Airport lounges can be a welcome haven for the airline passenger. These days the VIP flying experience starts very much on the ground. Access to an exclusive lounge can separate you away from the crowds at a busy airport terminal and offer plush,
Now, there are numerous ways for getting airport lounge access. You don’t necessarily have to be travelling first or business class. Nor do you require holding frequent flyer elite status. In this detailed airport lounge guide we’ll show you all the possible lounge access options worldwide at your disposal.
So what exactly can airport lounges offer? You can find comfortable seating, drinks and light snacks, newspapers and magazines, computer terminals and WiFi internet. Perhaps showers to freshen up. Some lounges can have great views of the airport apron and runways.
At the very top-end you can get full service à-la-carte dining, private day rooms, spa facilities and limousine transfers.
A few of the world’s best airport lounges include Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at Frankfurt, Air France’s La Première Lounge in Paris, the Qantas International First Lounges at Sydney and Melbourne, Swiss First Class Lounge in Zurich, Thai Airways Royal First Lounge & Spa in Bangkok and the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai.
First class VIP airline lounges have top-of-the-range facilities, whilst business class lounges from major airlines are usually well-appointed.
At the lower end of the scale, third party contract lounges tend to be more basic and their quality can be variable. However we are seeing a growing trend in the premium independent lounge sector which cater to economy flyers and leisure travellers wanting more comfortable facilities on the ground.
Free Airport Lounge Access for Premium Passengers
Flying premium – by flying first class or business class (internationally) you should get complimentary one-time access to the airline’s lounge or that of an alliance partner. However, premium class passengers on US domestic flights often do not get automatic lounge access – airline club membership is required (see further below).
Elite status – Passengers who have top-tier or mid-tier elite status in a frequent flyer program generally get lounge access even if flying on an economy class ticket.
Alliance Lounge Access
For the main 3 alliances here are the lounge access rules:
Oneworld Alliance Lounge Access – Emerald tier (AA Executive Platinum, BA Gold, Qantas Platinum/Platinum One) flyers can access first class, business class or frequent flyer lounges. Sapphire tier (AA Platinum, BA Silver, Qantas Gold) flyers can use business class or frequent flyer lounges except Qantas domestic business lounges. A single guest can be invited as long as they are also flying a Oneworld carrier.
Oneworld has around 650 lounges worldwide.
Skyteam Alliance Lounge Access – SkyTeam Elite Plus members (Delta Medallion Gold/Platinum/Diamond, Flying Blue Gold/Platinum) flying on a same-day international flight operated by a SkyTeam airline have access to a lounge. One guest is permitted if they are also on a Skyteam flight.
Skyteam has over 600 lounges worldwide.
Star Alliance Lounge Access – Star Alliance Gold Status members (Lufthansa Senator/HON Circle, United Premier Gold/Platinum/1K) have access to any lounge with a Star Alliance Gold sign at the entrance. 1 guest is permitted. Note, to access United Clubs in the US, Gold members must be flying internationally.
Star Alliance has over 1,000 lounges worldwide.
TIP: At some larger airports there may be multiple alliance lounges available to visit – for example London Heathrow Terminal 2 has 4 Star Alliance business class lounges. In that case get to know which lounges suit your needs. For example, one could have better food on offer whilst another could have a nicer ambiance or faster Internet.
TIP: Some airport lounges can have a large floor area with many different sections. On entering a new lounge you should walk around and orientate yourself to the various facilities available.
Free Lounge Access as a Guest – Perhaps you know a friend or colleague who can guest you into an airline lounge for free, as long as they are travelling at the same time. Otherwise check out some of the air travel forums (Flyertalk, Insideflyer) where members can meet up at airports and guest each other. If you are really desperate then stand outside a lounge and ask someone entering whether they can possibly guest you in!
For those who don’t travel at the pointy end of the plane or have a wallet full of shiny gold cards, you may need to buy your way into the lounge…
Paid-for Airport Lounge Access
There are various ways purchasing airport lounge access if you are not flying business or first class. Options includes buying one-time single access, getting annual membership to an independent lounge program (such as Priority Pass) or joining an airline lounge club.