See what Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles airports have to offer, and find out which carrier has the best.
American Airlines Admirals Club
Service? Liked: Day-pass holders are treated as well as elite fliers are (the concierge in Chicago patiently explained the entire layout of O'Hare so that I wouldn't miss my plane).
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Food? Liked: Select clubs have delis serving fresh food at good prices ($9.50 for a club sandwich) in nifty little containers you can carry onto the plane—the chef's salad I picked up in Chicago (was delicious on my flight to LAX.
Disliked:They're stingy with the freebies.
Drinks? Liked: Yes, it's $9.50 for a cabernet, but the generous pour in Chicago made it seem like a deal.
Disliked:The anemic Bloody Mary in Atlanta.
Chill Factor? Liked: The Chicago lounge has plenty of room to spread out. LAX's club offers music players with Bose noise-canceling headphones; massage chairs are a buck a minute, but proceeds benefit cystic fibrosis.
Disliked: Atlanta's small, cramped, almost windowless club.
Facilities? Liked: Spick-and-span shower facilities in Chicago and LAX. ?Disliked: Atlanta's bathroom—it needed a scrub.
Extras? Liked: The children's room in Chicago and LAX (keeps noisy kids a safe distance away).
Disliked: The club in LAX—it's in terminal four, so only ticketed American Airlines passengers can visit.
Overall Score? 3.5 out of 4 stars
Continental Presidents Club
Service? Liked: Loads of staff.
Disliked: The welcome withered when LAX front desk saw I wasn't on a Continental flight.
Food? Liked: It's the only lounge that offered Fritos.
Disliked: Other than the Fritos, there was very little to eat; the Presidents Clubs served the least food of any lounge on this tour.
Drinks? Liked: The open bar (with premium pours at a price); friendly bartenders.
Disliked: The Manhattan I paid for in Atlanta was dreadful, the coffee sludge.
Chill Factor? Liked: So quiet in Los Angeles that I dozed off and almost missed my flight.
Disliked: Cramped quarters during Atlanta's afternoon rush.
Facilities? Liked: From the seating areas to the bathrooms, these clubs sparkled.
Disliked: Single-seater unisex bathroom in Atlanta—lines can be frequent.
Extras? Liked: A little banter with the bartender in Atlanta earned a free upgrade to premium vodka (Grey Goose).
Disliked: Only one TV in Los Angeles, and it didn't get ESPN.
Overall Score? 3 out of 4 stars
Delta Sky Club
Service? Liked: The kind front-desk clerk in Atlanta who let me in for free.
Disliked: Attendants who neglected to enforce quiet-zone rules in several clubs.
Food? Liked: The cold cut spread in Atlanta's concourse E.
Disliked: Limited food selection overall (squirt-(tube hummus can't save dried-out carrot sticks).
Drinks? Liked: Free drinks; local microbrew on tap in Atlanta.
Disliked: Watered-down coffee from a push-button machine ((it wouldn't perk up a mouse).
Chill Factor? Liked: Skylights and views in Atlanta from an uncrowded club on the second level of concourse A; finding the hidden business center behind the check-in desk at LAX.
Disliked: The din of cell phone chatter in Chicago's cramped, crowded lounge.
Facilities? Liked: The showers at gate 14 on concourse E in Atlanta—this is the former first-class lounge, and it shows. ?Disliked: The line for Chicago's single-seater bathroom. ??
Extras? Liked: Putting greens in Atlanta's concourse T and in Los Angeles.
Disliked: Lack of quiet zones.
Overall score? 2.5 out of 4 stars
United Red Carpet Club
Service? Liked: Free drink tickets at LAX and the unsolicited free upgrade to Premium Economy at O'Hare lounge.
Disliked: Serious service slump during rush hour at O'Hare.
Food? Liked: Fresh veggies for dipping in prepackaged ranch dressing; individually packaged yogurt and applesauce in Chicago.
Disliked: Crushed prepackaged crackers and overall lack of food selection.
Drinks? Liked: Fresh-brewed cup of joe. Minute Maid juice (orange and apple) machines at O'Hare.
Disliked: Paying for the booze.
8 things airlines won’t tell youChill Factor? Liked:The cell phone-free Westin Renewal Lounge at LAX, complete with a gigantic flat-screen TV playing footage of a babbling mountain brook.
Disliked: Chaotic lounges at O'Hare mirroring the madness of the concourse.
Facilities? Liked: Nothing.
Disliked: Wishing that the toilets at the busy O'Hare clubs had the same sanitary seat covers that are available in public toilets throughout the airport.
Extras? Liked: O'Hare's United Express customers will appreciate the club in isolated concourse F.
Disliked: Lack of clubs in Atlanta; no printers in business centers; trouble with a T-Mobile hotspot at O'Hare (at B7).
Overall score? 2 out of 4 stars
© 2013 Condé Nast Traveler