Inside the world's top airline headquarters

Inside the world's top airline headquarters

Airline HQs aren't all about work -- employees can go shopping, visit a museum and even hang out in parks
airline headquarters
Lufthansa Aviation Center, Frankfurt: That's 592,000 square feet of glass you're gawking at.

The best airline headquarters aren't just a place to go to work, they are microcosms for everyone that's involved in the nitty-gritty of air travel, from the CEO to the guy who holds those paddle boards on the runway.

Here are some of the world's most complete airline-headquarters-slash-mini-cities.

Cathay Pacific City: Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong

airlines headquartersSitting at the gates of Cathay Pacific City is a replica of the airline's historical second aircraft.This multi-million dollar complex, housing Cathay Pacific’s 3,000-plus staff, is a free shuttle bus ride away from Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport.

The 72,000-square-meter mini city, which includes a hotel, health club, museum, flight training center and three office towers, as well as retail shops and a food court, opened in 1998.

Among the exhibits in the small history museum, which is tucked above the food court and not open to the public, are vintage arrival and departure boards, newspaper clippings from the airline’s early days and flight attendant uniforms from past decades.

The flight training center contains Airbus and Boeing simulators, as well as full mock-ups of aircraft interiors for cabin crew training.

The first Cathay aircraft was a converted Douglas DC3 named Betsy, an example of which stands in front of the HQ. Betsy herself is in the Hong Kong Science Museum.

The Headland Hotel, which is open exclusively to local and overseas Cathay staff, comprises two wings and 501 rooms. Its top-floor restaurant, Catalina, commands a view of the whole airport and runways, which is perfect for plane spotting. 

See more details for Cathay Pacific City at

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The Base: Gatwick, England

airline headquartersA bright room to cultivate bright minds at Virgin Atlantic's "The Base."The Base in West Sussex, England, is the training facility for all Virgin Atlantic staff, from pilots and flight attendants to Clubhouse Spa beauticians. 

Along with the nearby Office, it makes up the British airline’s HQ, located 10 minutes from Gatwick International Airport. 

Opened in 2007, the stylish space has lots of glass, natural light and pops of the brand’s trademark red. 

The complex contains bright classrooms complete with mood lighting and high-tech equipment, a 200-seat auditorium, green open courtyards and a central bar area known as Town Square where drinks, snacks and meals are available during the day. 

The impressive Rigs Hall is in a glass atrium at the heart of the Base, and claims to be the most realistic airline training environment in Britain. Its facilities include cabin service, safety, medical and aviation training rigs, aircraft door trainers, a slide and a life raft. 

Read more about The Base at

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The JetBlue Space: Long Island City, United States

airline headquartersThe Brewster Building in New York has been converted into JetBlue's Long Island City Support Center.In April, JetBlue moved its headquarters to a new space in Long Island City, Queens. Housing 1,000 employees, the support center takes up 18,500-square-meters in the century-old Brewster building. 

This is where the Brewster Aeronautical Company manufactured the “Brewster Buffalo,” the first monoplane fighter aircraft used by the US Navy in World War II.

Visitors and staff enter the HQ through a futuristic portal. The office feels young and open, with sweeping aerodynamic curves and walls of digital screens broadcasting live Twitter feeds.

Transparency is a core design feature, with the absence of closed areas meant to promote collaboration. Bold wall graphics in brand colors remind crewmembers of their mission to “bring humanity back to air travel."

A major part of the three-story space is dedicated to an ultramodern 24-hour System Operations Center, which manages JetBlue’s 750 daily flights.

Read more about JetBlue's support centers at their blog:

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Lufthansa Aviation Center: Frankfurt, Germany

airline headquartersNine gardens in Lufthansa's Frankfurt HQ keeps things fresh.A majestic, sunlit complex, it took about 55,000 square meters of glass to build Lufthansa’s six-story technical operations HQ in Frankfurt, Germany.

With its roof in the shape of a giant parachute, the structure is modeled after a typical German town. Ten office concourses, nine gardens and corridors are suggestive of houses, squares and streets.  

These “home areas” provide spaces for eating, drinking and impromptu meetings –- which the company believes are vital to creativity.

The gardens, housed in high atria, are probably the center’s most impressive features. Designed to be the “lungs” of the building, the gardens are a source of fresh air and respite for employees who must work on a narrow site between Frankfurt airport and a mainline railway. 

Each garden is designed to reflect the natural environment of one of Lufthansa's international destinations.

The Bamboo garden houses beautiful tall shoots of the plant, while the Beach garden contains an array of Washington palms and a sand volleyball court.

The Hub: Auckland, New Zealand

airlines headquartersThe Hub courtyard where Air New Zealanders gather for great office gossip.Air New Zealand’s Hub is an environmentally-friendly workplace, which seems apt for an airline that promises to “bring the world to Middle Earth."

The 15,600-square-meter complex near the entertainment district of Viaduct Harbor in Auckland is fitted extensively with tinted glass windows to harness the abundant sunshine.

Lighting controls connected to daylight sensors reduce the amount of electricity consumed. 

The Hub opened in 2006 with views over the city’s Victoria Park on one side and Rangitoto Island and the Hauraki Gulf on the other.

It’s made up of two interconnected five-story buildings that follow an open-plan design.

There are door-free offices up to executive management level and relaxed meeting spaces that include beanbags, as well as more formal conference rooms.

On one wall is a photomontage of thousands of Air New Zealand employees. 

Air New Zealanders, as they’re called, seem to be a social crowd often gathering in the Hub’s café and courtyard where a sculpture represents significant events in the airline’s history.

Samantha Leese is a Hong Kong based writer and editor, focusing on travel, arts and culture. Her articles have been published internationally by titles such as Condé Nast Traveller, The Spectator, Artforum and Time.

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