Private suites, butler service, onboard showers, closets full of pajamas … international airlines have launched plenty of flashy amenities in their first- and business-class cabins in recent years. But the perks on the ground are just as exciting.
One trend we’re excited to see on the uptick? Full-service spas in airlines’ premium lounges, often with a high-end cosmetic brand as partner, and special emphasis on a discerning male clientele. In fact, Virgin Atlantic’s Spas and Salons Manager Rebecca Creer says that 65 percent of the customers using the spa at the airline’s flagship London Heathrow Clubhouse are men.
Here’s how some of the best airline lounges in the world are pushing the envelope in the spa department beyond chair massages for the masses — and what you need to do to be pampering-eligible. While this isn’t a rundown of every airport spa worth visiting, it’s what we’ll dub the Airport Spa Bucket List. Because clearly, there’s never been a better time to have one.
Paris Charles de Gaulle: Air France Salon
Where it is: Three locations, in Terminal 2E — Halls K, L, or M
Spa: French brand Clarins offers expert massages and facials. (The Hall M lounge is the newest and nicest, but its hours are limited to 5 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Just for him: There are two treatments formulated specifically for men on the spa’s menu. Choose the Jet Lag Moisture Reviver facial if you’re on an outbound flight: It includes ginseng extract to refresh and brighten the skin. And if you’re on your way home, pick the Energizer facial instead. It uses bison-grass extract to wipe away the signs of fatigue after a long work trip.
How to get in: Show your business-class ticket on Air France, KLM, or a SkyTeam partner — or ask if the lounge will let you pay an entry fee. (Only some do, depending on your elite status and which airline you’re flying; it’ll cost you between $26 and $48.)
How much time you’ll need: 20 minutes — but at this lounge, like many below, you’ll have to sign up for a time slot and pray it’s before your departure.
Insider tip: If you splurge on a La Première ticket, you’ll have access to Air France’s exclusive La Première Salon, which includes a Biologique Recherche spa that doles out complimentary 30-minute treatments to passengers including an eye-contour facial and a “weightless” leg massage that stimulates circulation.
London Heathrow: British Airways Galleries Club
Where it is: Four locations, one in Terminal 3 and three in Terminal 5
Spa: Anti-aging skin-care company Elemis offers a whopping 13 treatments on its airport menus.
Just for him: The Deep Clean Aviator Facial uses sonic cleansing to counteract the dehydrating effects of travel. The Muscle-Ease Power Back Massage targets aches in the back, neck, and shoulders. Finally, the First Class Power Shave is an efficient cleanup developed by male-grooming magnate Richard Anthony.
How to get in: For access, you’ll need to be flying with British Airways in First, Club World, or Club Europe; be a Silver or Gold elite member of BA’s Executive Club program and on a flight operated by a Oneworld partner; or be an Emerald or Sapphire elite member of any Oneworld-affiliated frequent-flier program traveling on a Oneworld airline flight.
How much time you’ll need: 15 minutes
Insider tip: If you’re flying first class on British Airways, you can call the airline’s YouFirst service line to schedule a treatment within 28 days of departure.
Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific Airways’ The Pier First Class Lounge
Where it is: Terminal 1
Spa: A partnership with London-based grooming brand Gentlemen’s Tonic has been in place since the renovated lounge reopened in June.
Just for him: Though the complimentary treatments here are unisex, you can’t go wrong with the simple Traveler Facial. It starts with the Gentlemen’s Tonic’s Hydro Fresh Cream Cleanser scrub, followed by B Intensive Toner and an Active Anti-Oxidant Peel. Revitalise Eye Cream battles tired, baggy eyelids, and the Power-Packed Nourishing Moisturizer caps it off with protection for the dry airplane cabin.
How to get in: Fly first class on Cathay Pacific Airways or another Oneworld carrier, or have Oneworld Emerald status and a Oneworld airline boarding pass.
How much time you’ll need: 20 minutes
Insider tip: While in the lounge, be sure to take time for a cocktail at the swanky green-onyx bar, then order the excellent spicy dan dan noodles in the restaurant.
Dubai: Emirates First Class Lounge
Where it is: Terminal 3, Concourse A
Spa: Emirates’ enormous first-class lounge fields a Timeless Spa where fliers receive unique, complimentary treatments like a Thai body stretch and an Indian head massage. There are also Timeless Spas at the airline’s business-class lounge and the airline-run Airport Hotel at Emirates Terminal 3.
Just for him: While the spa treatments are equal opportunity gender-wise, male clients can pay for hot-towel barber shaves and beard trims.
How to get in: Book first class on an Emirates or Qantas flight, or show your credentials. Emirates Skywards Platinum elite members, Qantas Platinum, and Platinum One members can get in with any Emirates or Qantas boarding pass.
How much time you’ll need: 15 minutes for free treatments, 20-40 minutes for everything else
Insider tip: You can also get a free shoeshine in the lounge, just outside the spa facilities.
Abu Dhabi: Etihad First and Business Class Lounges
Where it is: Terminals 1 and 3, plus a Style & Shave salon in the Arrivals Lounge.
Spa: Six Senses, the five-star wellness hotel brand, is guaranteed to get you to unwind—even in transit. But they’ll also get you cleaned up for your business meetings with full grooming services.
Just for him: First-class passengers and Etihad Guest Platinum cardholders can enjoy a 15-minute spa treatment or a Style & Shave service on the house. (Business-class passengers have to open up their wallets.)
How to get in: You must be flying Etihad first class or business on the airline or one of its partners; or be an Etihad Guest Platinum member or a Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum member.
How much time you’ll need: 15 minutes for the complimentary spa treatments, and slightly more for the shave and salon services.
Insider tip: For women, the salon does blowouts and manis on the fly.
London Heathrow: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
Where it is: Terminal 3
Spa: Virgin Atlantic pioneered the idea of offering spa treatments to passengers in its London Heathrow Clubhouse 25 years ago. Since then, the airline has kicked things up a notch with its Bumble & Bumble salon, Dr. Hauschka skin-care swag, and Truefitt & Hill men’s products.
Just for him: While the facials and massages are unisex, there are enough grooming services to provide a soup-to-nuts makeover: haircuts, styles, trims, straight-razor shaves, hot-towel facial treatments, eyebrow shaping … the list goes on.
How to get in: Passengers flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class have access, as do Virgin Atlantic Gold and Virgin Australia Gold and Platinum elites, as well as folks flying Delta One (business class).
How much time you’ll need: 15 minutes for a complimentary spa treatment.
Insider tip: Spa slots tend to fill up before flights, so if you’re set on enjoying one, show up early and sign up for an appointment as soon as you get to the lounge.
Frankfurt: Lufthansa First Class Lounge
Where it is: Gate B
Spa: Heritage German skincare brand Babor offers guests a curated selection of paid spa services.
Just for him: Though the spa services here are unisex, the experience feels more like being at an actual spa than at the airport—it actually has treatment suites with bathtubs. Forget the massages, which are run of the mill, and opt for one of the facials instead. That way, you’ll get the full benefit of those supple Babor skin-care products.
How to get in: Have a first-class boarding pass on Lufthansa or Swiss, or be a top-tier HON Circle elite member with the airline also with a same-day boarding pass on Lufthansa or a Star Alliance partner.
How much time you’ll need: Treatments range from 15-90 minutes.
Insider tip: The benefit of having paid treatments is that there’s not usually a long line of travelers waiting to cash in on a freebie. In other words, you can (generally) expect to sail right in.
Sydney: Qantas First Class Lounge
Where it is: International Terminal, up an escalator from the main concourse.
Spa: Homegrown Aussie brand Aurora Spa has created one of the prettiest airport spas around: It has “living walls” of plants designed by botanist Patrick Blanc.
Just for him: Passengers are treated to complimentary treatments, like the Men’s Purifying Facial, which includes a hot-towel treatment, exfoliation, toner, face mask, and finishing moisturizer.
How to get in: The lounge is open to first-class passengers departing on Qantas or Emirates flights (or their partner airlines); international first-class customers on a Oneworld flight; Qantas Platinum One and Platinum elites with an onward flight on Qantas, Emirates, Jetstar, or other Oneworld carrier; Emirates Platinum Skywards members departing on Qantas or Emirates; and Oneworld Emerald members flying on a Oneworld carrier.
How much time you’ll need: 20 minutes
Insider tip: The menu in this lounge comes courtesy of Neil Perry, one of Australia’s best chefs. So make time for more than the facial.
Bangkok: Thai Airways Royal Orchid Spa
Where it is: Concourse D
Spa: Massage is a cornerstone of Thai culture. Nine treatment areas, two steam rooms, and two saunas ensure it’s taken seriously here, too.
Just for him: While services aren’t formulated specifically for men, Thai goes above and beyond to offer departing first-class passengers one of two complimentary 60-minute massage options. The Touch of Silk is a full-body oil-based massage, while the Royal Thai Massage is tailored to ease fatigue and stimulate circulation with acupressure.
How to get in: You’ll have to be flying Royal First Class departing the same day on a Thai-operated international flight.
How much time you’ll need: As much as you can spare.
Insider tip: If you’re in Royal Silk Class (business) departing on a Thai-operated international flight, you can snag a free neck-shoulder or foot massage.
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