Fresh, seasonal, cooked to order and delivered with a smile – does that sound like an airport lounge to you?
As travellers, we tend to see the worst in things, and over time most airport lounge experiences fuel that negative mindset. Nice drinks are replaced with swill, food quality diminishes and service with a smile turns to eye rolls that are vile. But at the Qantas First Class Lounge in Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport, the best features of time have stood absolutely still, and every time I visit hoping to be disappointed, I leave full of joy – and calories.
Perhaps it’s my lucky timing, but every time I’m in the lounge, I tend to haphazardly find out that the menu has just changed, that someone from the incredible Rockpool Hospitality team is there testing out dishes, and what was intended to be a few hours of work, ends up being all play…
Getting In: You must be a Oneworld Emerald member, or flying first class on a Oneworld airline to access the lounge. If you’re an American Airlines Executive Platinum or higher, you’re only eligible on international flights, since American restricts domestic lounge access. For elites of foreign Oneworld programs, you can access the lounge even on domestic itineraries.
After snaking through the inevitable queues of the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX, you’ll find yourself with a relatively short and rewarding walk up to the Qantas First Class Lounge. It’s up a level if you’re in TBIT, next to the Korean Lounge and it’s accessible via walking ramps from the other nearby terminals, including where American flights depart too.
As nice as the new American Airlines Flagship lounges are, it’s tough to argue with this one as the premier Oneworld lounge in Los Angeles. If you’re flying First Class, this would be my choice for food every time, unless you’re a big Krug Champagne fan, in which case the new AA Flagship First Dining Experience is what you need.
Qantas has done an almost miraculous job with this space, considering it doesn’t have the instant wow appeal of their Sydney or Melbourne International First Class Lounges. There’s no angled vaulted ceilings or impressive tarmac views, but somehow you don’t end up missing them all that much once you tuck into one of the signature sofas, or better yet – the dining room.
As far as features go, the lounge offers great shower rooms, which are hardly ever busy, a la carte dining and waiter service throughout. There’s a VIP room through the smoked glass and according to View From The Wing, there’s even some hidden extra premium booze for first class and Chairmans Club flyers behind the bar, though it never hurts to ask even if you’re not one of those.
The lounge also offers the Qantas x Sofitel partnership, where you can have garments pressed, shoes shined and anything else you might need “ironed out” – wink, wink – ahead of your journey. This stuff is free for first class guests, but some services are usually available to others as well.
It’s All About The Food And Drinks
My advice with the Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX is to keep walking. The red couches and comfy group setups near the entrance are grand, but there’s not much to look at, and you’re away from the star of the show. Yep, as much great food as there is in Los Angeles, the food here deserves its own star, and it’s worth having a meal here. Tthat’s not something I ever really say at an airport.
I always try to avoid eating on planes, and this is a space where I savour every morsel – and glass of wine – until the last minute before boarding.
The menu, like a great restaurant, changes four times a year to incorporate seasonal dishes, and for each change, Qantas sends a chef from the Rockpool Group in Sydney to get all the chefs and dishes up to standard. On my most recent visit, I absolutely loved the well seared duck curry and the tuna tartare starter, as well as the key lime pie. Yum. Drool.
And yes, the Salt & Pepper Squid is still world class.
The predominantly Australian red and white wines are always of a very solid standard, and unlike most lounge wines are worth a pour. With time to kill, a tasting of both the wine list and the extensive a la carte food menu is always a great idea.
If there’s anything that sets this lounge apart, aside from the food and beverage, it’s the staff. This lounge always feels like an actual team who are proud of their work and intrigued by the dishes, rather than a group who are simply clocking in. I’ve even been told by lounge staff to complain about the food when the angry Aussie chef is in town, just to wind him up. Aussies love a little banter.
There may be larger and more visually impressive spaces in other US lounges, but this is the one I consistently look forward to, even if I’m sure I’ll be disappointed on the next visit. Somehow, 5+ years later, it’s yet to though…