Is the airport lounge worth it?
From flight delays to hours-long layovers, travel can be exhausting. Tack on the harsh lighting and confining chairs of the typical airport concourse, and you’re already rethinking your trip before the plane even leaves the gate.
Enter: The airport lounge.
Airport lounges may seem like an exclusive perk for frequent fliers, but there are a number of ways to enjoy the luxury of the lounge without an elite status. Since airport lounges can be found at almost every large or medium-sized airport, they’re worth considering for your next trip. The benefits range from free food and drinks to Wi-Fi and comfy chairs. But are the perks worth the splurge?
Airport lounge perks
If you’ve ever wondered what lay beyond those lounge entrance doors, take a peek at some of the exclusive perks of an airport lounge pass.
Wi-Fi and workspace
Traveling for work? No need to pay for Wi-Fi or search for a quiet place to take a call. Most airport lounges provide quiet spaces for calls and meetings, plus printers and charging stations for all of your devices.
Eat and drink for free
If you’ve ever been stuck at the airport for hours, you know the funds you dish out for food and cocktails can add up quickly. Therefore, the airport lounge’s free food and drinks can be worth the price of the pass alone. Lounges offer an impressive spread of snacks and noshes available around the clock. Want to enjoy a cocktail while you wait? Wine, beer and liquor are included as well.
Space and comfort
There’s no need to hunt for the perfect spot to post up — or, during busier travel times, simply anywhere to sit — while you wait for your flight. The lounge offers a dedicated spot, comfy chairs and extra elbow room. You’ll also enjoy a calmer atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.
Easy access to airline customer service
Most lounges staff an agent to assist with your flight should you run into any issues or want to make any changes. This perk can be especially helpful if you’re hanging out in the lounge due to a canceled flight. While other customer service desks will be inundated with passengers, you’ll likely enjoy a shorter wait and faster service to get rebooked.
Private restrooms (some with showers!)
You’ll find no lines here. Lounges usually have their own restrooms, which means no lines during peak travel times. Some lounges even offer showers so you can refresh after that red-eye or before heading to a client meeting (but check ahead since these may be closed due to COVID-19 protocols).
How to get lounge access
Want to treat yourself to a cush lounge on your next trip? Here are a few ways to get access to airport lounges during your travels.
Priority Pass grants you access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. The Standard pass has an annual fee of $99, and you’ll pay an additional $32 for each visit and for each guest visit. The Standard Plus pass is $249 per year, with 10 free visits (guests and visits over the 10 free are $32 each). The Prestige pass is $429 per year with free member visits and $32 guest fees. The best plan for you, of course, depends on how frequently you travel.
Lounge Pass was created to offer VIP indulgence at a more affordable price. You’ll have access to more than 600 lounges worldwide (though only 35 are in the United States) for as little as $19 per visit. This option allows you to book by the day with no annual fees. There’s a maximum stay of three hours per day, which might fly by quickly if you’re stuck during a delayed or canceled flight.
LoungeBuddy is an iOS app and website that offers a comprehensive database of airports and lounges around the world. Simply fill in your profile with the travel credit cards, lounge memberships and elite statuses you have, and the app will automatically highlight the lounges you can access for free. It’s also possible to purchase a day pass through the app, but you can only pay with American Express. Passes start at $25.
Credit card perks
Many credit cards provide airport lounge access for a fee or, occasionally, as a perk. American Express Platinum Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, United MileagePlus Club Card and Delta Reserve Credit Card all include access to certain lounges. Check with your credit card company to see if lounge passes are offered.
Many airlines — such as Alaska, United and American — offer lounge access to frequent fliers who have points or status with their airline. If you’re flying with the airline but don’t have frequent flier status, check to see if it offers a day pass (usually $25-$75 per day).
Airport lounges can make travel significantly more enjoyable. If you’re a frequent flier, the cost of a lounge pass may be worth the investment in reducing your stress and improving your comfort while traveling. Meanwhile, a day pass can offer less frequent travelers flexibility and affordability with the ability to enjoy the luxury of the airport lounge. Not sure which is the best option for you? Consider starting with a day pass to see if the experience is worth the money. If it fits your travel style, then upgrade to an annual pass.
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