For travelers, airport lounges may offer an escape from the chaos of busy terminals. Having access to a lounge means that your long layovers may be spent enjoying exclusive perks, or, if you arrive early for a flight, it means enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee. Whether you're a frequent traveler or a savvy deal-seeker, learn different ways to access these airport lounges, including how the right credit card can help get you in the door.
In this article, you'll learn:
- The benefits of airport lounges.
- 4 ways to get airport lounge access.
- Choosing a credit card with airport lounge access.
The benefits of airport lounges
Most major airlines offer lounges in large cities and their hub airports. Smaller airlines may have lounges in their main destinations. Even the smallest lounges are comfortable compared to crowded, noisy airport terminals — and amenities may range from simple to extravagant. Depending on the location, you may find the following benefits:
- Complimentary or low-cost refreshments: Alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages may be offered, and some higher-end lounges may have signature cocktails or wine and beer sourced from local vineyards and breweries. Not only might you find light snacks and buffet meals, some higher-end lounges may collaborate with local chefs to offer seasonal options.
- Work-friendly conveniences: Enjoy complimentary high-speed internet, charging stations, workspaces, private conference rooms and copy machines.
- Luxurious ways to unwind: Find showers, massages, relaxation suites, cigar rooms, pool tables, fitness and wellness centers and private cabanas.
4 ways to get airport lounge access
Airlines originally designed lounges to woo VIPs and frequent fliers — and they were invitation-only. In those days, the best airport lounge was the one you had access to. Today, airlines, airports and private companies host thousands of lounges around the world and discerning travelers can take their pick.
These spaces are still designed to service premium passengers, but there are many ways you can get in.
Use your credit card
One of the easiest way to get into a variety of airport lounges is by using a credit card that grants lounge access. The level of luxury will vary from card to card, as will the associated rewards, bonuses and annual fees. With the right card, you and those traveling with you, may have access to elite lounges for free or for a small fee.
Buy an airport lounge membership
- If you tend to stick to one airline: Consider buying an airline club membership. These give you access to that airline's lounge. Memberships can cost between $350 to $650 a year and may include an initiation fee.
- If you fly different airlines: Consider buying an airport lounge membership. Some third-party vendors, like Priority Pass™, offer access to over a thousand lounges worldwide. There may be membership levels for different travel needs — like unlimited access, a set number of visits and more. Select credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, offer complimentary Priority Pass™ Select Membership lounge access to 1,300+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide.
Fly business, first-class or get elite status
Airlines may offer exclusive airport lounges for international and top-tier passengers. First-class lounges typically offer better amenities and access. Travelers with elite status (an airline's most loyal flyers who earn frequent flier miles), can also access lounges that fit their membership levels.
Buy a day pass
There are many pay-per-use lounges run by airports or private, unaffiliated airline companies. Some select airlines also offer day passes to their lounges. Access is open to any passenger, regardless of the airline or class they're flying. The cost can range between $20 to $60 for a day pass, though some lounges offer hourly rates.
Choosing the right credit card with airport lounge access
Before applying for a credit card with airport lounge access, consider where you travel, how often you travel and who travels with you.
When comparing cards, look for the following:
- Annual fees: Credit cards offering free or discounted lounge access may have higher annual fees or membership costs, but offer many benefits. In addition to Sapphire Lounge access, the Sapphire Reserve card has other benefits like travel and purchase coverage, partner benefits and more. If you fly regularly, the benefits may pay for themselves.
- Lounge networks: Be sure the card offers access to lounge networks that match your travel patterns.
- Branded lounges: Cards giving access to your credit card's branded lounge can be helpful when handling flight changes or delays.
- Lounge access for companions: Some cards offer lounge access to travel companions for free or for an added fee. Others grant lounge access to authorized users when they are traveling without you.
- Discounted lounge access: Instead of complimentary lounge access, some cards offer discounted access. You could get a onetime pass to a top luxury lounge.
- Rewards: As with any credit card, you should compare welcome bonuses and benefits in addition to lounge access.
Even if you are not an elite status traveler, you may still be able to get access to airport lounges. Spending time in a lounge could be the break you need to get through a long travel day. Make your credit card work for you by choosing one with benefits that suit your travel needs.