Heading back from this year’s AviaDev Europe conference, I was keen to check out the facilities at Valencia Airport. It’s not an airport I’ve ever passed through before, so I had no idea what to expect. However, the Sala VIP Joan Olivert lounge was a very nice surprise.
The lounge is operated by Aena, and is located airside on the first floor boarding area. Opening hours are from 05:00 until 23:00. The lounge is a Priority Pass facility, or you can pay on entry at the rate of €33.90 (approx. $38) per person. If you’re wondering, Joan Olivert is a pioneer of aviation who performed the first-ever motorized flight in Spain in 1909. Google is a wonderful thing.
The lounge is very easy to find. It’s superbly signposted from the moment you leave security. I guess it’s around a five-minute walk from security to the entrance, at a quiet end of the airport away from the boarding gates.
Upon entering, there’s a large reception desk to the left, where the attentive lounge staff welcomed me and got me signed in. Although they didn’t exactly offer a tour of the lounge, they did point out where the main features were and how to access things like the WiFi.
This lounge has an amazing apron view, so I hear. This is from the upper level of the lounge which, sadly, was closed when I arrived.
The lounge is divided into different areas depending on your needs and purpose for being there. To the right of the reception desk is mostly café style seating, with comfortable spaces for dining and drinking. There is ample space; considering the size of the airport, I can’t image the tables ever get full.
Further into this area there is some lounge seating with sofas and low tables. Right at the end is a children’s area, although this really just consisted of a rubber floor with a few cushions and a TV playing nonstop cartoons. It’s a nice touch, and not something you see in every lounge.
The other side of the lounge from the food stations continues with lounge seating, although this is mostly single armchairs arranged in groups of four. Every chair has access to its own power outlet, making this a great place to chill and charge phones or laptops before a flight.
Beyond this and to the right is perhaps the best lounge workspace I’ve come across to date. There are 12 workstations set up, with proper office desks and ergonomic chairs. There is a printer and scanner on hand for anyone on the network to use.
At the back of this area is a private meeting room, with a boardroom table and plenty of chairs. I can’t imagine ever needing to hold a meeting in an airport lounge, but it’s good to know that’s an option! It’s these types of touches that make a really big difference to those who travel for work. I found the space to be highly productive and comfortable, with superfast WiFi and fewer distractions than is usual in some lounges.
Of course, if you don’t have work to do, there’s another part to this lounge that could be a nice surprise… right down the end is what I would call a ‘relaxation room’. In this dark, quiet room is a range of lounger seats with individual lights. The room is closed off from the rest of the lounge and very peaceful indeed. I’d definitely like to enjoy half an hour or so in here next time I pass through Valencia!
In case you’re wondering, those shapes on the ceilings do more than just make the place look marginally funkier. They are actually noise dampeners, to stop the space being so echoey and prevent sounds from traveling too much. They really work too… there was plenty of chatter going on in the sofa area but the business area still felt very quiet.
My only complaint / comment about this lounge is the frosted glass windows. The light from outside and the way the glass is frosted means there is a constant stream of looming shadows passing by the window… not a big deal but a bit weird!
Food and drink
While the design of this lounge, for me, really is spot on, the food and drink was nothing to write home about. There was nothing really hot to eat, save for some soup, so it was most definitely more of a ‘snack’ offering than somewhere you could go to dine.
Despite the lack of hot food, there was plenty of cold options available. There was a huge selection of sandwiches and rolls, with some out on the buffet counter and yet more options available inside the fridge. There was also a salad selection and plenty of nuts, crisps, olives and other snack items, as well as some fresh pastries.
Drinks wise, there was a well-stocked fridge of soft drinks, juices and beers, and a great selection of wines and spirits available on a help yourself basis. There was also a coffee machine and a selection of teas and hot chocolate.
I had a roll and a cous cous salad. The salad was super, very flavorful, but the roll was pretty noneventful.
For a small airport like Valencia, this is a solid lounge offering that puts some other facilities at bigger airports to shame. The attention to detail with the design and layout really is a credit to Aena; they’ve pulled out all the stops to make it great for families, for leisure travelers and for business passengers too.
The food selection was the only thing that really let this lounge down, but for me that’s not really a massive issue. There were enough options to keep you fueled up for your flight, although if you’d paid for lounge access in the hope of a three-course meal, you would be sadly disappointed.
Overall, if your main reason to access a lounge is to make productive use of your time before your flight, then I don’t think you could wish for a better space.