How To Get Airport Lounge Access – The Ultimate Guide

airport lounge DFW
AA lounge at DFW - Photo credit: Nelo Hotsuma/flickr

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,
all-inclusive facilities.

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.

swiss airport lounge
SWISS lounge at Zurich – Photo credit: airbus777/flickr

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.

How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight in Economy

survive long-haul flight

Flying on a long-haul flight in economy class is the uncomfortable reality for the majority of passengers. You know the feeling. Can’t sleep. Aching back. Knees tucked into the seat in front. Staring vacantly at the screen map flying over some obscure part of the world. Time to destination 8 hours 49 minutes…

So what can you do to make your flight more comfortable? Here are 28 essential tips on surviving that long-haul flight in economy.

1. Choose an airline with 34″ seat pitch – If you find the standard economy class a bit cramped then consider using an airline with a slightly more generous seat pitch. Some Asian airlines have an economy seat pitch of 33-34″ compared to the 31″ pitch of Western airlines. That extra couple of inches can make a big difference over 10+ hours.

2. Avoid high density configs – Be aware of the economy class seat configuration of your aircraft. A number of airlines (for example Air Asia X, Air France, Air New Zealand and Emirates) are now cramming an extra seat across the cabin of some aircraft. This can mean 11 across an Airbus A380 lower deck (3-5-3 instead of 3-4-3), 10 across in a Boeing 777 or Airbus A350 (3-4-3 instead of 3-3-3) and 9 across an Airbus A340/A330 or Boeing 787 (3-3-3 instead of 2-4-2). This higher density seating can make economy feel more uncomfortable.

3. Fly composite not metal – Try to fly long-haul on one of the new generation of aircraft, namely the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A380 Superjumbo or Airbus A350. Because they use composite materials instead of metal these planes can take higher humidity levels in the cabin and are pressurised to a lower altitude, thus decreasing the effects of flying. They also have quieter engines as well.

4. Go premium economy – Looking for some extra comfort? If you can’t afford a business class ticket but want a little more legroom (typically 38″) then consider a premium economy seat. Airlines include Air Canada, Air France, ANA, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, JAL, Lufthansa, OpenSkies, Qantas, SAS, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Class leading seat pitch for premium economy are OpenSkies (47″), Turkish (46″), Air New Zealand (42″) and JAL (42″).

5. Use your miles – If you have a stash of frequent flyer points or miles then consider using them to either upgrade your economy class ticket to a higher class or to buy a premium ticket outright. Spending miles for premium long-haul is one of the best ways to use them.

Heathrow Airport Lounges: The Complete Guide (41 Lounges)

ba concorde room lounge london heathrow
British Airways Concorde Room LHR T5 - Photo credit: richardmoross/flickr

London Heathrow airport (IATA code: LHR) has 4 terminals and is one of the world’s busiest international airports. In this guide we will review every single airport lounge at London Heathrow. Now there happens to be 41 Heathrow airport lounges which we believe is the highest number of lounges for any single airport in the world!

heathrow airport lounges by numbers

So whether you are looking for a lounge from a major airline or a paid-for-entry VIP lounge at London Heathrow then please read on…

Access rules for each Heathrow lounge is explained and lounges are also marked by alliance and whether entry is possible by payment or via the Priority Pass program. Click here for a special 10% discount on annual Priority Pass membership which provides unlimited access to 8 Heathrow lounges and 950 lounges worldwide.

We will look at each Heathrow airport terminal in reverse order:

  • Terminal 5 – opened in 2008, used by British Airways.
  • Terminal 4 – opened in 1986, used by Skyteam alliance airlines.
  • Terminal 3 – mainly used by Oneworld alliance plus Emirates and Virgin Atlantic.
  • Terminal 2 – known as the Queen’s Terminal, opened in 2014 and housing Star Alliance airlines plus Aer Lingus.
  • Note that Terminal 1 has been closed since 30 June 2015.

See here for detailed official maps of each terminal.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Lounges

Aspire Lounge and Spa T5 [PAID][PRIORITY PASS] – Opened in August 2015, this is the first (and only) independent third party lounge at Terminal 5. Good for those who don’t have BA/Oneworld lounge access. Run as a joint venture between Swissport and Collinson Group (Priority Pass). The compact 370m² lounge features a modern design with bar, comfortable seating, floor-to-ceiling windows with runway views, business zone, quiet area with rest pods and (paid) Bliss spa facilities. Located near Gate A18. Access to Priority Pass holders and paying guests (£40 at the door). Open 0500-2300. You can book the Aspire T5 Lounge here

aspire lounge terminal 5 london heathrow

British Airways Lounges [ONEWORLD] – British Airways operates from Heathrow T5 and has the world’s largest airline lounge complex at the terminal covering an incredible 15,000m² in total and seating up to 2,500 passengers. There are 6 BA lounges at the terminal – 5 departure lounges (open from 0530 until the last BA departure) and a BA arrivals lounge.