***This is part 2 of my “Fat and Furious” trip report detailing a recent trip to Japan which included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Matsuyama***
2. Star Alliance First Class Lounge at LAX
3. Singapore Airlines Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo
4. Conrad Tokyo
5. Eating Tokyo Part 1 – Department Store Hopping in Ginza
6. Funaya Ryokan In Matsuyama
7. Living The Onsen Life In Matsuyama
8. The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
9. Eating Kyoto – The Search for Matcha and Geisha
10. Kaiseki Dinner at 3-Michelin Star Kikunoi Honten
11. The Peninsula Tokyo
12. Eating Tokyo Part 2 – Maids, Robots, and Cosplay
13. Eating Tokyo Part 3 – Cherry Blossoms and THE BEST STEAK EVER
14. ANA Business Class Lounge at NRT
15. ANA Business Class Tokyo to San Jose
Our travel day started with a 10AM hop from San Jose to Los Angeles, and despite no line at security, clear blue skies, and on-schedule departures all around, I was sweating bullets. See, I’m a paranoid, nervous wreck when it comes to flight connections and if you gave me the choice between 1-hour or 3-hour layovers, I’d take the longer one every time. Throw in the fact that our SJC to LAX flight was on a separate ticket from the onward flight to Tokyo, and any minor issue or delay that arose would have given me a heart attack.
My wife had vetoed an overnight connection, so I had planned ahead for any number of doomsday scenarios. I researched all of the flights from SJC that would get us to LAX in time should our original flight be delayed or cancelled, and had even plotted out all of the flights from SFO and OAK that could get us there should SJC all of a sudden be closed down due to a bomb threat. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to LAX in time to finally try that damn Singapore Suites double bed.
We settled in at The Club Lounge at SJC about an hour before departure, and as usual were literally the only people in the entire lounge. My wife sensed my nerves and calmed me down the best way she knew how, by feeding me. And thanks to a reader, we now knew about the secret stash of instant noodles in the lounge. Is it just me, or does “beef” and “chicken” flavor basically taste the same?
Of course, everything ran smooth as silk, and I breathed a huge sigh of relied as we arrived at LAX 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Also, a shout-out to Delta for yet another extremely pleasant flight where the seats had great legroom, and even in economy, we were served a snack (chips, hummus, and carrots) during the 1-hour flight.
The only hiccup was at boarding when a women accidentally left her cup of Starbucks tea in her purse (who does that?!), then put the purse in the overhead bin where it of course spilled everywhere. As you can imagine, the tea began to shower down on everyone through the ventilation holes. But like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard, a flight attendant ran over and created a human umbrella to shield us from the Earl Grey rain. Looking back I’m still amazed by her cat-like reflexes and we escaped with just a few drops spilled on us.
We exited Terminal 6 at LAX and made our way over to Tom Bradley International Terminal where I was surprised to see that the Singapore Airlines counter was already open. I assumed that with just once-a-day service, check-in wouldn’t be available until 3 hours prior to departure, and here we were closer to 4 hours prior. I wasn’t complaining, since that just meant more time to hang out in the lounge.
We jumped into the dedicated First/Business Class passenger security line which was much shorter than the standard one. For some reason, I found the departure board fascinating and really enjoyed watching it flicker with updates.
This was our 2nd trip through LAX in recent months, and had previously spent time in the underwhelming Korean Air lounge at LAX while en route to Barcelona. I was really looking forward to this layover since we’d get to try the Star Alliance First Class Lounge. After all, when you’re a First Class passenger, the last thing you want is to have to co-mingle with the Business Class masses.
This lounge was connected to the Star Alliance Business Class Lounge and accessible both through a separate front entrance, as well as an internal door connecting the two.
At the entrance an eager attendant was stationed and checked us in. There was an Eames chair at the front which seemed odd. Based on its placement it was clearly not meant to be used and rather just for display, but that didn’t stop me from giving it a try later on.
We headed inside and found the place completely deserted, sweet! It’s always a great feeling to get the entire lounge to yourself.
We dropped our bags and ran over to check-out the spread – there was a selection of appetizers and a pretty healthy liquor cabinet as well. We were told of a couple additional food options which included the buffet in the neighboring Business Class lounge, as well as an a la carte menu. Not wasting any time, we ordered from the menu and then went over to check out the buffet while our food was being cooked.
We settled down for lunch at the dining tables at the back of the lounge. It was explained to us that each item on the menu was just appetizer-sized, so we ordered 3 items between the 2 of us. The menu was broken into Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner sections, but apparently everything was available.
Overall, even by my generous standards, the food was pretty mediocre with the turkey slider coming out bone dry and the flatbread served lukewarm.
We actually found the Business Class lounge preferable over the First Class lounge as it was so much more open. We grazed sparingly at the buffet and noodle bar, not wanting to stuff ourselves before eating again a couple hours later aboard our flight.
There’s a keypad at the internal walkway between the lounges, which makes you feel like a secret agent when punching in the code. It would actually be pretty easy to sneak into the First Class lounge from the Business Class lounge if you knew the code, which I’m assuming doesn’t change very often. But the First Class Lounge is so small and each passenger is personally checked in, that you’d likely be found out within minutes.
When we first arrived the First Class Lounge was completely empty, but filled up with another 8-10 people over the next couple hours. Given the relatively small size of the room, it actually got to the point where it felt claustrophobic and the acoustics seemed to amplify everyone’s conversations. We eventually moved over to the Business Class side just to have more space and less noise.
While I certainly appreciate a dedicated “First Class” area in the lounge, at the end of the day this just isn’t a true First Class Lounge. What I want most in a First Class Lounge is better food/drink than the standard lounge (which this lounge didn’t really have), and more privacy.
But privacy is all relative, right? Just because you are in a small room away from the main lounge doesn’t automatically equate to privacy, especially when you’re completely surrounded by other people. And just because those people happen to be fellow First Class passengers doesn’t necessarily make things better either. In fact, I’d actually rather not be around some of the First Class passengers I’ve encountered during my travels.
But at the end of the day, you don’t buy a plane ticket just for lounge access. Well, unless you’re this guy. So on to the champagne and caviar!