Are Airport Lounges Worth the Cost?

Written by Kate Goldstone

We’ve waxed lyrical about airport lounges before, taking a good look at the comfort, peace, quiet and great facilities they offer to the travel-worn, noise-averse and crowd-hating travelling public. But there are rumblings afoot… are priority pass airport lounges still good value for money or has the bubble burst? We thought it’d be interesting to explore some of the grumbles and take a look at their future.

airport lounge luxury

Airport Lounge Luxury

Is the term ‘VIP airport lounge’ an oxymoron these days?

According to Airfare Watchdog:

It’s important to note that airline clubs vary greatly in quality, even within a single airline. One location might be new and spacious, while another might have seen its last refurbishment when the Boeing 707 ruled the skies, with nary a free seat to be found. With your membership you get an open bar (although not top shelf) in some clubs, snacks, free wireless Internet, comfy chairs and two guests. Premium spirits, wines, and beers are available for sale in many clubs with rather extensive menus on offer in the American and United clubs. Delta is the only airline to still offer a variety of premium spirits and beers for free.

But another huge perk reveals itself when you need to be rebooked on an alternate flight because yours was cancelled or delayed. Would you rather stand in line with scores of the dumped and grumped, or go to the club, where the lines will be shorter (club receptionists are also able to rebook flights and assign seats). And for some, just having enough power outlets to charge computers and phones is reason enough to join.

Airport lounge club day pass or annual membership?

Airfare Watchdog also look at the benefits of annual airport lounge membership compared to day passes. They found that day pass lounge access tends to be the best value for infrequent fliers, with annual membership the best value for frequent fliers. No surprises there then… it’s exactly the way things should be.

Bangalore Airport Domestic Plaza Lounge

Bangalore Airport Domestic Plaza Lounge

Huffington Post dives in with airport lounge facilities criticism

According to the Huffington Post:

In reality, not all lounges are created equal and there are some that definitely aren’t worth the hassle. Ultimately, whether lounge access is worth it for you will be determined by your travel patterns and needs.

Handily, the Huffington Post also provides an excellent resource in the shape of a breakdown of the bad and good elements of the best airport lounges, looking at Paid Access and Premium Ticket access, Domestic and International lounges.

Again, importantly, they stress the benefits of lounges if you have a problem with your flight, since it’s sometimes possible to sort things out in the lounge itself without having to join an enormous concourse queue. On the other hand it’s usually the airline-specific lounges that provide this level of service. If your BA flight is delayed and you’re relaxing in a Pan Am lounge, it’s probably tough luck.

Airport lounges and children…

Many airport lounges don’t allow infants and young children in. Which is fair enough, since a lounge full of tots isn’t going to be particularly relaxing place, and it’s one of the things people pay to avoid. If you’re not sure whether the lounge you’d like to book allows children, it’s best to check first.

Madrid Airport Iberia Lounge - TV Viewing Area

Madrid Airport Iberia Lounge – TV Viewing Area

8 ways to make the most of airport lounge access

The Independent Traveller website has come up with some cool tips for making the most of the airport lounge access program opportunity.

  1. Unless you’re a frequent traveller, buy a day pass.
  2. Planning ahead sometimes means you can save £
  3. Most lounges restrict the amount of time you can spend there to three hours – check before you buy
  4. Use a public pay-in lounge instead of an airline-owned lounge. They can deliver excellent value for money
  5. If you qualify as a frequent traveller with a particular airline, it’s well worth applying for lounge perks for elite customers
  6. Some Credit Cards offer airport lounge privileges – does yours?
  7. Airline credit cards can include lounge perks
  8. Be a guest. Some lucky people have found that simply hanging around outside airport lounges looking friendly does the trick. Ask lounge members on their way in if they’ll let you come in as their guest and you never know what might happen!

Fabulous new airport lounge club facilities opening soon

There are some excellent new airport lounges opening and others that have recently opened. Take Lufthansa, who say this about their fabulous new Heathrow airport lounge facilities:

Known as ‘The Queen’s Terminal’, the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport has been open since 4 June 2014 and mainly houses the airlines of the Star Alliance. The new Lufthansa lounge – at more than 1,600 square metres the largest outside Germany – has also been completed. It provides sufficient space for a Senator and Business Lounge area which Frequent Travellers are also now able to use. Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Germanwings share a joint ticket counter in Zone B. Business Class passengers as well as HON Circle Members, Senators, Frequent Travellers and Star Gold card holders have separate ticket and check-in counters.

At the same time, travellers at Minneapolis St Paul International Airport can work on their golf game, enjoying the new golf ‘simulator lounge’. It’s called a golf lifestyle facility and comes complete with refreshments, shopping and an ‘immersive golf experience’.  The golf lounge lets golfers of every level play on high tech simulators and they can even get instruction from PGA professionals or get fitted for new clubs. Crikey! The first of its kind, does it herald a new wave of targeted airport lounge access programs designed to appeal to specific demographics? Only time will tell.

SkyTeam is set to open smart, brand new airport lounges at airports in Dubai, Hong Kong and Beijing in 2015. Cathay Pacific will close the Pier Business Class lounge at Hong Kong Airport in June2015 for a radical refit. SAS will open new mini café lounges near main departure gates at a bunch of airports this year. And SkyTeam’s fab Sydney Airport lounge is now open for travellers on the alliance’s partner airlines and paying guests. You’ll find it at Gate 24.

Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Premium Lounge

Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Premium Lounge

Great advice from the Australian Business Traveller website

The ABT website includes a really good article detailing five paid airport lounge schemes you should know about, equally applicable to British travellers. Here’s a link.

What are the best airport lounges?

It’s a case of horses for courses, but we get some great feedback about the Marhaba Lounge, Dubai, one of the most popular Dubai lounges, and the British Airways lounge Heathrow, one of the public’s best-loved Heathrow lounges.

All in all, it looks as though the airport lounge phenomenon is still breaking into the mainstream. Which means competition is still fierce, which in turn means the standards and quality should still be rising. If you know different or have suffered a nightmare experience of your own, we’d love to hear about it.

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