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Top international airport lounges for a trip abroad

International travel has only gotten more sophisticated, and the state of airport lounges around the world demonstrate that fact. The size, comfort and popularity of international airport lounges have grown in recent years, as have your options for getting access.

What is international airport lounge access?

To enter an airport lounge in an international airport, you'll need access. That's usually through a membership, loyalty program or day-pass. Fortunately, getting access to international lounges works the same as getting access to lounges within the United States.

There are several ways to get access, including your airline ticket, an airline loyalty program or a lounge membership. A first-class or business-class ticket, for example, may provide you access to your airline's lounges in most airports. By the same token, there are many membership programs that can provide international airport lounge access, sometimes associated with certain credit cards.

Which cards give international lounge access?

You can get airport lounge access as a perk of many different credit cards, including airline credit cards and most general travel cards.

Airline credit cards

These travel cards are co-branded with a specific airline and some provide cardmembers access to any of the airline's airport lounges. If this access doesn't come simply as a perk of being a cardmember, you may need to sign up for the airline's loyalty program. Either way, you can be rewarded beyond lounge access for flying often with a specific airline.

Many of the lounges on the list below are part of specific airlines' networks and may be accessible when you have an airline credit card. They tend to have additional benefits, as well, such as an annual travel credit.

Travel credit cards

Many travel credit cards offer cardmembers benefits and perks that enhance travel experiences or provide rewards for travel expenses. Airport lounge access or membership is one of those perks that many people seek when comparing travel credit cards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual fee but many travel rewards and benefits, including Priority Pass® Select membership. Priority Pass is a network of over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. They're in 148 countries and more than 600 cities, and membership gives you access to all of them.

What is an international airport lounge?

Sometimes very little distinguishes airport lounges around the world. However, the ones within international airports tend to be very spacious and house a variety of benefits, amenities and services.

Generally speaking, the best-in-class airport lounges may make you forget you're in an airport. Some have great window views, though, so you may catch unique glimpses of aircraft arriving and departing.

International lounges might also be accessible at any time of day. That's because international flights often span many time zones, requiring that the airport function around the clock. Some international lounges also have full hotel rooms for members.

Notable international airport lounges in 2023

Although it's often a matter of personal taste, here's a list of notable airport lounges around the world.

American Airlines Flagship® First Dining

Found in several major U.S. cities, American Airlines Flagship lounges emphasize a first-class dining experience for their guests. Hallmarks of your dining experience may include chef-inspired dishes, local ingredients, as well as signature and hand-crafted beverages.

Local chefs and delightful menus may be found at the following locations:

  • New York (JFK)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Orange County (SNA)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Boston (BOS)

The Flagship First Dining program partners with the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit that supports America's food culture.

Delta Sky Club, Atlanta

This airport lounge from Delta Air Lines® offers complimentary cocktails, fresh and healthy food options, free Wi-Fi and more. This is Delta's hometown airport, which touts an extensive collection of art and dining options. If you've visited this lounge before, you might find it newly renovated, offering premium beverage selection and relaxation amenities.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt

Carefully arranged for comfort and wellness, this Lufthansa airport lounge boasts easy chairs, quiet rooms, day beds and spacious shower rooms. Guests can also enjoy fine wine and cuisine, plus a massive whisky selection. The lounge also has five office units with complimentary Wi-Fi, fax machines and lines for local calls.

Guests of the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt can also expect a personal assistant to handle travel formalities, such as security and check-in.

United Polaris® Lounge, Chicago

United Polaris lounges are reserved for travelers of United Polaris business class and long-haul international first class on a Star Alliance member airline. Eligible travelers might start with relaxing amenities, such as spa-like shower or a day bed replete with gentle lighting and white noise. A United Polaris lounge often has both private dining spaces and buffets—you choose how to dine. Guest policies might vary based on class of service and membership.

Virgin Atlantic® Clubhouse, London

This international airport lounge boasts amenities that might make it seem more like a hotel than an airport lounge. A couple hallmarks are a la carte food menus, office facilities and a relaxing atmosphere. If a gourmet meal and an award-winning cocktail aren't what you're looking for, you might enjoy the Clubhouse's new retreat area for meditation, naps, showers, etc. There are also several work spaces and exercise spaces with Peloton bikes.

SWISS® Lounges, Zurich

Any of the 9 lounges in Zurich Airport are worth visiting if you have time and access. You'll find some common amenities like mini-suites, working spaces and conference rooms. However, some SWISS lounges have hotel rooms, wine humidors or champagne bars, and multiple restaurants. The lounges span most of the airport terminals, so you may not have to travel far within the airport.

In conclusion

When traveling internationally, you're likely to benefit greatly from escaping the airport terminal and standard waiting areas. International airports are large, and it's often smart to arrive well in advance of your flight's departure. Delays and cancellations happen, too, so access to a world-class airport lounge might lift your spirits when you need it most.

The lounges above may require different memberships, tickets and fees to access them. If you're interested, confirm eligibility and access options with the lounge ahead of time. If you are looking into other airport lounge programs, remember that Priority Pass Select membership is a benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

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