World's Best Airport Lounges 2005.

 
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World's Best Airport Lounges 2005

Ask most people why they buy a first-class or business-class airline ticket, and the odds are that one of the most important reasons is that those pricier tickets provide automatic access to an airport lounge.

For both business and leisure travelers, airport lounges can smooth away the rough edges associated with air travel these days. These lounges are, for the most part, the last bastion of civilized behavior within commercial aviation. Sure, you might have to remove your belt and be checked by a bored security guard, but this unpleasantness can be mitigated by the promise of soon finding yourself greeted like a VIP instead of a potential terrorist, finding a quiet place where you can check e-mail, hold a quick business meeting or even take a nap.

Yet while nearly all major airports offer lounges, not all lounges are created equal. As many travelers can testify, Asian carriers really know how to pamper their passengers. At Hong Kong International Airport, Cathay Pacific Airways' The Wing lounge offers first-class travelers private cabanas with private showers and chaise lounges. In Bangkok, Thai Airways' Royal Orchid first-class lounge provides Thai massage, meeting rooms and complimentary transportation from a fleet of Mercedes-Benzes.

While Asia has the lion's share of luxe lounges, the Middle East also has some worth bragging about, and certain cities in Africa, Europe and even Australia hold their own in lounge rankings. But according to Skytrax, a London-based company that monitors international airline and airport quality levels, not a single American airline offers a first- or business-class lounge that made it to the top ten of their international rankings.

In a survey released last week, Skytrax ranked over 35 first-class lounges and 75 business-class lounges around the world, based on the standards at the flagship lounge at the airline's home airport. Skytrax's 38 full-time auditors log thousands of hours a year evaluating airlines, airports and airport lounges, taking breaks of only a few hours between flights that last thirteen hours or more. "We want to evaluate it from the perspective of someone who is tired and angry," says Peter Miller, director of marketing at Skytrax. "It's also the best way to evaluate seat comfort. When you travel 23 hours in a day, you know what is comfortable and what is not."

To reach its conclusions, Skytrax looks at dozens of criteria including such relatively...

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