How to ensure you have lounge access on your next flight

Jul 12, 2020

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Airports can be stressful. Thousands of travelers all heading in different directions, boarding calls, overpriced food and drinks, duty free mazes, flights closing and lines everywhere. A great way to relax before your next flight is to spend some time in an airport lounge. These can be sanctuaries from the madness of the terminal and allow you the chance to put your feet up, have a meal, raise a glass to the start of your journey, catch up on some work, charge your devices and catch your breath. This allows you to board your flight in a far more relaxed mood than the one in which you might have arrived at the airport.

So how do you ensure you have this valuable lounge access before your next flight? Here are four ways.

1. Class of Service

Most airlines will provide lounge access to their business and first class passengers where a lounge exists (there are some airports so small that they don’t have a single lounge). Whether you’ve booked this ticket with cash or points/miles, you should be entitled to lounge access, and this may be printed on your ticket.

Depending on the airline, class of service and airport, you may only be able to access one lounge or you could have several to choose from. With a first-class ticket on the likes of Cathay Pacific or British Airways at Hong Kong Airport (HKG), you will have half a dozen lounges to choose from, so you may wish to do some research beforehand to determine the best option. (Hint: In Hong Kong, it’s The Pier First Class Lounge!). You will usually be able to visit more than one lounge if you have the time and motivation to do so.

Some airlines like ANA and Japan Airlines also offer lounge access for their premium economy passengers, though this is not an industry standard practice. Note that for domestic first class in the US, you will not usually have lounge access on most routes as a result of your ticket class alone. You will need to satisfy one of the other requirements on this list.

Qantas's flagship first-class lounge in Sydney was designed by Marc Newson and has a Neil Perry restaurant.
Qantas’s flagship first-class lounge in Sydney was designed by Marc Newson and has a Neil Perry restaurant.

2. Status

In the same way airlines reward their premium-ticketed passengers with lounge access, if you have the right elite status this may well provide lounge access to the same lounges. Each airline has different status levels, lounge options and access rules, so it’s best to check in advance if your elite status will provide access at a certain airport and what your options are. For example, British Airways Silver status, which is Oneworld Sapphire, will provide you with access to any Oneworld Sapphire lounge with a Oneworld-operated or ticketed flight.

Many airlines will have a handy lounge checker on their website to show you if you have access based on your status and ticket type, and what lounge(s) they will be.

3. Lounge Membership

Many airlines will allow a paid lounge membership scheme, regardless of your status and class of ticket. These memberships can be expensive, so are most beneficial for those travelers who fly enough that they can use it regularly but not enough to earn the sort of status with the airline that would provide the same lounge access for free.

Again, each airline will have its own rules about when and how you can access each lounge with a paid membership. It’s often restricted to the lounges the airline runs itself, and you will likely need to have a ticket on either that airline or its partners.

There are also independent lounge programs like Priority Pass and Lounge Key, which will for a yearly fee provide access to a huge number of lounges around the world. The upside of this is that you can access them regardless of the airline or class of service and there will hundreds, if not thousands, of lounges around the world to choose from. The downside is that these lounges are mostly independently run, not airline-run. This means the quality of the lounge is usually noticeably lower than business and first-class passengers in a full-service airline-run lounge will enjoy.

Note that some lounges may restrict entry to members of lounge programs when they are full to capacity and give priority to higher class or status passengers. You may be able to pre-book your spot by paying an additional fee in advance.

Image courtesy of Priority Pass.
SkyTeam Lounge, London Heathrow Terminal 4. (Photo courtesy of Priority Pass)

4. Lounge Pass

Some lounges will sell single-entry passes for certain passengers. Airline-run lounges may sell passes only to those passengers flying on that airline (or a partner airline) who do not have access as a result of their class of service or status. Third-party lounges may sell lounge passes to anyone regardless of the airline or destination the passenger is traveling to. You may be able to purchase this online in advance, or simply swipe your credit card at the entrance. Some airlines and credit cards will provide a couple of these passes either by applying for the right credit card, or by reaching a certain status like Silver in many programs, where you have shown enough loyalty to receive some benefits with the airline but not enough to be provided with the access every time.

The use of/purchase of these lounge passes will be subject to the capacity of the lounge, though. They will not be sold if the lounge is already full of status-holding passengers.

Bottom Line

Lounge access can make your travel experience much more enjoyable. And if you know how to get in, you’re in even better shape. We recommend using LoungeBuddy if you’re ever in question about whether or not you can get into a lounge.

Featured photo by Daniel Ross / The Points Guy.

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