Road Warrior

Traveling in style: Relax by the fireplace at LAX

By Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Star Alliance lounge at LAX
Source: Star Alliance

If there is one thing business travelers hate more than anything else it's a delayed flight. But those departing Los Angeles may not mind so much now.

The first of several airline lounges at the newly expanded Tom Bradley International Airport (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport opens today (September 25th), offering select First, Business and Star Alliance Gold Card passengers on eight airlines access to an 18,000 square-foot space with showers, a media room, and an open-air terrace with a water wall, fire pits and panoramic views of the northern runway and the Hollywood Hills.

"We wanted to create a sense of place, tell the story of Southern California, use sustainable materials and offer a variety of different zones and sections to appeal to a variety of different cultures and needs," said David Loyola principal at architectural firm Gensler, which designed the space.

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First, Business and Star Alliance Gold Car passengers on ANA, Asiana, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore, SWISS, THAI and Turkish Airlines traveling through the TBIT will have access to the 6th-floor lounge, which overlooks the terminal's Great Hall and was created in consultation with Star Alliance and Air New Zealand, which is managing the lounge and will move its flights over from another LAX terminal sometime in 2014.

For now, say lounge officials, individual day-passes will not be offered for sale.

While designed to make people from all cultures—and on all time zones—feel comfortable, the lounge definitely has a Southern California feel. A red-carpeted walnut "boardwalk" leads into the lounge, the open terrace offers views of the surrounding hills, found objects from the area fill curio cabinets in several rooms and large black and white images of iconic LA-sights by adventure-photographer Peter Lik cover many walls.

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Star Alliance lounge at LAX
Source: Star Alliance

The space has a relaxed, living-room feel, but is also very high-tech. In addition a screening-room style media area, there is wine bar, a bar area, a library space, den and study area with access to complimentary premium Wi-Fi and traditional power outlets and USB power ports at practically every seat. Loaner tablet computers are also available for use by those traveling without their laptops or mobile devices.

Airports spokeswoman Nancy Castle says lounges serving other airline alliances, including the Oneworld and SkyTeam flights operating out of the TBIT, are scheduled to open on the upper levels of the new terminal building over the next few months.

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Phase 1 of the expanded TBIT at LAX opened to the public on September 18th, with nine of what will eventually be 18 new boarding gates operational.

Media features that include a 72-foot tall digital clock tower and a 120-foot array of video screens offering images of "travel and transformation" are operational, but the food court and many of the shops and restaurants planned for the terminal are unfinished and not scheduled to open until October. Duty Free stores, the iStore Boutique, Sanrio Surprises and several other shops are open, but for now passengers will find temporary tables set up in various spots in the terminal offering complimentary cookies, fruit, soft drinks, Starbucks coffee and chair massages.

—By Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC. She is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas