Photo: Flickr / Alex Castro
Once viewed as boys’ clubs packed with businessmen smoking cigars, today’s airport lounges welcome almost any flier and offer lots more than peanuts. Consumers are itching to get into these havens—reclining massage chairs and celeb-prepped desserts are just two of the perks behind closed doors—but few know how to do it short of sneaking in.
For occasional fliers: Join an airport or airline lounge
Cost: $400 to $500 per year
“This is really the most basic way to do it,” says Snyder, who adds that this strategy is ideal for the “frequent flier who’s not too frequent.”
For true frequent fliers: Earn elite status
Cost: Around $375 per year for United, other airlines can vary
People who get bumped to this class can actually knock $100 off the cost of their membership, says Snyder. However, “it only makes sense if you’re going to be travelling a lot” and can quickly earn the required 25,000 or so points to get bumped.
For infrequent travellers: Buy a day pass
Cost: $50 at most clubs, though some offer discounts
Do a cost-benefit analysis to be sure you’ll actually use this. “If you’re spending $475 a year and visit the lounge 10 times in a year, that’s better than paying for 10 separate day passes,” says Snyder. “But if you travel less, then it would be cheaper to just buy day passes.”
For heavy travellers and shoppers: Carry an American Express Platinum card
Cost: $450 annually
“If you have the card already, that’s just an added benefit,” says Snyder who notes the AmEx card grants access to more than 600 lounges worldwide, in addition to other perks like airline miles.
For predictable travellers: Get a priority pass
Cost: $99 yearly for a standard membership, plus $27
If you know where you’re going—and visit occasionally—check PriorityPass.com to see which terminals and lounges are listed. Different ones participate depending on the country, says Snyder. For example, LAX offers access ot the US Airways Club, United Club and Alaska Airlines Boardroom, while JFK hardly has any options outside of the Oasis and United Club.
For international travellers: Buy a premium or business class ticket
Cost: Typically $500 and up
“This grants you access to the better lounges, and perhaps a first-class lounge,” says Snyder, however, these tickets tend to be pricey so make sure your boss is footing the bill if it’s for business.
For loyal fliers: Sign up for your airline’s credit card
Cost: Varies by card; United’s Mileage Club card costs $395 annually; The Explorer costs $95/year with the first year free
Despite the annual membership fee these cards get you into the club with perks. Says Snyder: “You’re buying elite status to get lounge access, which sounds hefty, but if you fly United a lot, then you’ll get a lot for free.”