I arrived at Oakland Airport with ample time prior to my 6 pm Norwegian flight to London Gatwick. The exterior of the airport isn’t especially interesting, though Oakland Airport is undergoing quite a bit of expansion, with several new routes to Europe and Hawaii.
Continue reading this guest post by Cobi Allen, a Juicy Miles team member.
Norwegian opens check-in departing Oakland 4 hours before departure, and despite my early arrival, there were no window seats left when I checked in. I asked the check-in agent how much an upgrade to premium class would be, and it was $320 (out of my budget, unfortunately!). After he printed my boarding pass, it was a short walk to the security checkpoint.
Norwegian doesn’t have TSA precheck, but luckily the standard line was short. This did not mean security was fast, however, because for some reason the agents were putting what seemed like every single bag through a secondary inspection! Fifteen minutes later, after having my bags completely unpacked, swabbed, and repacked in an unorganized manner, I was finally allowed to proceed.
The Escape Lounge is located about halfway down terminal 1 (the terminal for every airline except Southwest), on the left next to gate 8. The two terminals at Oakland are connected airside, so it is easy to use this lounge no matter which airline you are flying. I was excited to check it out, because it is the first lounge at Oakland Airport and just opened one week ago.
Norwegian Air premium passengers have access to the lounge, and anyone else can have access for $45, which can be purchased in advance through the LoungeBuddy website or app, or upon arrival (I paid $35 during LoungeBuddy’s Black Friday sale). Unfortunately, the lounge does not currently accept Priority Pass, like the Escape Lounge in Minneapolis does.
I walked up to the counter and presented my LoungeBuddy receipt and boarding pass. The friendly agent working at the desk took my documents, invited me to have a seat in the lounge, and said she would bring over my boarding pass when she finished checking me in.
Upon entering the lounge, I immediately realized how small it is. Despite its small size, the lounge is quite well-designed and modern, and is divided into two main seating areas separated by the buffet. As you enter, there are two sofas and a few chairs and tables on the left.
To the right after entering the lounge there is an alcove with two tables and some fun 3-D art on some shelves.
Behind the buffet, there were some tables to the left in front of a large window with a view of terminal 2. There were lots of Southwest 737s to be seen, but not much else since all other airlines use terminal 1.
The lounge is somewhat lacking in natural light, as this is the only outside window.
Opposite the window, there are a few tables, as well as three booths, where I took a seat.
There are plenty of outlets and USB ports spread throughout the lounge, so you can charge your devices from most of the seats. Behind the furthest booth, there were some nice-looking clocks, which included London and Stockholm time, the two destinations Norwegian currently serves from Oakland.
Quickly after sitting down, one of the staff, whose name I later found out was Christine, returned my boarding pass and asked if I would like something to drink. I declined, because I wanted to get some food from the buffet first, but I appreciated the offer. When I arrived, there were only four other passengers using the lounge, but it slowly started filling up to about twenty people as the Norwegian Air departure approached.
Christine explained that the buffet featured several dishes designed by chef Chris Pastena, who owns three restaurants in the Oakland area.
There were a few hot options, including tomato soup, hot ham and cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and mushroom frittata. The latter two came in cute mini Dutch ovens.
Overall the food selection was great, which you don’t see too often in US lounges.
At one end of the buffet was the coffee bar, which included a cappuccino machine, coffee, and several types of tea.
At the back of the lounge was the bar, which has several complementary drinks, as well as some premium options.
From behind the bar, there was a good view of the entire lounge and you can see the relative size of it. There are no restrooms inside the lounge, so this one room is all there is.
I started with the mushroom frittata from the buffet, and it was quite tasty.
Next I had some pita chips and hummus. The pita chips were warm and tasted very fresh. I may or may not have packed some of them to eat on the ten-hour flight to London.
I finished with the chocolate mousse, which was also tasty.
I ordered a gin and tonic from the bar, and the bartender brought it over to my table.
The staff were very proactive with drink refills and clearing dishes, even when the lounge became more crowded. After eating, I did some work on my laptop, and appreciated the fast Wi-Fi speed.
There were a few pads of paper scattered throughout the lounge, which could be useful if you need to write something down.
Although boarding for my Norwegian flight was supposed to begin at 5:15, one of the premium passengers said he just returned from the gate area and boarding had not yet commenced due to a late inbound aircraft. At about 5:40, one of the staff announced that the flight to London had begun boarding, and all but one of the customers in the lounge left for the gate.
Overall, the Escape Lounge at Oakland Airport is a great place to eat and relax before a flight. Although it is relatively small, it was well-designed and featured great food and service. It never became too crowded when I was there, but this could change with the expansion of routes to Europe on Norwegian and British Airways. The lounge is definitely a step up from most domestic US carrier lounges, and I definitely plan on returning if I am flying long haul from Oakland again.