Airline Lounges are an oasis of luxury and comfort in crowded, noisy airports. While many people may disagree with my claim of ‘luxury’ in an airline lounge, no one can deny that in todays environment of flight delays and the need to be at airports early, lounges are a welcome respite. Most decent sized airports have airline lounges. Here is how they work – airlines make lounges available primarily for their elite customers or for upper calls passengers. US based airlines give this lounge privilege to both its elite and upper class passengers ONLY when they are traveling internationally. They do sell lounge access for anyone else on a per use or an annual basis.
So, if you are an elite passenger on an airline or flying on a Business or First class ticket, you get access to the airline’s lounge or the lounge of any of its alliance partners, when on an international itinerary. Unfortunately for US based airlines, travel to Canada does not qualify as ‘International’ travel for this purpose. <Joke about 51st state deleted :)>. Now, you only get access to the lounge of the airline or alliance you are ticketed on. So, you cannot get access to the Delta lounge even as an Elite if you are flying internationally on Lufthansa. You are allowed access to the lounge for yourself and a guest. When traveling with kids, minor kids are usually allowed, in addition to the adult guest.
Lounge access for pay is on a per use or annual membership basis. A typical ‘Day Pass’ costs around $30 – $50 USD. It is important to note that though it is called a ‘Day Pass’ it is really a one-time use pass. Annual membership costs around $400 to $500 USD. Elite members do get discounts. You can also redeem miles to pay the annual fee. Paid access opens the door to the lounge no matter which airline you are flying.
There are also lounge access programs that are airline independent. The most popular is Priority Pass. Membership in such a program gives either free unlimited lounge access or discounted per use access. As Priority Pass is not affiliated to any airline lounge per se, you only get access to individual lounges on their list. The list includes lounges all over the world.
Some credit cards include lounge access. The new United Mileage Plus Club Card includes lounge membership to United’s lounge – the Red Carpet Club. Some American Express cards includes a membership to Priority Pass. Some cards (such as the Us Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard) give a complementary Day Pass to their airline lounge once a year.
Here is a great site that reviews lounges around the world. Anyone want to share their favorite lounge? Add to comments.
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