What used to be exclusive spaces open only to “VIPs", airport lounges can now be more accessible than you might imagine. These sanctuaries are full of amenities that can make traveling more enjoyable. And they're no longer reserved for those with a first-class ticket.
While you may feel like a VIP when you walk through the doors of a lounge, it's not required to actually be one. Casual travelers can enjoy these spaces too.
In this article, we'll share some ways you can access these lounges regardless of the kind of ticket you have.
Are airport lounges only for VIP members?
Anyone can access airport lounges if you have a membership that allows access, a certain level of airline loyalty status or day pass. This means you can access thousands of lounges throughout the world, without necessarily having a first-class ticket. Today, anyone with lounge access can consider themselves a VIP.
Can I get VIP access at airports?
There is no such thing as "VIP" access for lounges anymore. Now, there are multiple ways to gain access — it's no longer reserved for a select few. Depending on your traveling preferences and how often you will actually use a membership, you may want to consider the following options:
Purchase a Priority Pass™ membership
Priority Pass™ is a global network of independently owned airport lounges. These lounges are available in approximately 1,300 locations in more than 600 airports in 148 countries. With that kind of footprint, you may find yourself flying through an airport with lounges that provide access to Priority Pass members. Each lounge is slightly different in layout and features, but generally includes the most important amenities such as free food, Wi-Fi and comfortable places to relax.
If you have a Priority Pass membership, you're able to utilize these lounges regardless of the airline you're flying or the class of your ticket.
There are three membership levels to choose from, that vary in cost, and the one that's best for you depends on your travel preferences and frequency:
Standard - For occasional travelers
- Flat fee per member visit
- Flat fee per guest, per visit
Standard Plus - For regular travelers
- 10 free member visits, then a flat fee per member visit
- Flat fee per guest, per visit
Prestige - For frequent travelers
- All member visits are free
- Flat fee per guest, per visit
Purchase an airline-specific access membership
Some airlines have their own branded airport lounges — such as Delta and American. If you live near an airline's hub city and fly that airline frequently, buying an airline-specific membership may make sense.
Some airlines also offer reciprocal access to their alliance or partner clubs, such as Star Alliance, which has 26 member airlines in its international network.
Airline specific lounge memberships can range in cost and include an annual fee.
Get a day pass
If you're an infrequent traveler but still love the idea of chilling out in a lounge whenever you're at an airport, you can buy a one-time day pass to your airline's lounge. Day passes typically range between $29 and $75. You can book a pass in advance on the lounge's website or purchase one at the door, though you may be denied entry if they're at capacity.
This is a great way to indulge in the benefits of a lounge without paying for the full membership or maybe a first-class ticket. Not being tied down to one type of lounge could also keep things flexible. Plus, a few hours of comfort and complimentary snacks and beverages may be worth every penny.
Can I get free VIP access at airport lounges?
There is no longer a "VIP" type of access at airport lounges. Anyone who purchases a membership or receives a complimentary membership through their credit card is eligible to enter a lounge.
Here are some additional ways to get airport lounge access:
1. Get a credit card with complimentary Priority Pass membership
Did you know that certain credit cards offer their cardmembers complimentary access to the Priority Pass network of lounges? Here's how it works. Some travel rewards credit cards come with Priority Pass membership as one of the benefits. So once you get approved for the credit card, you can register for your Priority Pass membership and start taking advantage of it right away.
The associated rewards, discounts and annual fees will vary from card to card. But many cardmembers find that the welcome bonus (which is often tens of thousands of points) and the list of travel benefits are worth the annual fee. For example, with most travel credit cards, you may be able to earn points for every purchase you make, even on everyday staples like gas and groceries. If you use the card to pay for your travel-related expenses, you earn even more points.
2. Earn elite or loyalty status with an airline
If you have a preferred airline that you travel with often, you could sign up for their loyalty program. This allows you to earn points every time you fly. Over time, those points may be redeemed for discounted flights and they may also give you a certain status level with that airline.
3. Be a guest of someone with lounge access
If you're traveling with someone who has a lounge membership, you could be in luck. Most lounges allow guests, which means you can enjoy all the amenities. Though the member will need to pay a guest fee on your behalf to allow you to enter, when applicable.
Benefits of an airport lounge
Each lounge is different, offering unique features depending on the city and the lounge itself. However, many airport lounges include the follow amenities:
- Peaceful, quiet spaces to spread out
- Large, comfortable seating
- Free food
- Beer, wine and cocktails (where allowed)
- Workstations and conference rooms
- Family rooms
- Spa services, at some locations
- Showers, at some locations
It's no longer necessary to be a VIP to get into an airport lounge. However, that doesn't mean standards or amenities have been reduced. Most airport lounges are still quiet oases of relaxation and modest luxury, graciously removed from the clutter and chaos of the typical airport terminal.
For the casual traveler, there are many ways to get access to these lounges. Before you commit to a membership, you may want to buy a day pass and try one of its lounges out. You could also consider applying for a travel credit card that offers complimentary membership to a network of lounges. And it never hurts to sign up for free airline loyalty programs where you can earn travel perks and a higher status the more you fly.
This research may pay off and you'll find that you're a VIP after all—a Very Informed Passenger.