How Much Is Airline Lounge Access Really Worth?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Update: Beginning March 22, 2014, American Express Card Members will no longer have access to American Airlines Admiral Club and US Airways Club airport lounges through Airport Club Access / Airport Lounge Program. This means that Card Members will no longer be able to gain complimentary access to the American Airlines airport lounges (known as Admirals Club lounges) or the US Airways Club airport lounges as a benefit of their Platinum Card Membership.
A big reason why I pay $450 a year for my American Express Platinum card is that it offers me access to American, Delta and US Airways lounges (plus a host of others through the Priority Pass Select partnership). American and Delta are my primary carriers, so to purchase both memberships separately, I’d be looking at $650 – which includes steep discounts for having elite status with both airlines – something I wouldn’t normally do.
American Airlines just announced a 2-day sale on Admirals Club lounge passes at a discounted rate of $30 per daily pass (regularly $50), which got me thinking – how much is lounge access actually worth? I generally don’t think too much about it, because I write off my Platinum card yearly fee as just the cost of being a frequent traveler (plus I get tons of other benefits like $200 in yearly airline rebates and free Global Entry that totally make the card worthwhile). However, if I didn’t have lounge access, how much would I pay to gain entrance?
There are four main reasons why I like lounge access, so let me try and place a value on each:
1) A comfortable place to sit and do work/relax in a generally chaotic airport environment ($10)
2) Knowledgeable agents who can help you avoid long re-ticketing lines, especially during irregular operations (like bad weather and mechanical cancellations) ($0 usually, but in the 1/10 instance I use them I’d happily pay $50, so that averages to $5)
3) Free snacks and beverages – $8 (I may enjoy a nice adult beverage from time to time)
4) Free WiFi – I have my own Verizon Mifi, which is always faster than lounge WiFi. But if that were broken or I was international I’d value it at $10.
So for me, I’d honestly say that I’d pay at most around $25 for lounge access if I had more than 90 minutes to kill before/between flights. Any less than that, I’d rather just get a coffee and use my Verizon Mifi device and brave it in the terminal. Frankly, as much as airlines try to market lounges as exclusive retreats, most are overcrowded and dumpy with painstakingly slow WiFi. That being said, for some reason I still enjoy lounges because they add a level of comfort and reliability to an otherwise unpredictable and exhausting world of frequent travel.
So what say you, TPG readers? What is the most you’d pay for a single visit to a lounge during a 2 hour layover? I know there are many variables, like the airport (and whether its busy or has free wifi in the terminal), but try to think big picture. What is the most you’d shell out for 2 hours of lounge access?
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
- $250 Annual Fee
- Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
- Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
- Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
- Earn 2X miles on all other travel
- Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
- Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.