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"Are Airport Lounges Worth the Cost?"

Monday, February 13, 2017

Are Airport Lounges Worth the Cost?
Here's what to know before deciding whether to join one
By Aimee Picchi 
Consumer Reports

Airport lounges can provide a haven of quiet amid evermore crowded airports, 
but they don't come cheap.

Lounges are privately operated hospitality clubs that typically cater to 
frequent flyers and passengers with business- or first-class tickets. Most are 
operated by airlines, such as Delta's Sky Club, and are discretely tucked away 
in airport terminals.

Annual passes can set you back about $500 for individuals, but there are 
several less expensive ways to gain access, such as buying day passes or 
through credit card perks.

It might seem as if airport lounges are only for the rich, but they could be 
worth the money even if you fly just a few times per year or if you end up with 
long layovers. Airports are growing more crowded due to lower airfares and the 
stronger U.S. dollar. As a result, more travelers are turning to lounges to get 
away from congested terminals and tap amenities such as secure WiFi and comfier 

"It's about creating a space that allows travelers to break away from the 
chaotic sense of the terminal," says Fern Fernandez, vice president of 
marketing for American Airlines, which saw a 12 percent increase in memberships 
last year. "People are looking for spaces to be productive while on their 

Aside from offering more space and quiet than the terminal, airport lounges 
usually provide services that can make a trip flow more smoothly. Because 
lounges are geared to business travelers, they are often equipped with plenty 
of charging stations for laptops and other devices, as well as secure WiFi 
that's often faster than the terminal's network.

The entry price also includes food and beverages as well as private bathrooms 
and showers. On top of that, airline lounge staff can help with reservations, 
such as rebooking tickets or finding new seats for travelers.

If you're flying economy, the ticket doesn't include access to the airline's 
lounge. Below are several ways to gain access without paying too much.

Join a lounge network. For a more economical option, consider joining a lounge 
network such as Priority Pass or LoungeBuddy. Priority Pass' least expensive 
membership costs $99 per year, and then you pay $27 each time you enter a 
lounge. Its most expensive plan costs $399 per year. With that plan, there are 
no additional charges to enter a lounge.

Priority Pass then offers you access to a network of more than 1,000 lounges 
across the world that include those run by Virgin, Air Canada, and Air France.
LoungeBuddy doesn't require a membership; instead its app allows customers to 
buy lounge passes when they need them. Day passes cost about $50 each.

Another benefit: These networks typically have a much broader geographic reach 
than an individual airline's club. American Airlines has about 90 Admirals 
lounges around the world, but LoungeBuddy can give you access to more than 200 
lounges in places like Brisbane, Australia and Anchorage, Alaska. 

Buy a day pass. If you get hit by a long layover or unexpected delay, go to a 
lounge and ask to buy a day pass. Most lounges sell them for about $50 each. It 
generally doesn't matter if you're not flying on the airline that operates the 

To find out which lounges are available at an airport, check the airport's 
website or do a search on LoungeBuddy, PriorityPass, or The Guide to Sleeping 
in Airports. LoungeBuddy and Sleeping in Airports even let you buy a pass on 
their websites.  

Use credit card perks. Premium credit cards, such as the American Express 
Platinum card, include access to some airport lounges. Because these cards 
usually have a annual membership fee of at least $400, they appeal to consumers 
who want to pay more for such perks. Not all cards provide the same level of 
access, so read the fine print before signing up.

Splurge on a club membership. If you tend to fly on one particular airline, it 
might be worth buying access to its club network. These annual memberships 
usually cost about $500 for an individual and more than $900 for a family.

Do research before buying. Because of the rise in lounge use, there are more 
reports of crowded spaces, with some travelers reporting that it can be 
difficult to find seats. Travel websites such as One Mile at a Time and The 
Points Guy can give you a general idea ahead of time whether a lounge is likely 
to be crowded.
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