With the recent thawing of relationships between Cuba and the US, the small Havana Jose Marti airport is seeing an increase in traffic. Passengers will find a total of three lounges—two at the newer Terminal 3, and a single club at the vintage Terminal 2.
Salon VIP at HAV Terminal 2 welcomes premium passengers of a handful of European airlines. US bound passengers will feel little love; at this time, Alaska and United customers do not receive access, regardless of their class of service of frequent flyer status. The lounge also operates on a pay-in basis: 30 CUC (roughly USD $30) will get you in—an incredibly high price for Cuba, and a stark reminder that the club primarily targets foreigners.
The lounge is located after immigration and security, on the left side of the boarding area across the main Duty Free store, on the mezzanine level.
Salon VIP HAV design
Salon VIP at Havana Airport Terminal 2 is a bland but colorful space—an odd mix between a step back in time and an honest attempt at a cozy and pleasant retreat.
Located on the mezzanine floor, the club offers a bird’s eye view on the crowded concourse below—an instant reminder that your entrance fee might be money well spent—as well as limited outside views. Unfortunately, with the main room overlooking the terminal roof, the staff tends to keep the curtains drawn. The lack of natural light exacerbates the deficiencies of the harsh artificial lighting: when we visited, the lights above the bar were blinking uncontrollably, and the CFC bulbs gave the room a slightly uninviting ambiance.
The space is extremely clean and functional otherwise, with a comfortable amount of space between seats, a few power outlets along the walls, and air conditioning on full blast (bring a light jacket.) The color palette isn’t for the faint of heart—blue and red chairs and curtains clash with the orange walls and the gleaming white floor—but is playful and uplifting. A few indoor plants dot the space. And then, there’s the audio CD in the DVD player, with the menu selection on display on the flat screen behind the bar, which gives the ensemble an amusing local touch.
The bar, which is the centerpiece of the design with its bright silver backdrop and orange countertop, is mostly a decorative feature, since most food and drinks are available for self-service.
The main draw of the lounge is that it is typically quiet, with few visitors outside peak times. The club does fill up around European flight departure times, however, with entire groups receiving access as part of tour packages.
Salon VIP HAV amenities
The food spread is basic but filling. The typical selection includes ham and cheese sandwiches (a local staple), muffins, peanuts (offered without serving utensils), and cut fresh fruit in the drink cooler. When we visited, though, the fruit was stale, and the whole sandwiches turned into halves as the lounge filled up—a creative solution by the staff when they ran out of ham in the middle of the afternoon.
The drink selection decidedly caters to Western customers, with a cooler stocked with Coca-Cola products and still and sparkling bottled water. While there are no hot drinks in sight, feel free to request an espresso from the staff—the service is complimentary but unadvertised.
On the adult beverage front, the selection ranges from mild—Miller Light and Mexican beer such as Sol—to intense: a variety of Havana Club bottles of various flavors and strengths, as well as Absolut Vodka and Beefeater gin, all available for self-service.
The press selection is at the antipodes of the soda offerings. While the soda selection is acutely geared towards Western tastes, the press is very local: the meager selection is limited to the regime’s mouthpieces, with the infamous Granma—a collector’s item—as the main feature.
While Wi-Fi is technically available, it is neither free nor open. As per Cuban regulations, the service requires the prior purchase of access vouchers, which are not on sale at the airport. There are no business amenities otherwise.
The spacious smoking room to the side features daylight and the best views, with a vista over the tarmac, ground traffic, and Terminal 3 in the distance. Ask the front desk for a lighter if needed, and don’t be surprised if the staff offers to sell cigars—it’s a typical unofficial side business, with no guarantee of quality.
The bathroom is merely serviceable: the toilet seats are long gone, there is a single stall on the gentlemen’s side, and when we visited, the soap was detergent in a water bottle. However, toilet paper is available, the facilities are clean, and they sure beat the public restrooms in the terminal.
Perhaps the most valuable—and unexpected—amenity of Salon VIP at Havana Jose Marti airport is the escort service to your aircraft. Sit back and relax, and don’t mind the typical delays: the staff will monitor your flight and fetch you when it’s time to board. An agent will then personally escort you down to the boarding area and to the front of the boarding line, for a seamless and relaxing experience which perhaps alone justifies the entry fee.
Salon VIP HAV bottom line
The VIP Lounge at Cuba’s Havana Jose Marti International airport Terminal 2 is a basic but functional lounge away from the bustle of the boarding area. With a limited food selection, oddities such as flickering lights, reading materials exclusively consisting of state propaganda, restricted Wi-Fi, and a bathroom that has seen better days, the club won’t earn any awards.
However, at an airport known for systemic delays, the occasional chaos, and a dreary lack of power points, the comfortable seating area and VIP escort service are priceless.
You may have access to Salon VIP as a premium customer of one of the following airlines, or as an elite member of their frequent flyer program. Check the Access rules tab for more details.
|Condor (DE)||Edelweiss (WK)|
Salon VIP at Havana - Jose Marti International (HAV) welcomes:
- All passengers, regardless of airline and class of service, for a fee.
- Select premium customers and elite members departing on an airline served by this lounge (see Airlines tab).