Airport lounges may be comfortable retreats from the chaos and stress of today's busy airport terminals. Even the simplest amenities could create mass appeal: from food and refreshments to ample private seating. Membership provides access to an airport lounge, and getting one can be quite simple, no matter how often you travel.
In this article, we'll cover what airport lounge membership entails, the different types and ways you can get one, as well as popular options available today. This way, you can decide which type of membership is most worth your while.
How do you become a member of an airport lounge?
There are several membership options that offer you access to an airport lounge, and they can all be valuable regardless of where and how often you travel.
Buying your own airport lounge membership is the plain and simple option. You can do this with an airline or a third party, which is usually a network of lounges.
If you're interested in signing up for an airport lounge membership, consider two ways to go about it:
- An airline club membership: If you plan to fly with one airline exclusively, a membership with their club should suit you. You can get access to any of that airline's lounges for straightforward fees.
- A third-party lounge network: Third-party lounge networks like Priority Pass™ offer memberships that provide access to airport lounges located in airports all over the world. With different membership plans, you can find one to suit your specific travel needs.
In either case, up-front requirements are usually straightforward. You might pay a membership fee and an activation fee, then you get access to the brand's lounges for a period of time. Access may be unlimited or for a set number of visits.
Other ways to get airport lounge access
Besides buying your own membership, there are a few other ways you can access airport lounges.
Buy a one-day pass
Many lounges run by airlines and third parties may offer single access or membership. Whether it's a day pass or pay-per-hour situation, it may be just the type of membership you want. Day passes, for example, may be anywhere from $50 to $100 or more. Although it doesn't provide access beyond one visit, this type of lounge membership shouldn't restrict your access to a lounge's amenities.
One-day passes are common at many lounge brands, whether they're run by the airport, an airline or a third-party network. Given the cost and the amount you travel, a day pass might be a sound choice when compared with an annual lounge membership.
Get lounge access with a credit card
A common and convenient way to get airport lounge access is through a credit card. Many cards offer airport lounge memberships to cardmembers, sometimes for no additional fee.
Certain credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve®, offer Priority Pass Select membership as a complimentary benefit to cardmembers. Priority Pass provides access to lounges located in cities around the globe.
Cards that offer airport lounge membership as a perk also tend to provide other travel benefits and rewards. You may earn points or airline miles at an accelerated rate, for example, just for booking travel through the credit card's rewards program.
Upgrade your flight or passenger status with the airline
When you pay to fly business or first class, access to the airline's airport lounges may be included in your airfare. An airline might extend this benefit to passengers on international flights or passengers who reach an elite status with an airline (frequent flyers). Sometimes, first-class lounges have exclusive restaurants and amenities.
With membership through an airline, you'll likely be able to enjoy lounge access every time you fly with that company, plus additional perks based on the status you achieve. Airline loyalty programs are widely available and tend to offer perks as your loyalty status increases with each flight you take.
Popular airport lounge memberships
Most major airlines in the U.S. have their own airport lounges replete with amenities. Large networks of lounges that span the globe have their own membership programs.
Priority Pass is one of the most popular global networks of airport lounges with over 350 in the Americas and over 370 in Europe, among over 1,300 worldwide. Membership is complimentary for Sapphire Reserve cardmembers, among the card's many benefits.
Another global network of airport lounges, The Club welcomes people flying on any airline, as well as Priority Pass members. Single-use Club Passes are also available and typically cost about $50. To learn more, visit TheClubAirportLounges.com.
Is it worth paying for airport lounge?
We've explained a range of membership options, but there are several main features that can help you decide if an airport lounge is worth your money. When evaluating the cost of airport lounge access, here's what to consider.
How often will you use it?
A one-day pass will have a clear fee and level of access to an airport lounge. The cost can vary depending on the lounge, but if you're considering this option, you'll also know which amenities you can enjoy.
Annual memberships are also common and most worthwhile when you fly often. They're probably not ideal if you only have one upcoming flight this year because the membership has a more premium price than that of a single-use pass.
Consider how often you'll use your lounge access in a certain period, and calculate what you're willing to pay for each visit. That can help decide which membership is most worth your money.
Will you fly alone?
Review program policies on guests, as well as lounge amenities, so you know what to expect at the lounges you can access. If you seldom fly alone, you may want to enjoy your airport lounge membership with your companions. Certain lounge memberships might include access for you and accompanying guests or require a fee per guest, per visit.
Guest fees might seem nominal to you, or they might make the entire membership cost less valuable. The same is true for lounge amenities: If they're not family-friendly, your membership might not make financial sense. Some lounges may boast very family-oriented areas, plus quiet areas where kids can nap while you enjoy some luxury dining.
Which amenities do you want most?
By now, you know that airport lounge membership options vary. The lounges you'll have access to will, as well. Consider specific desires for your airport lounge access, and you can filter your search of membership options. On the one hand, an airline's lounges could have what you need: work spaces, complimentary food and drink, TV, etc. On the other hand, you might want a wider network of lounges to choose from—some of which have pools, five-star restaurants and more.
An airport lounge membership will provide access to one or more airport lounges, depending on the program. There are different ways to get a membership, from a day-pass to an option like Priority Pass, a vast network that gives you access to lounges in hundreds of cities.
You might find that travel credit cards are the most valuable way to get airport lounge membership given their additional travel benefits. Despite all the options, you're sure to find a lounge can be an oasis compared with many common airport waiting areas.