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The Ultimate Guide to Airport Lounges

  • By Finnoy Travel
  • Updated: 05/30/20 | May 29, 2018
Plaza Premium Lounge at London Heathrow Airport

Airport lounges can be your temporary home at airports. With a small money, you can enjoy lounges to make your travel experiences much better.

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Table of Contents

  1. Airport Lounge - What Is It?
  2. Getting Access to Airport Lounges
    1. Business and First Class Tickets
    2. Loyalty Status Cards
    3. Paying at the Door
    4. Priority Pass Membership
    5. DragonPass Membership
    6. LoungeKey and Lounge Club
    7. Memberships with Premium Credit Cards
    8. Upgrades and Lounge Vouchers
    9. Airport Lounge Pass for a Single Entry
    10. Lounge Pass or LoungeBuddy?
  3. Travel Lounge Price Comparison
  4. How to Get a Free Access to Lounges?
  5. Are Airport Lounges Worth the Money?
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. The Best Way to Get Access to an Airport Lounge?

Airport Lounge - What Is It?

The term Airport Lounge is usually used to refer to a peaceful and restricted area where people can relax before their flights. Traditionally, airport lounges have been meant for business travellers but this has changed. All respected airlines have their own lounges at their hub airports. While at the other airports, these reputable airlines have normally outsourced lounge services. In this article, we tell you How to Access Airport Lounges. We describe affordable ways to enter lounges.

The quality of airport lounges varies a lot. The simplest ones have only a few chairs and tables and some cold snacks available. Better ones are really stylishly decorated and they offer warm food with huge drink selection. The best lounges may even have a la carte menu, saunas and other similar extra services. In lounges, all services are usually included to the entry price except some special treatments like massage.

We like airport lounges for two simple reasons: There is a relaxing atmosphere to unwind before flights and free reliable WiFi. All other services, like food and drinks, make our air travelling perfect.

Getting Access to Airport Lounges

There are multiple ways to enter airport lounges but naturally almost all of them involve money. Years ago, there was only one way to enter lounges: To have a business or first class ticket. Nowadays, entering lounges can be done in several and often also in inexpensive ways. Having a business class ticket is probably the most expensive method and it can be recommended only for travellers whose tickets are paid by someone else (sponsored tickets).

Airport lounge memberships are the most cost effective way to use lounges frequently. They are sometimes also called as airport lounge cards as they include a physical or a digital membership card. We listed the most common ways how to enter an airport lounge.

Business and First Class Tickets

The doors of the lounges will surely open if you have a valid boarding pass in the business or in the first class category. The airline will invite you to its business lounge and the service will be included to the ticket price. If the airline does not have its own lounge at the airport, you will most likely be invited to the airline's partner lounge. Usually, you can't choose which lounge to access but you are forced to use airline's own or its partner's lounge.

In some big airports, business and first class passengers are separated to different lounges. First class travellers are invited to a lounge where the service level is superior. Business class travellers end up to more basic ones but still high quality lounges.

Loyalty Status Cards

Airlines may invite also their economy class passengers to lounges if the passenger has a status card of airline's loyalty program. Loyalty programs commonly have four different levels. The basic level does not include the lounge benefit but the benefit comes after the silver or the gold level depending on the airline. The exact names of the status levels differ between airlines.

The airline will invite status card holders to their lounges only when you are travelling with their own flight tickets. Sometimes it may be enough that you have a ticket from an airline inside the same alliance. For example, you may be invited to Finnair's lounge at Helsinki Airport if you are a status card holder of British Airways and travelling with Finnair.

The holders of the status cards can usually take one guest with free of charge. To reach high enough level, you must fly a lot with airlines who are members of the same airline alliance.

Paying at the Door

The simplest but also the most expensive way to access airport lounges is to pay at the door. Usually third party lounges accept cash or credit card payments at their receptions. The entrance costs typically from 40 to 50 euros. Airline lounges are more selective about their customers and it may be impossible to get in even though you are ready to pay at the door. Airlines want to keep their lounges exclusive and less crowded.

Paying at the door can only be recommended for rich people and for travellers who do not like making plans in advance.

Priority Pass Membership

For frequent travellers, one of the best lounge option is to buy Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass has different membership levels and the best level includes unlimited lounge access. In big airports, there are usually many lounges that accept Priority Pass membership.

Priority Pass membership is good especially for people who are not holding any airlines' status card. Priority Pass gives you the freedom to choose always the most suitable airline and still enjoy the possibility to visit airport lounges. It suits both to business travellers and to frequent holiday makers. We recommend Priority Pass for all savvy travellers who wish to enjoy airport lounge services while travelling. Read more from our Priority Pass review.

Priority Pass Prestige with unlimited lounge access costs 399 euros / year. The membership can be bought on Priority Pass website and used instantly with a digital membership card. For frequent travellers, it pays itself back quickly.

DragonPass Membership

Like Priority Pass, DragonPass is a good option for frequent travellers. Priority Pass and DragonPass are almost similar but there are some minor differences. Read from our review, why DragonPass can be even better choice than Priority Pass. But to be honest, we have noticed that majority of our readers prefer Priority Pass to DragonPass.

LoungeKey and Lounge Club

LoungeKey and Lounge Club are lounge programs just like Priority Pass. The difference is that you can't buy them with money. They come usually with a credit card.

Memberships with Premium Credit Cards

Some people may have a free access to airport lounges but they are not aware of it. Premium credit cards like American Express come often with the lounge access feature. For example, Amex has its own lounges in many big airports and they are also co-operating with Priority Pass. With a premium credit card, you can get a lounge membership free of extra charge.

Mastercard and Visa are co-operating with Lounge Key. It is just like Priority Pass but this lounge membership can't be bought with the pure money. It always comes with a premium credit card. Its selection contains about 1000 lounges while Priority Pass has 1300 lounges around the world. There is also a similar smaller lounge program called Lounge Club.

Upgrades and Lounge Vouchers

Many holiday makers are members of airlines' loyalty programs but they never reach the better status levels because their total amount of flights is just too low. However, they collect award miles always when flying. Airlines sell upgrades to business class with award miles. A business class ticket includes a free lounge access, so this is a simple way to get access into the lounge. Some airlines are also selling lounge vouchers that can be paid with the award miles.

We have been upgrading ourselves to the business class with Finnair Plus points. We have also been buying Finnair lounge vouchers with Finnair Plus points. Always calculate carefully if it's worth the money to use your award miles to these services. According to our experiences, upgrades are much better way to spend the miles than buying award flights. Awards flights come often with taxes and fuel surcharges so the value of your award points if used to this service is not worth it.

Airport Lounge Pass for a Single Entry

A lounge membership may be pricey for an infrequent holiday maker. If you are still interested in airport lounges but without commitments, there is a solution. You can buy a single entry airport lounge pass to many airport lounges. Lounges have often their own web pages where the vouchers are being sold but looking for those pages is time-consuming. There is a company called Lounge Pass who sells lounge entry passes to lounges all over world. Surprisingly, they are inexpensive and the vouchers can normally be cancelled free of charge if the plans change. Many of our readers have already found Lounge Pass service valuable and that is how they have made their journeys more comfortable.

LoungeBuddy is another website for buying prepaid lounge vouchers. It has a little different lounge selection than Lounge Pass so remember to check their website too when looking for inexpensive lounge vouchers. Unfortunately, they accept now only American Express payment card.

Lounge Pass or LoungeBuddy?

Lounge Pass is our readers' favourite place to buy lounges. Every week many Finnoy Travel readers secure themselves a lounge visit to make their journeys smoother. It is great to see that people have learned to enjoy their first moments of travelling at the airports.

Lounge Pass is a British company but the company sells entries to lounges all over the world. Visits are paid during the purchase progress but they can be cancelled free of charge. So basically the risk is low, if you just remember to cancel the pass on time as your plans change.

It isn't a surprise why people like using Lounge Pass. Its user interface is clear and the booking process is simple. We prefer using Lounge Pass ourselves too. Lounge Pass's vouchers are the best for families heading to a holiday and a good option as well for infrequent travellers.

Our readers also like LoungeBuddy, but it may be a little more expensive. They have a user-friendly website where you can book inexpensive lounge entries. LoungeBuddy is also a great information source about lounges.

LoungeBuddy comes from United States. They sell entries to airports lounges all over the world. The selection is good but currently, they accept only American Express as the payment method. The service used to be better before American Express acquired them.

While we prefer Lounge Pass, we still recommend checking both of these companies for good airport lounge pass offers.

Travel Lounge Price Comparison

We made a brief comparison how much it costs to enter three random lounges in major airports. The prices (*currencies converted) may have changed so please check up-to-date prices yourself before making any booking.

Lounge Name Lounge's Own Price Lounge Pass' Price LoungeBuddy's Price
Plaza Premium Lounge,
Hong Kong
75 Dollars (2 hours) 34 Dollars* (3 hours) 51 Dollars* (3 hours)
ANA Lounge,
Lisbon
39 Dollars* 29 Dollars* ANA not in the selection,
The Blue Lounge 20 Dollars but the lounge is bad.
Plaza Premium Lounge,
London Heathrow
53 Dollars (2 hours) 55 Dollars* (3 hours) 47 Dollars* (3 hours)

As we can see, you may get cheaper prices when booking lounges by using Lounge Pass or LoungeBuddy. In addition, you are able to secure your lounge access in advance. Paying at the counter is often more expensive than booking in advance. The later option has another disadvantage, there is always the risk that the lounge is already fully occupied especially when visiting a lounge in busy major airports.

How to Get a Free Access to Lounges?

Surely, nobody disagrees that free things are nice. Unfortunately, there are no free lunches but with suitable social connections you may be lucky.

For example, if your partner is at high enough level of the airline's loyalty program, he/she may be able to take you to the lounge without an extra charge when you are travelling together. Some Priority Passes that have come with credit cards include also free guest access. Basically, it always comes to the one thing: You must know the right people. Unfortunately, not everyone do have that kind of connections.

Are Airport Lounges Worth the Money?

Your journey will be much nicer when you can start it relaxed. The lounge access costs you about 30 dollars or even less so the price is a good value for your money in exchange for a more peaceful environment in contrast to crowded airport restaurants. Not everyone is aware that the cumulative cost for having snacks, coffee or beer in airport restaurants comes with expensive price and the atmosphere in airport cafeterias is not pleasant with much noise pollution. Lounges pay back with a relaxed mind.

The Best Way to Get Access to an Airport Lounge?

We do not have a solution that fits all, but we have given you a few ideas. Our recommendation is to analyse these alternatives and choose the most suitable for yourself.

Buying business and first class tickets is never an affordable option. However, if someone else pays your ticket or you have no need to calculate every single penny, a business class ticket may be your option. It does not only open the lounge door but keeps the service level high during the whole journey. For the majority of people, flying in the business class is just too expensive especially when travelling frequently.

If you fly in the economy class, money is your key to access airport lounges. But spend your money wisely. Think carefully if you want to buy a lounge membership or just single entries. Before buying any entry voucher, check if your airline's loyalty card gives you a free lounge access. Check also, if you are able to buy a lounge voucher from the airline with your award miles. Often, you may have enough award miles for a few lounge entries but for frequent travelling, we recommend buying a lounge membership from Priority Pass.

For infrequent travellers and for families, we recommend buying single airport lounge vouchers. Visit Lounge Pass to see their selection.

What is your way to access lounges? Please comment below.

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Comments (2)

  1. Jun 02, 2018 at 17:38 EEST Sharon Odegard :

    We have Priority Pass with a Chase credit card. We used it for the first time last summer and loved spending time in the lounges on a trip from the US to Europe and back. The food at LA International and Paris (Charles deGaulle) was delicious and varied. The quiet of the lounge, away from the busy terminal gates, is so relaxing. I'm sold! I don't know that I would pay for the luxury, but it would be worth checking out a credit card that includes it.

    Reply

    1. Jun 02, 2018 at 17:43 EEST Ceasar /finnoytravel.com :

      Thanks for you comment Sharon. Great to hear about your pleasant experience in using airport lounge. Indeed, it is worth the money! Happy travels.

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