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After spending some time at the Alaska lounge, remarkably not turned away as a Priority Pass user (SEE: Alaska Lounge LAX Priority Pass Review), I headed over to the Korean Airlines Lounge LAX. My second Priority Pass choice of the day was supposed to be P.F. Chang’s, but I didn’t read the “international only” fine print until I was already headed to Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). No matter. The (Korean Airlines) KAL Lounge LAX would do just fine, and it is basically just as close.
It’s a bit of a hike from Terminal 6 over to the TBIT, but after sitting for most of the day, I needed a walk. Luckily, all of the south end of LAX is connected post-security (TBIT through Terminal 8), so although you don’t have a nice tram to take you from terminal to terminal, you can at least get there by foot without passing through security again. But…it’s a lot. You’re looking at ~25 minutes from Terminal 8, going with the lower of the estimates on the handy signs.
Plus, TBIT is the perfect place to plane spot. I took a few shots on my way there from the connecting walkway from Terminal 4, wishing I had my camera in addition to my iPhone. I need to hang out at LAX more often. So many aircraft and airlines to see! I love this shot, as there are aircraft representing airlines from Europe, South America, Asia and Oceania.
KAL Lounge LAX entry with Priority Pass
The (Korean Airlines) KAL Lounge LAX is located on the fifth floor of the Tom Bradley International Terminal post-security. It is pretty easy to get to when entering via the bridge from Terminal 4. The hours are more limited than might be expected, as the KAL Lounge LAX opens at 1:00 p.m. and closes at 7:00 p.m. Using Priority Pass for access, you get the standard two guests for free. In the case of the Citi Prestige, which offers unlimited family guests, you’ll be restricted to two free guests. Kids under 2 are free.
It is the contract business class lounge for a lot of airlines, essentially the entire SkyTeam alliance. If you’re flying in the business class cabin on AirFrance, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, KLM, Korean Air, Saudia or Xiamen, you’ll have access to the KAL Lounge LAX.
There were a few other people ahead of me when I arrived, but the line moved quickly. The agents were polite, but a bit standoffish and chatted with each other the whole time in (what I assume was) Korean.
Space and seating
I found the Korean Airlines Lounge to be a bit lackluster in terms of seating. It’s not that it is bad. It’s just pretty bland, in my opinion. The first thing I noticed was that the large space was almost devoid of people. There were dozens of seats, but only half a dozen people, which I found surprising at a lounge at an airport as big as LAX. One entire section of seats was entirely free.
The other side of the coin is that seating is plentiful. There are tons of soft, curved couch-chair…things. And nothing really offers any sort of privacy. I’ve seen better seating arrangements in the lobbies of 2.5-star hotels.
If the curved chair-things don’t cut it, there is a section of more standard chairs and a high-top table around the corner, where most of the guests were. Like everyone else, I preferred this section to those near the entrance of the lounge.
The “open air” section was by far the most popular during the time I was there. I have open air in quotes because it’s only open to the rest of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. There is no breeze or view of the runways. But it is the prime spot in the KAL Lounge LAX, in my opinion.
You can even look across to P.F. Chang’s on the other side of the TBIT atrium. This is where I’d expected to be, if not for the international flight restriction. It makes sense, though, given that a lot of people would probably make the trek over from Terminals 4 and 5 if they have a sufficiently long layover.
If you really want to get away from everyone and have some peace, there is a corner of armchairs right next to the entrance. By the time I was leaving, one person had finally decided to call it home.
KAL Lounge LAX food and beverage
The food and beverages in the lounge are located in a small area off the walkway into the lounge. The beverage options include a couple juices, water, soft drinks, tea and machine coffee. There is also a carafe of hot water for making instant soup. The appeal of instant soup never ceases to amaze me.
The food selection included some fresh veggies, fruit, and a pasta salad. There was a container of croissants as well. The plates are tiny, which I usually find funny. “Here’s the food, but don’t eat that much; this isn’t dinner.” Except it usually is for us.
The non-herbivore options included a couple different types of sandwiches, turkey wraps, and sushi. There were some hot options as well, including fried rice and chicken wings.
The bar appeared to be self-serve and had just a few wine options. I’m not sure if it is staffed and if you can order something more? I never saw anyone behind it.
As I had just eaten a light lunch at the Alaska lounge about an hour and a half prior, my fare consisted of a piece of sushi, a turkey wrap, and a tiny bit of rice and pasta salad, accompanied by a glass of Merlot. The food was fresh and decent, and I have no complaints.
If this was a business class experience booked with miles or *gasp* paid for with cash, I may have different thoughts on the food. I’m used to “The Club” experiences domestically for the majority of Priority Pass visits, which means that the bar for food selection and quality is fairly low. I know many international carriers offer a much nicer lounge experience.
Other elements of the lounge
The KAL Lounge LAX also features I shower, which I would have surely appreciated has I been departing on or arriving from a long-haul flight. Enjoying the shower at the Cathay Pacific The Wing business class lounge in Hong Kong was a highlight of the pre-flight experience. That lounge in general put every other lounge (except for maybe the SFO Centurion) to shame.
I did use the WiFi, which wasn’t all that fast. I’m not sure what it is at LAX, but I’ve struggled with cell connectivity, leading me to connect to the WiFi whenever possible. The WiFi at the KAL Lounge LAX seemed subpar based on my usage, although I didn’t perform an actual speed test to really make an “official” determination.
The KAL Lounge LAX has some good elements going for it. I found the food options to be decent, and it offered a quiet space, depending on where you decided to sit. With a overhauled seating design that breaks up the space a bit more, it could be a real winner. It has a contemporary feel, but I really don’t like how open the first section is. Maybe it’s just the odd curved chairs. The final thing it has going for it is that Priority Pass will more likely get you access, as the Alaska Lounge is notorious for turning cardholders away.
Have you been to the Korean Air KAL Lounge LAX? What did you think of it?