You don’t have to be a First or Business Class passenger to take advantage of the new Sky Lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport. You just have to pony up twelve bucks and change. Is this part of a trend? Let’s hope so!
Little by little, more and more air passengers who don’t fly in Business or First Class are starting to show up in those special, classy, by-invitation-or-purchase-only airport lounges.
The gleaming new Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) on Chek Lap Kok island — the one that replaced the old, cramped and downright scary air terminal at Kai Tak — has a comfy-looking new airport lounge intended for use by all three classes of passengers.
Comes now Haneda (HND) in Tokyo with its new Sky Lounge, a pay-as-you-go lounge for all passengers.
(If you’re flying into Japan, try to fly into Haneda instead of Tokyo’s other international air terminal, Narita (NRT). Narita may be newer and larger, but Haneda is a lot closer to Tokyo proper, making it easier and faster getting to and from the airport.)
You can read all about this new lounge over at Jaunted.com.
What’s the big deal about having access to an airport lounge?
These lounges offer a lot more than just more comfortable chairs and electric outlets for your laptop. They’re a place to get a shower and grab something cold to drink after you’ve come in off a wearying 11-hour transoceanic crossing. You can let the crowds going through immigration, baggage claim and customs thin out while you briefly refresh and recharge.
On outbound flights, they’re a low-stress island of calm, away from the noise and bustle of the terminal, while you wait to board. You can enjoy a few free drinks and snacks, check your flight status or try to wangle a seat change, or just kick back and wait to take off.
No being jammed up with a few hundred other Coach passengers at the gate. No having to sit on the floor to plug in your electronics. No subjecting yourself to the din of jostling travelers and nearly indecipherable gate announcements.
Get to the airport early, check your bags, endure the sundry affronts to your dignity going through security, then kick back in comfort until it’s time to go wheels-up.
A good airport lounge can make the flying experience almost bearable again.
The other big deal about the new Haneda airport lounge is the cost.
Many air passengers, accustomed to the indignities of Coach, still don’t know you can buy day passes into one of those First Class lounges. Even so, given all the other add-on fees they’re already paying the airlines, even those who know about this may not inclined to pay the charge, usually around $50 per person.
And that’s the other thing that makes Haneda’s Sky lounge noteworthy. Cost: US$12.25.
On any flight lasting more than nine hours, it’s worth it.
My hope is that in airports of the future, upscale lounges are made available to everyone, at a cost as reasonable as that of Haneda. It could be the first really good thing that’s happened to air travelers in quite awhile.
RAILROADS DO THIS, TOO
Passenger trains often have similar lounges at their major train stations, especially in countries offering up-to-date high-speed passenger rail service.
Even Amtrak has Metropolitan and First Class lounges for its First Class/sleeping car passengers at seven of its large stations around the United States, as well as Club Acela lounges at four of its stops for passengers on the Acela Express, the closest thing we have so far to high-speed rail in the U.S.
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