The 8 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge
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.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Airport lounges can be a great way to relax before your flight — there’s usually food and drink available, a quiet, comfortable place to sit and you can charge up your devices or maybe get some last-minute work done before your flight. Some really good lounges may also have amenities like a spa or a la carte dining.
And now that the holiday season is upon us and 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.
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? Did you know you have access to four different lounges run by four 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 anyway
2. Do arrive early enough to enjoy it
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 enough time for a cocktail before the sun has even risen. 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 The Spa for complimentary 15-minute treatments, a roof terrace looking out over the Terminal 3 apron and the Heathrow runways 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, this would then give you around 90 minutes there before boarding may start (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.
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 further back because other passengers just plonked themselves down in the first chair they saw.
4. Don’t take your eye off the time
Many lounges — especially independent, third-party lounges — will not make any boarding announcements in the lounge. 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 allocations or changes.
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.
As much as you might love the sound of that baby’s laugh or that new song you can’t get out of your head with the amazing music video, those around you in the lounge want to enjoy the peace and quiet before their flight and they do not want to hear it.
And 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!
6. Don’t hog more space than you need
Airport lounges are essentially public spaces, so you will be sharing it with strangers. And with the global pandemic continuing, lounges have spaced out seating to enforce social distancing. There is a temptation to spread your luggage and clothing like coats across multiple seats to give yourself as much personal space as possible. But if everyone did this, there may not be enough seating for all guests. So don’t take up more space than you need.
You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you.
7. Don’t go overboard just because it’s free
There may be a temptation to eat and drink as much as you possibly can just because it is free. This can be a bad idea, though — 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 may be a great meal later. Or 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, what is the benefit of doing so in an airport lounge?
Lounges can make your airport experience so much more enjoyable. It’s worth looking into how you can access them with your credit card, status or even whether it’s worth paying for access upfront. Please note that we didn’t mention access to lounge showers since most of them are closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. But 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.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson
Featured image of the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Miami International Airport by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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.