Airport Lounge – What’s That All About ?

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If Carlsberg Did Airport Terminals……

Been to an airport recently ? Most of them are crazy places, with folks rushing to get checked in, drop their bags off, and get through airport security and onto their gate. If you’re flying international, you’ll generally be advised to arrive several hours before your departure time.

Often you will find yourself all done and dusted with loads of times before your flight. So the decision is, do you queue for some of the dubious fast-food outlets, go to one of the bars and pay airport prices for a drink or two, or make your way to the gate, and if your lucky find an uncomfortable seat in which to watch herds of people trampling past whilst listening to the constant departure announcements and general airport “drone”.  If like me, none of those choices seem particularly appealing to you, you need to learn about airport lounges, and how to access them.

Two pictures are worth a thousand words:-

heathrow terminal 5
would you rather be here…. (Heathrow T5)
Aspire airport lounge
…..or here ? (The recently opened Aspire lounge in T5)

Tell Me More

An airport lounge is basically a separate hospitality area, operated either by an airline or by an Independent third-party. The level of comfort and the amenities varies enormously, but without fail, they offer a far better environment in which to pass time while you wait for your flight to be called.  Generally you’ll find a range of quality seating and a much more relaxed and quiet atmosphere. Beyond that, most will offer at least non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, with many offering beer and spirits, and a selection of hot food. Some plusher ones will even have formal dining areas, and showering and spa facilities.

Etihad airport lounge
On-site Barber in an Etihad lounge

OK I’m Sold, How Do I Get Access ?

As mentioned previously, lounges are either operated by an airline or by a third-party. Airline lounge access is restricted to those who are flying in business or first class with that airline or its partners, or those that have status with that airline or its partners. It’s worth remembering that if you have booked your biz/first flight using airmiles, you are still entitled to use the airline’s lounge.

If you are flying economy, and have no status with the airline, or your airline doesn’t have a lounge at your departure airport, then your only option is to use a third-party lounge. For some of these, you just walk up and pay at the door – typically £20-£30 per person. But most of them require membership of their programme, with a per-visit fee that is based on the membership level.

The most common third-party lounge programme is Priority Pass.  A £62 annual membership fee gets you into their 900 worldwide lounges at a cost of £15 per visit.  Alternatively, you can pay £143 annual membership, which includes your first 10 visits, and thereafter pay £15 per visit.

Any Cheaper Options ?

Anyone that has the American Express platinum card, gets free membership to Priority Pass, with unlimited use of lounges and you can bring in a guest for free.  If you travel a lot, then it’s definitely a very valuable benefit.  The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card, which is free for the first year, comes with free membership of Lounge Pass (which is effectively a subset of Priority Pass) including 2 complimentary lounge visits.

Finally don’t forget the article we ran recently, that gets you up to 50% discount on visits to lounges that are members of the Dragon Pass programme!

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