Long, meaning long enough to be bored, and short enough to keep me at the airport. I have spent the better part of a full day in a Singapore Airlines lounge, well worth it, but 8 hours is too long to be anywhere but home. The ideal layover, when I am in a hurry, is an hour. If I have two long flights, a two hour layover is perfect, if I have airline lounge access. And if I have been upgraded to Business or First, I usually have lounge access.
For those of you unfamiliar, the Lounge might be the Holy Grail of International travel. It has less importance domestically, at least for me, as a retired traveler, than a business traveler, who needs to use a laptop and cell phone simultaneously. Nonetheless. it does usually provide a respite from the noise and hustle of the airline boarding areas and gates.
Some lounges, like United and American Airlines, are just average. Alaska and Air Canada are somewhat better. Some offer soft drinks, coffee, and snacks, along with some periodicals, like the local paper, WSJ, and a few magazines.
Others, like Singapore, and some of the other foreign airlines, have full meals, showers (with amenity kit), movies, private rooms, and even a massage therapist. In most lounges, except for the “fancy” lounges, alcohol incurs a separate charge. I do remember having my own beer tap in the JAL lounge at Tokyo Narita. And a few actually have decent champagne and wine!
The average ones, in Africa and South America mostly, are not very inviting, somewhat depressing, and often noisy and not well maintained. Almost always, the standards are higher in foreign countries. The SE Asian countries and Japan have the best, by far. Who can argue with fresh sushi, noodles, dim sum, and pho??
The big question about lounges, is “Are they worth it?” Well, it depends on who is paying.
In general, the beauty of the lounge is getting away from people scurrying around the airport. With mostly similar seasoned travelers, the lounge is more relaxing, quieter, and provides a bit more personal space.
In my business travel days, my employer often paid for the lounge access. Depending on which airports we used, we would pick the one that had the most lounges in the cities we visited. Mine was generally United, since I tried to use one airline to build my frequent flyer miles (Mileage Plus program).
Now that I use the airline that is both cost efficient and goes to where I want to go (rather than work related), lounge membership is not economically feasible. But. . . .
I can get lounge access through the following:
Business or First Class allows lounge access in the airline (or partner) you are flying.
The right credit cards can open lounge access (United, Amex and Chase).
Or, when I really get desperate, I accost a lounge member outside the door, and beg to enter with him/her. Not really.
But I strongly suggest you try it at least once.