingly, the airline world is getting complicated again a bit more than a decade after global alliances were meant to make things more streamlined.  Here, the best chance to access a first class Star Alliance lounge goes to frequent flyers of an airline that is not even a member of Star Alliance, because the first class lounge is being run by it shareholder, which does not offer a first class cabin and doesn't offer entry to its own non-VIP frequent flyers, in order to help the entity it holds shares in against a domestic competitor.

deanr

deanr

04 May 2015

Total posts 231

To be fair though, the access policies for actual Star Alliance passengers follow the normal Star Alliance rules... if Star thinks it's unfair, then they can change their own rules (and maybe make that Star Alliance Platinum tier they were talking about - fingers crossed)!

James88

James88

17 Jul 2015

Total posts 1

Why doesn't Air New Zealand give their Elite members access to the first class lounge? If Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum members get access to it, Air New Zealand Elite members should get access too; after all it is Air New Zealand's lounge.

aviation

aviation

18 Mar 2014

Total posts 94

As mentioned above, it isn't an Air NZ lounge, it is a Star Alliance lounge. Both Air NZ Elite and Gold guests have the equivilant of Star Alliance Gold status, so if they were allowed to enter the First Class lounge, then every single Star Alliance Gold would be able to.

There is obviously a separate agreement in place for Velocity Platinum access, which Virgin could well be paying extra for.

bossaboy

bossaboy

Outsourced ex-airline staff

04 Jun 2014

Total posts 14

...  Does it really matter what specific airline's name is attached to the lounge ? ... Of course, all we're talking about here is lounge access... I can virtually guarantee you that in all these lounges there are no employees of the related airline.... In true ( American/capitalist) spirit the employees ( and their compensation/benefits) are dumbed down to the lowest possible level .....   Let's hear it for what was once decent, middle class employment !  But, I shouldn't just pick on the airlines as all corporations are realizing the great benefits of outsourcing and virtual labor sources..

 


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