Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lounging in a Mall, courtesy of Alaska Airlines Visa

As a frequent flyer and stereotype-fitting male who doesn't find any particular pleasure in spending countless hours roaming retail malls, I (and I dare say many others as well) have often daydreamed about how great it would be to have someplace tranquil to escape to from the crowds, constant din of activity, and general chaos... something similar to the Alaska Board Room or other airline lounge.
South Coast Plaza on Black Friday. Photo: Coast Magazine
I must have forgotten to wear my foil hat on one day, because somebody at South Coast Plaza seemingly read my transient thoughts and established the very thing I yearned for...

A lounge!  More accurately, an exclusive VIP hospitality suite operated by SCP itself.  Simply called Access, it's located next to Sak's Fifth Avenue with a nondescript, opaque storefront that I've passed by dozens of times without realizing the oasis that hid beyond its double doors.

Want ACCESS for yourself? Details on how to enter the drawing below!
Entrance to SCP's Access lounge. Photo: VNAFlyer
I stumbled upon this amenity in a most accidental and serendipitous way, just by idly scanning through the offers on the Visa Signature website while waiting for my wife outside some store at SCP, and seeing the "Luxury Shopping" offer pop up:
"Be a shopping VIP at South Coast Plaza! Show your Visa® card and a copy of this offer to receive a South Coast Plaza Welcome Bag with a VIP Savings Passport, Complimentary Valet Parking, and entrance to the VIP ACCESS Suite."
Sure, discounts and little gift bags are fun, but the suite access (seemingly added as an afterthought), really caught my eye.  Curious, I found the nearest mall conceirge, flashed my Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, got my gift bag, and headed over to see what was actually being offered... was it just a stark empty, but quiet room, or was it a full-blown, proper lounge space.

This is what I found...
Reception and seating in the common area. Photo: VNAFlyer
The conference room, available for rent and also used as an overflow area.
Photo: VNAFlyer
The TV room, perfect for catching sports or other TV shows.
Photo: VNAFlyer
A private room designed for those with young children in tow.
Photo: VNAFlyer
Another private room, this one with a computer workstation.
Photo: VNAFlyer
Lattes and BBQ kettle chips to enjoy while taking a break.
Photo: VNAFlyer
SCP must have done its research, because this would be a bona fide lounge in most domestic airports, notwithstanding its comparatively small size (but big enough for serving shoppers vs. travelers).  The space is very smartly appointed in calming hues, while still evoking the high-class feeling that SCP strives for.

High on my list of amenities: two spacious and very clean lavatories... er, I mean restrooms. There are a few private sitting rooms if you and your party wanted your own space; otherwise, there are sofas and chairs in the common room.  Also available is a prayer room, designed specifically for Muslim guests but available for anyone needing a moment to themselves.

Should you need to hold a meeting in a different venue, the small conference room, which seats 8 at the table, is available to rent for $50/hour.

There are always 1-2 attendants on hand to check visitors in as well as serving refreshments and snacks. Champagne, imported beer, and wine are included if you choose to partake. I'm particularly fond of their latte, served with a small biscotti. Kettle-cooked potato chips also reign supreme.

These same attendants can also store your purchases at the lounge so that you are free to shop some more... and some more...

So, how does one get access to this lounge?  Visa Signature cards, including the Alaska Airlines card issued by Bank of America, gets you the gift bag that includes a lounge pass (valid for all members of your party that day). You just have to show an SCP conceirge desk the offer and your card; they take down your name, hand you a gift bag, and off you go. Each cardholder is allowed one gift bag per day.
Unpacking the gift bag. Yes, it includes the luggage tag. No, it doesn't
include the computer. Photo: VNAFlyer
American Express Platinum cardholders are also eligible to receive the gift bag, and there are several hotels that include a lounge pass as part of shop-and-stay packages.  Finally, the stores of SCP themselves provide lounge access to their top spenders.

Photo: Westin/South Coast Plaza
I even have gift bags to give away to two lucky readers.  Just leave a comment below by 11pm (Pacific Time) on September 10, and tell me what you think of having lounge access inside a mall.*

I personally think all malls should offer a lounge!

* Winner will be selected on September 11, 2015 from the comments of those who leave an email address. A random number generator will be used to select the winners, and the winner will be contacted via email. A US mailing address must be provided within 48 hours.  Unclaimed prizes will be awarded to another randomly-drawn commenter. All decisions regarding the award of the prize shall be mine and mine alone. No purchase necessary, must be 18 and over to qualify.