While walking through the airport, you pass a nondescript door, either heavy wood or frosted glass. Next to the door is an sign reading “lounge” and displaying airline status symbols. For many travelers, the airport lounge is a place of mystery. But, in fact, it’s a place of peace and tranquility in the madness of airline travel. Here’s what happens inside airport lounges and why you want a membership.
Inside airport lounges, you’ll find:
Large Comfortable Chairs
While the rest of the airport is filled with hard, plastic chairs, lounges are filled with comfortable, oversized chairs. Some lounges have recliners and a few even have day beds in quiet rooms to catch a few hours of sleep in between flights.
All lounges offer some amount of complimentary food and snacks. The quantity and diversity is dependent upon the affiliated airline and the lounge. In some lounges, you’ll find full buffet meals, while others offer snacks and heavy appetizers. Some lounges also offer deluxe meals available for purchase.
There’s a bar where complimentary beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are served. Usually the lounge offers basic complimentary beverages, with premium brands available for purchase.
Lounges have TVs to catch up on news as well as a complimentary selection of daily newspapers and magazines.
Showers and Bathrooms
In hub airports with international flights, you’ll find complimentary showers to freshen up after your long-haul international flight. The restrooms in the airline VIP lounge are also significantly nicer (and cleaner) than what you’ll find in the terminal.
Lounges have business centers where you can make copies, send a fax or book a conference room for a meeting.
The availability and reliability of public Wi-Fi varies from airport to airport. In the lounge, you get great, strong Wi-Fi access that will support a VPN connection or even allow for streaming services.
Customer Service Desk
Lounges have staffed customer service desks. If you have a problem with your flight or a question, these agents are here to help and you won’t have to wait in the long lines at the gate for assistance.
The fees charged for airport lounge access vary by airline. Before buying a membership, check whether you have lounge access via a rewards credit cards (such as the American Express Platinum card or one of the airline-specific branded cards with club access). Also, some airlines will let you buy an annual lounge pass using miles. If you think of the amount of money you spend on meals, drinks and magazines in the airport, you may spend an equivalent amount of money over time without realizing it.
However, you don’t need to lock in for an annual membership to enjoy the perks of lounge access. Most lounges will allow you purchase a day pass. These can be a tremendous value if you have a long layover. From experience, purchasing a day pass is usually best if you plan to have a couple of drinks or eat at least one meal in the lounge or if you need to get some unexpected work done.
Travelers may want to download an app like LoungeBuddy which integrates with your TripIt itineraries and tells you about the lounges an their amenities in the airports you’ll be traveling through. You’ll also be able to book and pay for certain airport lounges directly on your phone.
Airport lounge access can make the difference between traveling pleasantly or being uncomfortable.