Taking the time to lounge in luxury

Whenever anyone asks me for the number one tip for the frequent traveller, they always expect me to come up with some extraordinary bit of advice, but my usual answer always seems to be a disappointment: "Get to the airport early."

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By  Richard Quest Published  May 12, 2007

Whenever anyone asks me for the number one tip for the frequent traveller, they always expect me to come up with some extraordinary bit of advice, but my usual answer always seems to be a disappointment: "Get to the airport early." Most of the misery we have to put up with when travelling is because we are trying to rush through new security procedures and that is why we need time.

Once through security, you can take your time to relax at the airport. I recently spent a stopover at London Heathrow in one of their top airline lounges. The Heathrow Clubhouse is simply without parallel. There is no other way to say it. There was a proper breakfast, cooked to order, instead of some miserable buffet, which had been sitting there for hours, plenty of comfortable seating, massages, hairdressers and spa facilities. And there is space, space and more space - it had it all. But all too often business lounges are an excuse to lump premium passengers in slightly more comfortable surroundings with some extra food on offer. Where the lounge also serves Alliance partners, they rapidly become overcrowded and not terribly exclusive.

What most impressed me in this lounge was the simple idea that we were there to enjoy ourselves not simply to kill time before the flight. There is a massive conceptual difference between the two.

Some airlines, notably Singapore, now restrict the Kris lounge in Singapore to premium passengers alone, sending Star Alliance Gold members packing to another lounge, which frankly just isn't as good.

Lufthansa's lounges, which have to be among the most crowded and uncomfortable anywhere in the world still have the most bizarre selection of food on offer. What on earth makes Lufthansa think that business travellers suddenly want to plough through boiled sweets and toffees while they wait for their flight? But these issues are nothing compared to a recent experience in the AlItalia lounge in New York. I checked in for the Swiss Air flight from NYC to Zurich, was tired and decided to take a shower in the business lounge. I was then given the key to my dressing room, with the glass shower cubicle off to the side. I disrobed and showered. Switching the water off, I knew I was in trouble. The glass door had become stuck and I was trapped inside. I pushed, pulled, tugged and heaved the door, but to no effect. It wouldn't budge. And with last year's accident - when a glass shower door smashed all over me - still fresh in my mind (that required 22 stitches) I certainly wasn't going to try and force the door.

Shivering and with a plane to catch, I had to do something. So for 30 minutes I banged on the wall and shouted for help. I made as much noise as possible. Nothing. No one it seemed could hear me. Finally, the rising panic in my voice attracted attention and help arrived. But now problem number two. The lock to the dressing room door had also jammed. Help couldn't get in. There was only one option. Take the door off its hinges. It took a further 20 minutes of hammering and bashing before the moment I had been dreading. With the dressing room door gone, I was left in the shower cubicle, behind the glass, with no cover and a room rapidly filling up with strangers. They couldn't even pass me a towel because the glass was floor to ceiling. Based on this experience, I would advise you to think carefully before taking a shower in a lounge. If I hadn't had time to spare in New York, the flight to Zurich would have taken off without me.

Which brings me back to my earlier comments, always get to the airport early. Give yourself longer time to enjoy the business lounge and relax before the flight - and at in some cases, enjoy the food and special treatment.

Richard Quest presents ‘Business Traveller' on CNN.

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