Frequent travelers are always looking to escape the hostility of the airport terminal for some rest and relaxation before a flight. Airline lounges are great and I find them valuable when I am traveling. There is often free food and drink, occasionally showers, and usually free Wifi. Lounges also offer specific customer representatives that can provide higher quality assistance in times of unexpected cancelations or delays. Today I will touch on some of the basic ways to gain access to these lounges.
Domestically there are several lounge networks that provide an escape from the airport. Admirals Club, Delta Sky Club, United Club, Alaska Board Room, American Express Centurion Lounge, and Airspace Lounges are located at various airports throughout the United States. Each offer access via an annual membership that generally costs around $400. The price varies by airline and often by your current status with the respective airline. Membership to specific lounges means that no matter what airline you are flying on that day, you will have access to that lounge. Membership is quite expensive and there are several other ways to gain access to the lounges that may be more cost effective.
When you reach the top-tier status of a legacy carrier (United, Delta, American, etc.) you also achieve status with their airline alliance. An American Airlines Executive Platinum member also achieves OneWorld Emerald status. When you achieve OneWorld Emerald you will gain access to various lounges in the OneWorld network when traveling. OneWorld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam all have their own set of rules on gaining access to the various lounges so it is best to check each one individually for their own rules.
There are various credit cards that offer lounge access. The United Club Credit Cards offered by Chase offer United Club membership along with other benefits. The Citi Executive Advantage credit card offers membership to AA’s Admirals Club. Both of these cards offer FULL Membership to the airline’s lounge network. This means you can access the club regardless of what airline you are flying. The cards also carry annual fees equivalent to the price of full membership alone, but you also have the ability to earn extra miles through everyday spending.
Two credit cards that also offer access to airline lounges are the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum cards. The Citi Prestige card offers access to Admirals Club locations when flying on an American Airlines operated flight. Likewise the Platinum card offers access to Delta lounges when flying on a Delta Airlines flight. Both cards also offer Priority Pass membership which can also help gain access to various lounges throughout the US and internationally. I personally find these two credit cards as the most valuable option to gain access to airline lounges. Carrying both ensures you will have access to at least one lounge at nearly every major airport around the country.
Lastly, if you travel infrequently you can gain access to various airport lounges by paying a daily fee which is generally around $50/guest. If there is a major travel interruption paying the $50 fee to get access to the lounge could be the difference between making it home for the night and sleeping in the airport. I could see this becoming extremely valuable when traveling with a large group. As long as all the tickets are on the same record locater, paying just $50 could get you and your group to where they need to be easier than waiting in-line or on the phone for a re-booking agent.
I find airport lounges as a very important aspect of travel, especially when traveling frequently. Many may believe they are out of reach, but you’ll often find getting access is not quite as difficult as you’d imagine.