from The Atlantic


Inside the competition to lure affluent travelers with luxurious lounges

By Amanda Mull / Illustrations by Max Guther

illustration of many different travelers relaxing on large gray sofa in purple-carpeted lounge

On a bright, chilly Thursday in February, most of the people inside the Chase Sapphire Lounge at LaGuardia Airport appeared to be doing something largely absent from modern air travel: They were having fun. I arrived at Terminal B before 9:30 a.m., but the lounge had already been in full swing for hours. Most of the velvet-upholstered stools surrounding the circular, marble-topped bar were filled. Travelers who looked like they were heading to couples’ getaways or girls’ weekends clustered in twos or threes, waiting for their mimosas or Bloody Marys or the bar’s signature cocktail—a gin concoction turned a vibrant shade of violet by macerated blueberries, served in a champagne coupe.

Other loungers in the golden-lit, plant-lined, 21,800-square-foot space chatted over their breakfast, boozy or otherwise. At the elaborate main drink station that formed one wall of the lounge’s dining room, I chose the tap that promised cold brew, though spa water and a mysterious third spigot labeled only as “seasonal” beckoned. When I reached for what I thought was a straw, I pulled back a glistening tube of individually portioned honey, ready to be snapped into a hot cup of tea.

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