TPG’s Guide to Airport Lounge Etiquette

by on September 1, 2011 · 47 comments

in Lounges, Points Guy Pointers

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Airport lounges can be a jungle. You’ve got an interesting cross section of people, whether it’s business travelers closing deals or fanny-pack toting leisure travelers calling every single person in their cell phones before their big voyage.

In my travels, I’ve seen a lot. In fact, I’m writing this post from the Miami SkyClub (which is one of the nicest in the system). At present there are so many irritating people that I thought I’d write a quick manifesto to help guide anyone who may not be aware of appropriate lounge etiquette. Feel free to add your suggestions or disagree with any of my proclamations.

1) Use a lounge voice. A lounge voice is in between the “6 inch voices” my elementary school teachers used to encourage us to use and a normal speaking voice. I know many people are skeptical that modern day cell phones will fully pick up on your voice, but trust me – they will!

There’s no need to whisper, but a lowered tone when talking on the phone is much appreciated. I don’t need to hear the dirty details of your Vegas weekend or how awesome you are at closing deals. Frankly, everything you say makes me dislike you more and more.

When speaking with others in the lounge, remember that this isn’t your local pub. While the beer may flow like it is, try to keep your voice in check.

2) Coffee tables are not ottomans. Trust me – I want to kick my feet up after a long day on the road just as much as the next weary traveler, but I restrain myself because I wasn’t raised in a barn. While lounge furniture can be dingy at best, it still doesn’t make it okay to put your nasty shoes on it. If you really feel the need to prop your feet up, use your own luggage and try to be a little discreet about it.

3) The bar isn’t going anywhere. I often see people double-fisting drinks as if it was last call at a dive bar. I may or may not have done this once or twice in my life, however, drinking yourself into oblivion generally doesn’t work out for anyone. Lounges these days are really crowded and I’ve been knocked into more than once by an intoxicated passenger who is unaware of their surroundings. I’m a bit of an advocate of loosening up with a couple drinks while flying (just remember to hydrate as well), but don’t go overboard.

4) Don’t hog the power outlets. One of my biggest pet peeves is the lack of outlets in lounges. If you are sitting near a coveted power outlet, share it with others who will inevitably need it. I’ve been in desperate need of juice and recently sat next to someone with their phone, laptop and camera charging. I asked nicely and they gave up a precious outlet after a little huffing and puffing, but try to be a little courteous. Karma is a good thing to build up while traveling!

5) Clean up after yourself. Most lounges are scarcely staffed, so try not to make your area look like an atomic bomb exploded. I know it’s annoying that there aren’t even trash cans in many lounges, but simply keeping your area remotely clean will go a long way. No one wants to watch your banana peel slowly decompose – wrapping it up in a bar napkin is much nicer than leaving it strewn about.

6) Park your luggage appropriately. Lounges are generally jam-packed, so make sure your rollerboard and carry-on are parked conveniently. Don’t put them in front of an empty chair or in the main thoroughfare. Try to prop them up against a wall or flush against your chair.

7) Shut your computer up. It amazes me, but I’ve been next to many people who Skype or play movies loudly. For everyone’s sanity, use headphones.

TPG reader additions:
8 ) “Don’t touch any food that is out on the buffet with your fingers unless you take it. And because people carry so many germs on airplanes, use hand sanitizer before going through the buffet. You still may be touching utensils and leaving germs for the next person through the line. “- Hat tip Cornroaster

9) Don’t hoard the snacks. Taking a couple for the road is okay, but emptying a jar of Nutella packets into your purse is just tacky. Hat tip Billy

What tips do you have for proper lounge behavior?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Charles Clarke

    Other than #2 and #3, these are also good anywhere in the airport (or anywhere?).

    My solution for #4 is an AOL travel surge suppressor. It easily converts 1 outlet into 2. I acquired a couple of them years ago and I’d expect you could get something smaller now, but it is quite handy. I’ve even used it in restaurants, “sharing” an outlet with one of their neon signs. This one even has a phone cable wrapped in for those times when you are *gasp* away from broadband. NetZero works nicely then.

  • Anonymous

    As to the point about power outlets, do yourself and others a favor and carry a travel power strip like one of these: I’ve carried one for a while now and it makes working in shared spaces much easier.

    You make really good points but I fear you may be preaching to the choir.

  • scott s

    Wow, what crawled up your ass this morning? :)

    Seriously though, I don’t have a problem with most of what you wrote, but as far as quickly slamming some drinks in the lounge, I don’t see a problem with that at all. Say that I stopped in the Sky Club 60 minutes before my flight is set to depart; that means that boarding will start in about 30 minutes. Well unfortunately my upgrade didn’t clear on the 5hr flight JFK-LAX, so yes, I will slamming a bunch of drinks prior to having to depart the lounge. Of course, I won’t get to the point of bumping/running into anyone during this process, but just sayin’…this is what I paid my lounge dues to be able to do.

  • Anonymous

    Nice tip- I actually need a travel power outlet.

    As far as preaching to the choir, my hope is that this post will get Googled by lounge newbies for years to come and if it makes the lounge a better place for at least one disgruntled traveler, then my job is done! :-)

  • Anonymous

    Haha I was in the lounge yesterday and surrounded by some annoying people, so I felt like writing this post. I fully expect people to disagree with me.

    As far as slamming drinks, I really don’t want to pretend like I’m innocent on this one. My advice was just to have a little bit of self control with it.

  • Cornroaster

    Don’t touch any food that is out on the buffet with your fingers unless you take it. And because people carry so many germs on airplanes, use hand sanitizer before going through the buffet. You still may be touching utensils and leaving germs for the next person through the line.

  • Billy Mumphrey

    Hoarding the snacks is a big faux pas that I’ve seen more than once.

    Tuesday in the T2 SkyClub at JFK an older woman was transferring what seemed like the entire contents of a glass jar holding Nutella packets into her purse. I hoped all those things exploded simultaneously from the cabin pressure once she got up in the air.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Thats a good one! I’m going to add it to the list

  • Derek

    I agree with a power outlet.

    A small power strip makes friends fast. And make sure to get one with a USB port like the two noted. I like one with a small cord in case of tight spaces, but great addition to travelling – and you always need one in a hotel as well. Never enough outlets there.

  • Rob Perelman

    I always carry with me a small power strip with room for 3 devices. Nobody can ever refuse me power, and when I plug in my laptop, I can always share power with others without giving it up for myself. I picked it up at a dollar store.

  • Marla C.

    Sharing power is the best way to make friends. Grabbing all the water bottles & shoving them into your bag is not! Hey! leave some for the rest of us!

  • Cory

    I’ve never been in a lounge other than the Delta Lounge in Terminal 5 at LAX just to check out what I was missing. I never made it past the front desk and was fine leaving. I don’t drink, so the appeal of them is lessened. And I actually like the atmosphere in the rest of the airport and the dining options. I enjoy sitting down for a meal on a long layover.

  • starflyergold

    Dare I say it: Dress appropriately. I am not trying to harp back to the days of “glamorous” elitist travel for the few but showing up in the lounge in figure hugging cycle shorts which leave nothing to the imagination or wearing shorts with no underwear and having your feet up (on the lounge furniture) giving me a view of things I rather not see is just out of order (all real life examples). Equally flip flops on bare feet (after walking the day through Manhattan at 100F) are not cool.

  • Hoko

    Holy crap, NetZero?! I haven’t heard that name in like a decade! I don’t think I’d even remember how to use a dial-up modem

  • CatJo

    This Belkin mini surge protecter with 2 USB ports is the way to go:

  • Joey

    Isn’t this a little hypocritical considering that you emptied the mini bar at the Palazzo in Vegas last month all because it was free? Shouldn’t you have shown some constraint then.

  • Anonymous

    Not a must, but I feel this way at times when I am in a lounge for a little while – be observant to those around. The lounges are busier than ever now and I sometimes settle in for a long layover and to get some work done (just like most, I’m sure). BUT, I will occasionally spot someone come in and look around for a place to sit. The people I am referring to are older gentlemen and ladies or someone else who can use my seat more than I can (in a crowded lounge). Just take notice and see if it would be a sacrifice you are willing to make :)

  • Anonymous

    Hoarding snack bar….. ummmm…. how different is that from hoarding the mini-bar fridge from your recent story in Vegas? LOL 10. on your list for me would be Keep your kids in check!!!! I travel with kids all ages and one six year old (who just made Delta Diamond last week, yay!) my last trip out, a family with 5 kids used the lounge as their playground an no Delta employee said anything. Even my kids play with their consoles with head phone on. Etiquette is King!!

  • Anonymous

    Behavior in a shared airport lounge vs a paid private hotel room is quite different in my opinion!

  • Anonymous

    Behavior in a shared airport lounge vs a paid private hotel room is quite different in my opinion!

    The rules of the Intercontinental state free minibar. And for the record, I didn’t completely empty it. There may have been a can of Coke or two left ;-)

  • Trent Swanson

    Please blog on best practices for 6 yr olds to attain Delta diamond. Impressive!

  • Trent Swanson

    Drinks for all your travelling buddies without leaving bartender tip

  • Jamison

    i love this one! thx

  • Jamison

    how about Juno? lol

  • Jamison

    how about Juno? lol

  • Jamison

    i love this one! thx

  • Jamison

    indeed, bartenders make meager wages, always tip $1 a drink minimum regardless if its alcoholic or not

  • Jamison

    indeed, bartenders make meager wages, always tip $1 a drink minimum regardless if its alcoholic or not

  • Norris Krueger

    Not *that* cranky… Screaming kids is pretty awful, as noted.. but adults in a group can get pretty loud too. It’s not a pub. (I agree with “dress like a grownup” -bare feet? Yikes! ) It would not hurt to lobby the airlines to enforce their *existing* rules on decorum. The minimum wage employees in the club need all the backup they can get.

    And the power strip idea is gold. (I had a Delta gate agent suggest it to me & I heard it again from @thepointsguy) However, people really like to control “their” outlets. I have been rebuffed more than once by my offer to use the power strip. Again, yikes! Civility really is dead.

  • zzd

    Yikes! Given all of the riff raff that permeate the lounge, folks might want to try upgrading to the waiting area at the gate where people are generally civilized and respectful.

  • Anonymous

    I just double-VDB’d and got booked in BE for an LAX-JFK flight today — it’s my first SkyClub experience during normal hours (I’ve been in for late-night flights when there’s <15-20 people in the T5 LAX SC). Looking at the behavior around me, you need to come here and read out this list over the intercom.

  • Anonymous

    totally agrees with your comments and in pretty much the same order. And #1 is the most annoying in my opinion. I think the lounges have the segregated areas backwards – the QUIET AREA should be the PHONE CALL AREA and the rest of the lounge should be ‘respectful quiet’ for other guests. None of us want to hear you pontificate to your co-workers or significant other or hear you yell at the kids who call you every 5 minutes. Oh, and if you want to stretch out and sleep – don’t pick a place right in the middle of things (because it’s next to your companion) and then give all the rest of us dirty looks because you can’t sleep. As a seasoned traveler, I really can fall asleep most anywhere, so take note if i’m napping next to you (it’s not that i’m aloof, i’m just tired). As far as the bar and snacks go, I think the hoarders do that with everything in life – manners were never in their upbringing. Funny story about the power strips: stopped in the SEA-TAC Delta ‘temporary’ lounge before my red-eye back to Pittsburgh. Most all of the electric plugs were BEHIND the temporary walls – so you couldn’t get to them! What do they think we do in lounges? geez.

  • ImmiLawyer

    I have one, too. Makes me have all kindsa instant friends when I take it out of the computer bag.

  • Will

    That’s what happens when you let the general public in-yes, I am an elitist. Some people belong in steerage.

  • Dewhit6959

    Agreed !
    Also, when the lounge is full for the evening flights and everyone wants a drink, that is not the time to quiz the staff and instruct them how to fix your favorite resort punch or ask about your particular brand of mixer.
    >In the morning, don’t take a copy of each newspaper available, just to go set up your electronic office and watch ESPN while others have to wait for a single copy.
    >Serve your children yourself and get them out of the way since they can’t even see the snacks usually.
    > You should know what credentials you need to enter. Get them ready.

  • Anonymous

    1. Follow TPG advise for starters, 2. Get his and hers Delta Reserve Amex and transfer earned MQM to the kid 3. 100K Amex transfer bonus with 25K MQM some great pre-summer Air France deals (75% off business) to Europe this past summer (1.5 earning potential that was around 17K MQM per trip. 5. 22K MQM transferred from last year.

  • Anonymous

    Ironically Us Air Lounge at T1 at LAX is quiet, orderly and almost makes you feel like keeping to yourself. The ambiance is very professional.

  • Dewhit6959

    Wow. That is impressive. I just hope I’m not on any flights with you as I would chuck it all and slit my wrist if I knew I barely missed an upgrade for a diamond six year old.
    This child will have to be made a vice president of the company at seventeen, at this rate.

  • Mehul Sheth

    I prefer AOL, and I have 10,000 free hours piled up!

  • Mehul Sheth

    I prefer AOL, and I have 10,000 free hours piled up!

  • Rob

    1.Don’t take the WSJ into the bathroom
    2.Remember free cocktails automatically increase the volume of your voice

  • Anonymous

    Not all adapters supply enough power to charge an iPad. The one from Monster does and that’s why I prefer it. If that isn’t an issue the Belkin looks good and is less expensive.

  • Zach Kestenbaum

    My favorite is a small one from Monster Power. It folds up pretty small, and has 4 outlets. Great for sharing in lounges, and also in hotels when traveling with family.

  • Djanash

    JFK Delta Lounge = A zoo! Thanks for putting everyone in check TPG

  • Steve Boyko

    For the power outlets… carry your own mini power bar like the Monster Outlets To Go Powerstrip – very portable and you can ask someone to unplug for “just a second”, then plug them and your stuff into the same strip.

  • Carl

    after my experience at the RCC today in Denver, you pretty much summed it up. Between the guy with his feet on an empty chair, to the lady on the cell phone, to the trash that customers are too lazy to throw away. I always police my trash and wipe down the table before I leave. People need to remember that they are not in their living rooms.

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