My expectations for an airport lounge are simple. A quieter environment compared to the airport terminal is important. So is a place to recharge electronics. Airplane views out the window are a significant factor in my enjoyment of the lounge. Add in some decent snack options and a comfortable seat and you’ve got a winner for me. En route home from the IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul at the beginning of June an unlikely player delivered best on these metrics: The 7-11 adjacent to the food court in Terminal 2.
Can a convenience store truly be the quietest place to relax? In this case its location, slightly out of the way and at the end of a hallway certainly helps. At the primary departure banks the Korean Air lounge was significantly more crowded. And, while not necessarily loud, it was also not an especially quiet space.
For views the 7-11 is hard to beat. The shop has floor-to-ceiling windows facing the apron. Owing to the architecture of the terminal the rest of the lounges all lack that view. What windows there are face into the terminal rather than out to the airport operations.
For snacks the competition heats up a bit. The traditional lounges offer free food while 7-11 certainly does not. But the selection in the shop covers a much broader range and the prices are very reasonable. For a more full-featured dining experience the Korean Air business class lounge isn’t going to measure up anyways, and the 7-11 is much closer to the very good food court choices the terminal offers.
When it comes to a relaxing seat and a place to charge electronics the 7-11 delivers a double-whammy of awesome. A pair of massage chairs, set off from the rest of the shop in a small room, offer a great seat to recharge your body and outlets to recharge your devices. Running the massage function is 1,000 Korean Won ($0.85) for 10 minutes. Paying is easy, assuming you have leftover funds on your T-money card (used for metro fares and such).
Right, so the 7-11 is obviously not really a lounge. And taking advantage of its benefits comes with a cash cost that a visit to the Korean lounge would not. But for less than $10 – far cheaper than the price of a buy-in lounge option in the terminal – the facilities and services are competitive, if not better. And the 7-11 does something else that I consider important in airports: It extends the local flavor rather than delivering a sterile, soulless space.
It is a compelling option for travelers who don’t otherwise have complimentary lounge access and I’d argue it is worth spending the $10-20 there and in the food court for a better experience anyways. That’s what I did.