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Airport lounges are exclusive areas that provide travelers a quiet and comfortable place to wait for flights, and they can offer a lot of perks — complimentary snacks, beverages, Wi-Fi, even showers.
Access is generally offered to those traveling business class or first class. For a chunk of change, frequent travelers can also get access — either by paying for an annual lounge membership or paying the annual fee for a travel credit card that includes lounge access.
But if these scenarios don't apply to you, you can still get in on the perks with a cost-efficient airport lounge day pass. These passes start at around $20, and they can offer you a one-off VIP experience as you wait for your flight.
1. You have time to kill
A delayed flight or long layover can be uncomfortable and, frankly, boring. It can be much easier to enjoy yourself in an airport lounge, where you'd have a comfy chair, a charging station, access to food and entertainment, and more. Some lounges may have limits on how much time you can spend there, so make sure you're going to get good bang for your buck.
For Erika Johnson-Lamoureaux — a Palm Desert, California, resident — timing is a factor in determining whether she buys a day pass. “If we have an hour layover, there’s no need to purchase a day pass,” she says. “If it’s a 10-hour layover, then absolutely it’s worth paying the money for a day pass.”
2. You want free food
Start your vacation cheat days early at an airport lounge with complimentary food and drinks, which include items that are usually overpriced in general airport eateries.
Enjoying some alcoholic beverages, if they're included, can help you make up a good portion of the cost of a day pass. Keep in mind, though, that every lounge is different and limits may apply.
3. You NEED to work
Airports sometimes charge for internet access. They're also typically filled with noise and distractions that can make it hard to concentrate. Airport lounges may offer complimentary Wi-Fi, workspaces, desks and conference rooms. Some of these services may have an additional cost.
4. You need to rest
Alternately, all those airport distractions can also make it difficult to relax. If you're more interested in putting your feet up, a lounge can offer a quieter and less trafficked environment.
You may get access to private restrooms and a place to stow your belongings. If you're lucky, you might even have your own pod to nap in.
5. You need to refresh
After a long flight, you might want to clean up or recharge during a layover before hopping on the next plane. Some airport lounges offer showers, massages and other self-care options. These services may cost extra.
6. You value exceptional customer service
If you get an airport lounge day pass through your airline, the desk staff at the lounge might offer better customer service than what you get at the gate.
Nancy Hoffman, of Santa Clarita, California, once was trying to get on an earlier flight, but she didn’t have much luck at the gate. She paid for an airport lounge day pass because she needed somewhere to store the helmet and leather jacket she'd used on her recent motorcycle adventure.
When she went to the airport lounge, her luck changed. The lounge staff was able to rebook her.
“I was on a flight within 45 minutes,” Hoffman says. “And then they packed me food, which I thought was amazing because I was really hungry when I got there.”
Where to get an airport lounge day pass
If you’re flying with a specific airline, it may sell one-time day passes to its own airport lounge. And you may be able to use your day pass at other lounges if you're traveling to multiple cities that day.
Otherwise, there are some independent airport lounges that offer day passes, including:
LoungeBuddy: This website offers airport lounge access at over 350 lounges for a starting price of $25. Amenities vary per lounge, but you can find out what’s included by reviewing the listings, some of which include guest reviews.
LoungePass: LoungePass is part of the Collinson Group, which operates Priority Pass, a network of airport lounges. LoungePass offers access to over 400 lounges in more than 80 countries. Prices start at $19, depending on the location. Amenities vary per lounge.
Plaza Premium Lounge: This independent airport lounge offers global lounge access in several countries. Plaza Premium lounges generally offer unlimited complimentary food and beverages; some offer more amenities. The cost varies per lounge, but you can find passes for around $40.
The Club lounge: These independent lounges are available at 11 U.S. airports and two London airports. Day passes cost $40 and they can include complimentary refreshments, light snacks and access to computers or Wi-Fi.
» Learn more: Priority Pass versus LoungeBuddy
What to keep in mind about a day pass
Before you book an airport lounge day pass, consider these questions, which can help you avoid travel headaches:
Should you book in advance? Some airport lounges or networks require you to book at least 24 hours in advance. Plan ahead to prevent any hiccups.
Can you buy online? You can generally purchase day passes for independent airport lounges online. Day passes for lounges that belong to specific airlines can be purchased in person at the lounge, but you can be denied entry if the lounge is full. Check to see whether the airline offers lounge day passes through its app or website.
Are you traveling with others? Before booking, research the lounge’s guest policy. Some may admit children under a certain age for free, but just because you bought a day pass for yourself doesn't mean all of your traveling companions will be able to use it.
Will the lounge be open/accessible? Consult the lounge's business hours, and look for a lounge in your terminal or concourse to avoid potential restrictions. After you get into the lounge, time limits may apply. Also, make sure you're old enough to get in. Some lounges may not allow guests younger than 21.
Does the lounge have what you want? Services, amenities and terms vary widely by airport lounge, and even the freebies may have caps. Make sure the benefits outweigh the cost before buying your one-time pass.