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Plaza Premium Lounge at London Heathrow Airport
Airport lounges can be your temporary home. With small money, you can relax in lounges to make your travel experiences much better.

Airport Lounge Guide for Smooth Travelling

  • By Finnoy Travel
  • January 10, 2022

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What Is a Lounge?

Airport lounge is a peaceful and restricted area where people can relax before flying. Traditionally, airport lounges have been meant for business travellers but this has changed. All respected airlines have lounges at their home bases. At the other airports, these reputable airlines have outsourced lounge services. In this article, we introduce how to access airport lounges in affordable ways.

The quality of airport lounges varies a lot. The simplest lounges have only a few chairs and cold snacks. Better ones are stylishly decorated and they offer warm food with a huge drink selection. The best lounges may even have à la carte menu, saunas and similar well-being services. In lounges, all services are usually included in the entry price except 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 air travelling perfect.

How to Access Airport Lounges

There are multiple ways to enter airport lounges but naturally almost all of them involve money. Years ago, a passenger had 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 for by someone else.

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

Paying at the Counter

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

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

Business or First Class Ticket

The doors of the lounges will surely open if you have a valid business or first-class boarding pass. The airline will invite you to its business lounge and the service will be included in the ticket price. If the airline does not have its 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 directed to the airline's own or its partner's lounge.

In some big airports, business and first-class passengers are separated into 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.

Status Card

Airlines will 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 cardholders to their lounges only when they are travelling with their 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 cardholder of British Airways and travelling with Finnair.

The status cardholders are usually allowed to take one guest free of charge. To reach a high enough level, you must fly a lot with the airline in the same airline alliance.

Priority Pass Membership

For frequent travellers, one of the best lounge options is to purchase 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 but still travel often. Priority Pass gives the freedom to choose the most suitable airline and still enjoy the services of airport lounges. It suits both business travellers and frequent holidaymakers. We recommend Priority Pass for all active and 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 the majority of our European readers prefer Priority Pass to DragonPass.

LoungeKey Membership

LoungeKey is a lounge program just like Priority Pass or DragonPass. The difference is that you can't buy it with money. It comes usually with a credit card like Visa or Mastercard.

Lounge Voucher and Upgrade

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

We have upgraded ourselves a few times to the business class with Finnair Plus points. We have also bought Finnair lounge vouchers with Finnair Plus points. It is recommended always to carefully calculate if it's worth the money to redeem award miles for these services. According to our experiences, upgrades are a much better way to spend the miles than buying award flights. Awards flights come often with taxes and fuel surcharges which lowers the point value.

Lounge Pass

A lounge membership may be too pricey for an infrequent holidaymaker. If you are still interested in airport lounges but without commitments, there is a perfect solution. You can buy single entry airport lounge passes to many airport lounges. There is a British company called Lounge Pass that sells lounge entry passes to lounges all over the world. Surprisingly, vouchers are inexpensive and they can normally be cancelled free of charge. Many of our readers have already found the Lounge Pass service valuable and made journeys more comfortable.

LoungeBuddy is another website for buying prepaid lounge vouchers. It has a little different lounge selection than Lounge Pass. Unfortunately, LoungeBuddy accepts only American Express payments.

LoungePair is one of the newest player in the lounge business. On this service, you bid for access to lounges. Outside the lounges' busy hours, even a low bid can be accepted and you will get into a lounge affordably.

Free Access

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 a 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 free guest access. Free lounge access always comes to the one thing: You must know the right people. Unfortunately, not everyone does have that kind of connection.

Lounge Perk of a Credit Card

Some people are not aware of lounge memberships that they can get without extra charges. Premium credit cards like American Express come often with an excellent lounge access feature. For example, Amex has its own American Express lounges in big airports but Amex is also cooperating with Priority Pass. With an American Express, you can get a lounge membership, like Priority Pass, free of extra charge.

Mastercard and Visa are cooperating with LoungeKey. It is just like Priority Pass but it can't be bought with pure money. It always with a payment card like Curve Metal. LoungeKey's selection contains about 1000 lounges while Priority Pass has 1300 lounges around the world.

Best Sites to Buy Lounge Vouchers

Lounge Pass is our readers' favourite place to buy lounge couhvers. Every week many Finnoy Travel readers secure themselves a lounge visit to make the journey smoother. The benefit of Lounge Pass is that the vouchers are inexpensive and the access to a lounge is still secured. As the voucher grants only a single-time visit, there is no commitments or recurring payments.

Lounge Pass is a British company but the company sells passes to lounges all over the world. Visits are paid during the purchase but they can be cancelled free of charge. The risk of an advance purchase is low if you just remember to cancel the pass if plans change. It isn't a surprise why people like using Lounge Pass. Its interface is clear and the booking process is fast and simple. Also, we prefer using Lounge Pass if our lounge membership is not valid.

People who travel in the budget may wish to save from unnecessary expenses. For these people, LoungePair is the best alternative for Lounge Pass. You can bid for a lounge with a low price outside the busy hours. If you are lucky enough, you will get a cheap lounge visit.

While we prefer Lounge Pass, we still sometimes try our luck with LoungePair to reduce lounge costs.

Are Airport Lounges Worth the Money?

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

Price Comparison

We made a brief comparison of how much it costs to enter three random lounges in major airports. As the prices vary, the costs are only estimates.

Lounge Name Lounge's Walk-in Price Lounge Pass' Price LoungePair Price
Plaza Premium Lounge,
Hong Kong
75 Dollars (2 hours) 34 Dollars* (3 hours) You bid (x hours)
ANA Lounge,
39 Dollars* 29 Dollars* ANA not in the selection,
Blue Lounge will be available soon.
Plaza Premium Lounge,
London Heathrow
53 Dollars (2 hours) 55 Dollars* (3 hours) You bid (x hours)

Often, you get a cheaper price when booking a lounge by using Lounge Pass. In addition, you can secure your lounge access in advance. Paying at the counter is often the most expensive way. The latter option has also another disadvantage, there is always a risk that the lounge is all fully occupied especially when visiting a lounge in busy major airports.

Bottom Line

Not a single lounge solution fits all. Our recommendation is to analyse different options and choose the most suitable for yourself.

Buying a 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.

For people flying in the economy class, money is the key to accessing airport lounges. Spend money wisely! Think carefully if you want to buy a lounge membership or just a single lounge pass. Before buying a voucher, check if your airline's loyalty card gives free lounge access. Check also, if you can 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 families, we recommend buying single airport lounge vouchers. Visit Lounge Pass to see their selection or try your luck by bidding for an access on LoungePair.

What is your way to access lounges? Comment below.

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Relax at Airports

Make your journey a more pleasant experience. Head to an airport lounge and unwind before flying. Purchase single access from Lounge Pass or read our article about Priority Pass.

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Readers' Comments (3)

  1. 03-17-2022 at 12:46pm UTC by Kostis :

    Priority Pass as Amex Platinum holder + 2 X gold FFP of Star Alliance

  2. 06-02-2018 at 5:38pm UTC by 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.

    1. 06-02-2018 at 5:43pm UTC by Ceasar / :

      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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