The 7 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge

Aug 10, 2021

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Airport lounges can be great places to relax before your flight. They provide you with food and drink and a quiet, comfortable place to sit, and allow you to charge up your devices or get some last-minute work done before your flight. Some really good lounges may also have amenities like a spa, a la carte dining or showers (though most of those are closed to stop the spread of COVID-19).

As lounges worldwide continue to reopen, we thought it would be a good idea to offer some lounge etiquette pointers. If you’ve never been in a swanky airport lounge before, here are some simple do’s and don’ts to help you maximize your experience.

In This Post

1. Do your homework in advance

Depending on the airport you are flying from and the ticket or status you hold, you may have access to more than one lounge. Flying on a British Airways Club Europe flight from Heathrow Terminal 3? You have access to several different lounges run by different airlines that vary enormously in quality. Before you travel, check the following online in advance:

  • Which lounges you have access to.
  • Which is considered the best lounge of the options.
  • The location, opening hours and access policy of your preferred lounge(s) — you don’t want to spend ages wandering around trying to find a lounge that ends up being closed.

Related: Which airline lounges in the US are currently open?

(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

2. Do arrive early enough to enjoy it

VIRGIN ATLANTIC'S NEW ONE MILLION POUND LOUNGE AT HEATHROW AIRPORT.THE LOUNGE, KNOWN AS THE CLUBHOUSE, WILL BE OFFICIALLY OPENED BY RICHARD BRANSON. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow Airport. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

If you have access to a truly excellent lounge, like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow, you want to have enough time to enjoy it. It may not make sense to leave home at 4 a.m. just to have time for a cocktail before the sun rises. But if you have a flight at a more civilized hour, you should plan your check-in to allow enough time to experience everything, including complimentary 15-minute treatments in the spa, a view of the runways from the roof terrace and a meal in the formal dining room.

If check-in for your flight opens three hours before departure and it will take you about 30 minutes to check in, pass through security and walk to the lounge, you would have around 90 minutes in the lounge before boarding starts (depending on the aircraft type, airline, airport, etc). This is a good amount of time to explore the lounge and make the most of it.

Rushing in late with only five minutes to scoff down a sandwich and a drink isn’t going to be the most relaxing start to a flight.

Related: How early should you arrive at the airport before your flight if you have lounge access?

3. Do a full lap of the lounge on arrival

Even if you have visited a particular lounge before, the best place to sit might not be apparent when you first walk in. The seating near the entrance or the buffet may be busy and not so relaxing. In contrast, if you do a lap of the lounge, you can not only get your bearings on where everything is (including things like bathrooms, charging points and possible runway views), but you might find a much quieter and more peaceful place to sit farther back because other passengers plonked themselves down in the first chair they saw.

British Airways lounge at San Francisco International Airport
(Photo by Nick Morrish/British Airways)

4. Don’t take your eye off the time

Many lounges — especially independent, third-party lounges — will not make any boarding announcements. If you are enjoying yourself, time can really fly by, and you might forget about the reason you traveled to the airport in the first place — to get on a flight. Neither the lounge nor the airline will be very sympathetic if you miss the flight because you enjoyed yourself too much. Set an alarm for boarding time on your phone before you enter the lounge if need be.

As well as keeping my eye on the time, I like to Google my flight number, which means my phone will then provide updates for things like delays and gate changes.

Related: Missing my flight home for Christmas: TPG travel mistake story

5. Don’t disturb the peace

FaceTiming loved ones back home? Watching a funny video someone sent you with a crying face emoji? Taking an urgent business call? These are all fine to do in an airport lounge on one condition:

Wear headphones.

As much as you might love the sound of that baby’s laugh or that amazing music video for the new song you can’t get out of your head, those around you in the lounge don’t care to listen in. They’d prefer to enjoy some peace and quiet before their flight.

If you are taking a confidential business call that you don’t want strangers to hear (even if it’s only your side of the conversation), consider ducking into a meeting room or private space within the lounge — you never know who could be listening!

Related: The 10 best Priority Pass lounges around the world

(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)

6. Don’t hog more space than you need

Airport lounges are essentially public spaces, so you will be sharing them with strangers. With the pandemic continuing, lounges have spaced out seating to enforce social distancing. There is a temptation to spread your luggage and coats across multiple seats to give yourself as much personal space as possible. If everyone did this, there might not be enough seating for all guests.

Bottom line: Don’t take up more space than you need. You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

7. Don’t go overboard just because it’s free

You might be tempted to eat and drink as much as you possibly can because it’s all free. This can be a bad idea — if you drink too much, you might not even be allowed on the flight, and if you eat too much, you might ruin your appetite for what could be a great meal later. If you are planning to go straight to sleep on the plane, you might struggle because you’re too full.

If you wouldn’t eat that much at home before bed, don’t do it in an airport lounge.

Related: Which airlines serve the best Champagne in first-class lounges?

Bottom line

Lounges can make your airport experience so much more enjoyable. It’s worth looking into how you can access them with your credit card or status, or whether it’s worth paying cash to get inside. As with any travel experience, there is a certain etiquette that should be observed. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll get the most out of your lounge experience.

Featured photo of an Amex Centurion Lounge by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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