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Oneworld Set to Open Its First Airport Lounge in Seoul

Seoul becomes the alliance’s first lounge location after plans to open a space in Moscow were scrapped

November 29, 2023

Premium travelers and frequent flyers will soon have a new hangout in Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN), as Oneworld Alliance opens its first branded lounge in Terminal 1.

Oneworld has lagged behind competitors Star Alliance and SkyTeam in establishing a network of lounges for eligible passengers on member airlines. While at hub airports, Oneworld travelers can often find lounges from the airline they’re flying or another alliance member; they’re underserved in many major airports where no member operates enough flights to build their own lounge.

In 2019, Oneworld announced that everything would change, with plans for a lounge network that may reach 15 to 30 airports.

Photo: Cathay Pacific 777-300 Oneworld Livery. Courtesy of Boeing

 

“The idea is that we develop these where no single airline has a massive presence, but we have multiple airlines flying into the same airport, maybe with daily flight,” the alliance’s CEO Rob Gurney said.

For its premier lounge, Oneworld settled on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (DME), where a lounge was supposed to open in 2020. The pandemic and then the icing of relations with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, including the suspension of Russian carrier S7 Airlines from the alliance, scuppered those plans. That turned the focus to other airports rumored to be on the shortlist, including Seoul, Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), and São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU).

Seoul has won out, and the Oneworld lounge will debut in Terminal 1 in January.

South Korea’s biggest airport fits Gurney’s criteria of an airport where the alliance “collectively… have a lot of flights but no single airline could justify the cost of the lounge.”

Seven of Oneworld’s 13 member airlines fly from the terminal:

  • American Airlines to/from Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Cathay Pacific to/from Hong Kong (HKG)
  • Finnair to/from Helsinki (HEL)
  • Malaysia Airlines to/from Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
  • Qantas to/from Sydney (SYD)
  • Qatar Airways to/from Doha (DOH)
  • SriLankan Airlines to/from Colombo (CMB)

The Oneworld lounge will be open to first and business-class passengers on those airlines and frequent flyers with Emerald and Sapphire status with Oneworld’s loyalty program.

It will be located on the fourth floor of Terminal 1, near Gate 28. The space was previously occupied by JJ Lounge, operated by low-cost Korean carrier Jeju Air, and shuttered in 2020 amid the pandemic.

JJ Lounge was a bijou 5,900 square feet (550 square meters), with seating for 140 passengers – a tight fit for all the passengers of Oneworld Airlines departing from Terminal 1. However, the Oneworld lounge may use additional space on level four: blueprints of the lounge haven’t been revealed.

The official ribbon-cutting is scheduled for January 2024. However, the lounge will open a few weeks earlier, in December, so holiday travelers passing through Seoul should keep an eye out.

Some well-traveled passengers may protest that the Seoul space is the alliance’s second lounge following its retreat at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). However, while that space brands itself as the “Oneworld Lounge” and welcomes guests from all partner airlines, it’s operated by members British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas, with no involvement from the alliance itself.

Meanwhile, competing alliances are continuing to grow their networks of lounges. In October, the Star Alliance opened its second lounge in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), joining spaces in Amsterdam (AMS), Buenos Aires (EZE), Los Angeles (LAX), Rio de Janeiro (GIG), and Rome (FCO).

SkyTeam debuted a new branded lounge in São Paulo in February, expanding a network that already includes retreats in Dubai (DXB), Istanbul (IST), Santiago (SCL), Sydney (SYD), and Vancouver (YVR).