We’ve all been there: delayed, bumped, stranded, and left with hours to wander around the airport—carry-on in hand. But if you happen to be stranded in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, you don’t have to settle for fast food or bad coffee. Pop over to the Frescobaldi Wine Bar, which serves up salumi, formaggi, and dolci while pouring top-tier wines—all in a Modernist setting that suggests a just-landed flying saucer.
Rome is just one of many airports that’s adapting to the new reality of air travel. Even if flights are running on time, passengers are showing up hours early—just in case security is a nightmare. Many international hubs recognize the value of a great airport experience. Fortunately, many domestic airports are starting to catch on by focusing less on technical issues (passenger flows, tarmac times) and more on shops and restaurants.
Most of us don’t expect much from airport vendors, but we knew that there were some truly outstanding options cropping up around the globe. So we sent our reporters in search of the best new airport offerings.
What did we find? A lot more than you might expect. In London’s Gatwick, for example, there’s no need to stress out: the latest outpost of Cowshed Spa (South Terminal) has a full spa treatment menu. For ladies, there’s also a nail bar with champagne service, Bare Escentuals makeup application, and eyebrow shaping; for proper gents, Truefitt & Hill hot towel shaves.
Across the globe in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific’s immense lounge, The Arrival (Terminals 1 and 2), has a noodle bar, a library, and elegant private baths. A close runner-up, the Air France La Première lounge at Paris-Charles de Gaulle offers door-to-door service: an attendant will escort you from your arrival at the airport, through check-in and a private security screening, to the lounge and, eventually, onto the plane. Plus, there are free spa treatments and meals by Alain Ducasse.
And if great wine is your vice, you don’t have to be in Rome. At Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, the vibe at Le Grand Comptoir, which serves plenty of international wines by the glass, is modern but edgy, with red-hued chairs, neon green bar stools, and dark wood.
So bring this list when you travel—these new hot spots are so appealing you just may be tempted to switch your flight. —Bree Sposato