If you had asked Elena this question before I started using airport lounges, I would say, paying a cash price for an airport lounge is not worth the price. Oh boy, how wrong could I have been?
I mean, don’t get me wrong, not every lounge is of the same standard, but after having tasted some amazing lounges and the easy option provided when travelling with a baby or a toddler, I cannot live without having access to some sort of quiet space in the airport.
Are Airport Lounges Worth It?
I am a big fan of airport lounges; sometimes. See, before I even started the travel hobby in depth, I didn’t even know you can get an airport lounge and chill before your flight.
For those not familiar with airport lounges, like I was a few years ago here, it is. Airport lounges are places within the airport where you can relax and enjoy a quiet space, to work, read or even shower.
All lounges offer ‘free’ food /snacks, drinks and internet and some of the larger flagship airline lounges offer amazing facilities like small hotel rooms, spa massages, showers and a restaurant experience. If I can fly first class on Qatar Airways so I can get access to the Al Safa lounge, I totally would. Because that lounge was pretty amazing and the food definitely left me dreaming of a Pavlova again.
Airport lounges are usually perks for elite frequent flyer status members of airlines, or part of your credit card offer, or some lounges can be bought standalone.
Pros and Cons of airport lounges in general
- Airport lounges offer a comfortable and relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of the airport.
- They often provide complimentary snacks, drinks, and Wi-Fi access.
- Lounges may have private seating areas or even showers for travellers who need to freshen up before their flight.
- Some lounges also offer business services such as printing or faxing documents.
- Great if you are travelling with kids and you want to eat and relax in a quiet space
- Good value if you have a long layover, many lounges have lounge-style chairs where you can relax and sleep.
- Airport lounge access usually requires an annual fee or membership in a loyalty program, which may not be worth it for occasional travellers.
- Many lounges are overcrowded during peak travel times, making it difficult to find a quiet place to relax. Especially the ones where you have to pay for an annual membership or given as a credit card perk.
- Lounges have limited hours, so if your flight is delayed, you may not be able to use the lounge facilities or stay long if you have a very long layover. Some lounges restrict the visit times.
- Not all airports have lounges, so you won’t be able to take advantage of them unless you’re flying out of one that does.
The cost of using an airport lounge varies depending on the type of membership you choose and your airline status (if applicable). For example, some airlines offer discounted rates for their members, while other companies require an annual fee for access to their lounges worldwide. Some third-party companies also offer memberships.
Different types of Airport Lounges
As I mentioned above not every lounge is of the same calibre and some are worth their weight in gold while others not so much. So let’s break down the various ways you can get yourself in an airport lounge.
1. Airline Lounges
All big airlines have a flagship lounge which is only available if you are flying in business / first class with the airline or if you have a frequent flyer status with them. Usually, the airline’s base flagship lounge is impressive like the one in Doha for Qatar Airways, or Virgin Atlantic the Clubhouse in London and many more.
Access to the lounge: You cannot visit these lounges unless you meet the above requirements.
2 Credit Card
Many travel credit cards will offer a perk of airport lounge access through them. Depending on the membership price and the calibre of the card you chose. For example, the American Express Gold, for example, offers 4 free entrances per year, whereas the Amex Platinum offers unlimited visits (of course, there is a price difference in the membership of the card). Many USA cards provide other offers, and other credit cards worldwide have different rules for offers on lounges.
You can read about my credit card travel strategy here, but personally, I have an American Express credit card, and as a perk, I get unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges around the world. This is for myself and one guest.
My husband is a supplementary card holder, and he also has the same perk so for example if we were a family of 4 with two children, we can get access to the lounge together.
If only one of you has a card you can pay extra per guest to visit the lounge and normally you will pay for that through your credit card bill. This also is cheaper than booking directly with the lounge or Priority Pass.
3 Third Party Airport lounge providers
These lounges are usually not as nice as the airline lounges but still are decent and offer basic facilities like food, and drinks; many offer showers and a quiet space to wait for your flight. I love the app LoungeBuddy, which reviews airport lounges and categorises them by the facilities and your status.
The price for paying for these lounges depends on the specific lounge you want to access. Priority Pass which is what I have currently offers various membership levels and access which you can check on their site, but you can buy as little or as much access as you want.
Another option especially in the UK and smaller regional airports is to prebook or buy entrance at the door. Prices for these vary and especially during the summer, my local lounge is super hard to get into. However, it is an option and normally costs around £20-30. This same principle applies to airport lounges abroad as well, so if you don’t have a membership, but you want the ad hok access then checking the airport and the lounges available is a good choice.
How to get into airport lounges for free?
Sadly there is nothing that is free unless you have a friend who can allow you to enter a lounge with them. You can have a “free” option with a travel credit card, but again you are most likely to be paying a monthly or yearly fee for the card.
The only free option you would have if you are new to the American Express gold card because for the first year, you get your membership of £145 waved and you also receive 4 free lounge passes to use. If you don’t cancel after your first free year, however, you do get charged the yearly fee.
Are Airport lounges worth it when travelling with kids?
Yes! I travel a lot solo with my daughter, and I know for a fact I would have lost my sanity if I had to chase her around a terminal. Or when she was a baby, and I had to change her diaper in the public bathroom.
Many lounges in bigger cities, even with the Priority Pass membership, have a small corner with toys for the children, which keeps them occupied. The Athens airport was one of them and really surprised me.
Having free food, drinks and some peace and quiet before I embark on a flight with a child really is worth paying for it. One of the reasons I actually continue paying for my Amex platinum is because I lost my status with BA (so no lounge access) but also because I am less restricted of the airlines I can fly with but still have access to the lounge.
Lounges can make my travel so much better, either solo or with a family.
I am also hoping to check out the Centurion lounges in the US soon insha’Allah, since they are also a perk of my Platinum card.
One thing to keep in mind if you are paying for a lounge with children is the age they have for free access. Some lounges charge for children from 2 years old whereas others from 6 years old. Make sure you check the lounge details before entering. I did have to pay for my daughter once because I didn’t realise kids above 2 yrs old are considered adults.
Airport Lounges for Leisure travellers
If you don’t fly as often but still want the occasional splurge or if you drink alcohol then lounges can offer a decent value when you book them on an ad-hoc basis. It all depends on how often you travel and if it is worth the price of a membership for your family. I like the third-party access I have because I can use the airport lounge even when flying in economy or with low-cost airlines from small regional airports. I just have more flexibility.
In conclusion, whether airport lounges are worth it on not depends on your travel style and what you want out of your experience. For me, the “upgraded” experience is worth it as my perceived value usage of lounges over the yearly credit card fee I pay. I travel several times a year, and for two or three people I would have spent way above the membership I pay for my Amex card.
Also, I value my sanity and comfort more as I get older because travelling is tiring and if I can make the experience less stressful for my child and myself, then I will happily do so. Plus if I was to wander around the airport terminal looking at snacks and shops I would have spent more overall than the cost of the lounge. Yes, I have done that too.
Overall for me, airport lounges are definitely worth the expense because I use them a lot throughout the year.
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