Your Guide to Accessing the Best Airport Lounges

March 30, 2016 |

Based solely on my ever-growing snow globe collection, you might consider me a seasoned traveler. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, though—I’m not a road warrior. As such, despite the many water-filled glass spheres littering my bookshelves, airlines aren’t inclined to upgrade me to first class or give me the privilege of boarding first so I can watch the economy class passengers shuffle past, overflowing carry-ons in hand, in a bizarre plane parade. Luckily, there’s at least one elite flier privilege accessible to the rest of us—airport lounges.

Airport lounges are sweet oases of quiet, ample outlets, food and drink, Wi-Fi, sometimes showers, experienced desk agents and more. Perfect for the business traveler looking to get a little work done while on the road or for those in the unfortunate situation of a long layover or delayed flight, airport lounges offer a break from the uncomfortable, crowded seating areas and general hectic atmosphere of airports.

businessman at the airportThe easiest way to get access to an airport lounge is to be an elite flier or have an international business- or first-class ticket. If you’re a frequent business traveler, you might also review your company’s travel and expense policy to see if the cost of airline memberships is an approved item that can be expensed. For the rest of us, expect to spend around $50 for a day pass. Yearly passes are also an option, as are elite airline credit cards. Or, if you’re feeling exceptionally bold, you can ask a friendly-looking traveler if they’ll add you as a guest to their entry. Regardless of your chosen route to access an airport lounge, do your research—not all airport lounges are created equal.

There are business class lounges and first class lounges. There are public pay-by-the-hour lounges. There are lounges with hot buffets and lounges with a smattering of crackers, pretzels, peanuts and popcorn to suppress your hunger pains. There are lounges with spa facilities and even lounges with DJ mixing booths. If you’re looking for something specific—say, a lounge where you’ll have access to a shower because you spent the entire day before your evening flight out of Hawaii at the beach, you’ll want to use one of the many lounge rating websites to confirm the amenities available to you before purchasing a pass.

WinterSnowGlobe(Fun fact: It can be fairly difficult to find snow globes in popular, sandy tourist destinations, such as: Hawaii, Jamaica, Jordan and Egypt.)

Lounge Buddy is the iOS and Android app of choice, allowing you to see the lounge locations in your airport of choice, read reviews, view pictures, browse a list of amenities and even purchase an instant access pass from your phone. If you’re preparing in advance, a quick search will reveal plentiful options for researching your lounge options—LoungeGuide.net, SkyTrax, LoungeReview.com and more.

Beyond official airline-sponsored lounges, there are pay-as-you-go options, such as Airspace lounges located in several major U.S. airports. Ideal for the infrequent traveler, an Airspace lounge can cost as low as $20 depending on the time of day. The low cost also means you won’t have the same level of access to certain amenities (primarily unlimited alcoholic beverages) as in most official airline lounges. Another option is Priority Pass, a company that offers membership plans for an annual fee and a smaller per-visit fee. They offer access to over 850 lounges world-wide, having partnered with a variety of airlines.

Travel isn’t always fun, but it can be a whole lot more relaxing in the right environment.

How often do you use airport lounges? Do you have a favorite? Tweet us at @tandtnews and let us know.