If you're getting ready for a flight, you might be looking forward to an airport lounge experience. With the many amenities and pampering potential available in today's lounges, you might be wondering what role tipping might play.
From refreshments to spa services, much can be complimentary in a lounge, so it's understandable to wonder if you should tip at all. You might find it's appropriate or customary sometimes, but it's a unique situation that calls common etiquette into question.
Tipping is not required in airport lounges
At best, tipping is optional in an airport lounge, but it's usually appreciated nonetheless. In the United States, for example, tipping most members of a wait staff and professionals who provide a service is customary. Despite this convention, tipping in a U.S. airport lounge is not required.
There's also a chance that accepting tips in an airport lounge is against employee guidelines. When this is the case, your effort to tip might be politely declined, and that's probably for a good reason. Don't worry—there are other ways you can show your appreciation that we'll explain later.
When is it customary to tip in airport lounges?
Airport lounges are replete with diverse amenities, and you might feel certain services or experiences warrant a tip. Let's review some common examples.
When served a drink
This is one of the most common situations in which people around the world tend to tip a server. You're likely to find airport lounge guests tipping their bartenders—either up front, or with each drink. If you're satisfied with the service, feel free to tip, but don't feel compelled.
When having a meal
Sit-down meals in an airport lounge may be complimentary and part of your membership access. Many lounges offer full restaurant experiences, and you might feel a tip is expected. You can certainly reward good service with a tip even if the meal didn't cost you.
Although it provides lounge access in airports around the world, Priority Pass™ actually gives members credits that can be used at restaurants in the Priority Pass network. The credit will be applied to your final bill, and you'll have to pay for any remaining balance with another form of payment. In the United States, these are just like regular restaurants, so customary tipping etiquette applies.
After getting a spa treatment or massage
Even some full-service spa treatments that are available in airport lounges can be complimentary. These services can vary, especially in length, and you might feel a tip is deserved sometimes. If you do, then you can consider how much a treatment might cost regularly and calculate the tip accordingly.
If the service was above and beyond
Every so often you could find employees in airport lounges providing truly exceptional service. If you want to show your gratitude for someone who greatly enhanced your airport lounge experience, tipping can be a meaningful gesture.
Although lounge staff is in the hospitality business, and they can enrich your experience a great deal, tips aren't expected. You can also leave lounge reviews on the Priority Pass app or website. That positive feedback can be a great way of appreciation.
When you have leftover foreign currency
Let's say you're visiting an airport lounge as you await your flight home from abroad. Employees in international airports probably live locally and use the national currency. Tipping a staff member with your spare foreign cash may be a welcome gesture and save you a bank trip to exchange money.
Is there an alternative to tipping in an airport lounge?
A valuable alternative to tipping is to complete comment cards, surveys and the like. It might not take you long at all to acknowledge remarkable service and help someone receive well-deserved recognition for your experience with them. Usually it's possible to give specific feedback online and by phone, but you might be able to speak to the airport lounge's management, as well. It won't take long and can elevate your appreciation of a lounge staff member.
Tipping in airport lounges outside of the United States
While it's most common in the United States, tipping is very likely to be appreciated in many places around the world. That said, tipping in an airport lounge is not required. Sometimes, a lounge may have a policy that prohibits staff from accepting tips. In these cases, the country you're in doesn't really matter.
When in doubt, consider asking about the lounge's policy and etiquette on tipping. You may receive advice that helps you choose whether to tip airport lounge staff.
Airport lounges are ultimately a pretty unique service environment, and tipping is not required. If you're comfortable tipping, it's often accepted graciously. Whether it's out of obligation or honest intention, hopefully you have a clearer understanding of how to approach tipping the next time you visit an airport lounge.
Did you know that Chase Sapphire Reserve offers cardholders many travel benefits, including Priority Pass Select membership? This can give you access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide and lounge alternatives at certain airports.