Airline lounges are ubiquitous at major airports around the world. Frequent flyers love them, for the facilities they offer before a flight, as well as the certain cachet around being able to gain access.

Everything has a beginning and the first airline to open their own lounge was American Airlines, all the way back in 1939. Things were a little different to today though!

The First Airline Lounge

Fiorello LaGuardia, the New York Mayor, was being taken to task in the press for having offices at LaGuardia Airport. To shut them up, he offered to rent them out and the American Airlines CEO C.R. Smith snapped them up. Thus, the Flagship Club was born on 2 December 1939.

At first it was a private club with just nine members (who could keep their own bottles of booze on site!), but eventually it morphed into the scheme we see today. The name Admiral’s Club came later and paid access was introduced all the way back in 1967.

Other airlines introduced lounges much later. Cathay Pacific’s first one was called The Discovery Lounge, and opened in August 1970. Qantas had The Captain’s Club, opening the first ones in 1973, while Singapore Airlines was relatively late to the game with their first lounge in 1990!

Overall Thoughts

Far from being members only VIP experiences, these days they let anyone into a lounge, including me! As long as you have frequent flyer status or, in some cases, have paid for the privilege, you’re in the club.

I’m sure those first lounge guests were movers and shakers who could do things for American Airlines. Even today, some airlines like Qantas offer a special VIP lounge just for invited A-listers and politicians. Oh to be in that elite group, or… maybe not!

My first airline lounge was the Qantas international business class lounge in Sydney. What was yours? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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1939 Club image via Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific).
Bar image via

Featured image by Jim Koepnick via EAA Vintage Aircraft Association.