LAX Lounge Knockout: KAL Lounge Vs. Alaska Airlines Boardroom

I was in Los Angeles over the long weekend, and had some time to kill before my flight home to Minneapolis. Having a Priority Pass membership through my Amex Platinum card, I thought I’d check out the (now only two) LAX lounge options: The Korean Airlines (KAL) Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and the Alaska Airlines Boardroom in Terminal 6. Rather than a simple review of each lounge, I thought it’d be more fun do to a ‘knockout’ style review of each one on a variety of features.

Location

Nice view of the heavies.

My Sun Country flight departed from Terminal 5, and so I was able to access both of these lounges via the airside tunnels that connect the south side of the airport. Shawn from Miles to Memories wrote a great post about navigating these last year – and it was lucky timing as Sun Country just moved to T5 from T2, which is not part of the tunnel system.

Great Entrance to the KAL Lounge

The KAL Lounge  is in the westernmost terminal at LAX: the Tom Bradley International Terminal. If you are flying out of that terminal on an international flight, or out of terminal 4 on an American Airlines flight, this makes for a quick walk. For me, however, it was about a 10-15 minute trek through corridors and tunnels from Terminal 5. I got some nice views of the tarmac though on my way!

The Alaska Airlines lounge is located in Terminal 6, which was much closer to my departure terminal with a two or three minute walk. If you’re flying on Alaska (T6) or United (which uses T7 and T8) this may be closer to you. There’s also a somewhat discrete elevator to the lounge that you will need to look for to enter.

The Verdict: The Alaska Airlines Boardroom, because its more centrally located for domestic departures.

Environment

The KAL Lounge has a nice Asian vibe to it, and felt sophisticated and calm despite being quite busy when I visited at around 4pm. The lounge features a combination of indoor couch and table seating, as well as an ‘outdoor’ terrace that is still inside but overlooks the terminal via a balcony. Certainly a great option for people watching! That being said, there was a significant amount of empty glasses and plates left in many of the seating areas. This was surprising as I had read the lounge features a swift and prompt cleaning staff. It was a holiday Monday, so perhaps they didn’t have enough people.

The Alaska Boardroom is smaller than the KAL Lounge but offers a good amount of seating on comfy couches and armchairs. There are also spectacular views of the T6/7 tarmac area and south side runways.  I also liked the unique decor of the lounge, although I couldn’t tell if they were going for a Hollywood theme or something else. In addition, I saw several staff members walking around during my visit cleaning up, so the lounge looked spotless.

The Verdict: The KAL Lounge. Despite some mess, I enjoyed the environment and found it more relaxing than the Alaska Boardroom.

Food & Beverage

The KAL Lounge had a buffet of snacks, including small sandwiches and wraps as well as cold salad items. But perhaps the best food choice (for me at least) was the abundance of instant ramen cups. I was able to make some instant ramen using a hot water pitcher they had filled up, which I found tastier than some lounge food I’ve had in the past! It’s certainly not fancy, and perhaps to some seems counter-intuitive for a lounge to serve dorm food, but I enjoyed it nonetheless!

The lounge also featured a walk-up bar with a selection of wine, spirits and beer. There was no attendant, so everything was self serve and complimentary.

The Alaska Boardroom had minimal food options complimentary, providing cookies, pretzels, salad and cheese cubes. I didn’t eat any of the food (having eaten in the KAL lounge beforehand) so I can’t comment on the quality. They do have a pancake machine though, which I’m sure would be great for an early morning departure! The lounge also had a selection of heartier food options for purchase, which I assume would be good for an extended stay.

The Boardroom also featured a full service bar with a bartender, and it looked like they had basic complimentary alcohol and premium choices for purchase.

The Verdict: The KAL Lounge. Who doesn’t love cup ramen to relive their college dorm days?

Showers and Service

Loved this shower at the KAL Lounge

One great feature of the KAL Lounge was its three shower suites, none of which were in use when I enquired. I was able to get a key instantly from the front desk and explored the surprisingly large and well-appointed shower room. Pressure and temperature were great, and they even had Aveeno lotion available by the sink! I’m a fan of a shower before a flight, so this was a great amenity.

While the Alaska Boardroom didn’t have a shower, I felt it had slightly better service than the KAL lounge. The receptionist was friendlier and greeted guests as they came and went from the lounge, and I noticed cleaning and serving staff interacting with guests, even bringing tissues to one who had some allergies. Things seemed more reserved in the KAL Lounge, and while service was by far not bad, I felt it could’ve been better.

The Verdict: The KAL Lounge. The shower was seriously the best I’ve had at an airport.

Final Results

The KAL Lounge edged out the Alaska Airlines Boardroom, and would be my pick for an extended layover at LAX. That being said, if I didn’t have much time to kill I would definitely head to the Alaska Boardroom. Its important to note, however, that the Boardroom currently will not accept guests of Priority Pass members due to space constraints. As I generally travel alone, this isn’t a big deal for me, but worth considering on your next trip.

What do you think? Have you visited either of these lounges? Let me know in the comments!