The Best Airport Lounges in the U.S.

Layovers can be luxurious in the best airport lounges.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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Many travelers put up with crowded airports, expensive food and cramped airplane seats in order to get where they want to go.

However, the flying experience doesn't have to be miserable. With airline miles, elite status or a premium travel credit card, you can unlock incredible experiences — both onboard flights and on the ground.

One way to have a more enjoyable travel experience is to visit an airport lounge. Whether you’re looking for some luxury before you board or need to make the most of a long layover, these are some of the best airport lounges in the U.S.

American Airlines/British Airways Chelsea Lounge (New York-JFK)

(Photo by JT Genter)

In late 2022, American Airlines and British Airways opened a brand new first class lounge in New York-John F. Kennedy as part of a $400 million investment into the airlines' joint presence in Terminal 8. The resulting Chelsea Lounge easily makes the list of best airport lounges in the U.S.

In addition to an iconic bar, the lounge offers sit-down full-service dining, sleek shower suites, a homey fireplace and truly first class service.

How to access the American Airlines/British Airways Chelsea Lounge

To keep the Chelsea Lounge exclusive, American Airlines and British Airways restrict access only to travelers flying in Flagship first class on American Airlines, British Airways first class and invitation-only AAdvantage ConciergeKey elites.

Qantas International First Lounge (Los Angeles)

(Photo by JT Genter)

My pick for the best airport lounge at LAX — and one of the best in the U.S. — is the Qantas International First Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. What this lounge lacks in views and size, it makes up for in incredible service and food and drink offerings.

Eligible travelers can enjoy a full-service sit-down meal with some of the best food you'll find in any airport worldwide. Visitors can refresh themselves before a flight in one of the lounge's shower rooms or relax with a handcrafted cocktail from the lounge's extensive liquor selection.

How to access the Qantas International First Lounge

To visit the Qantas lounge in Los Angeles, you'll need to have Qantas Platinum One or Platinum status, Oneworld Emerald elite status or be flying in first class on a Oneworld airline.

American Express Centurion Lounges (Multiple locations)

(Photo courtesy of Centurion)

Centurion Lounges, the original and largest network of card issuer airport lounges, are operated by American Express.

Eligible travelers can enjoy excellent chef-prepared buffet-style food and bartender-crafted cocktails in over a dozen lounge locations across the United States — with almost another dozen lounges located overseas.

In addition to excelling at these amenities, some Centurion Lounge locations offer shower suites and even complimentary spa services.

  • Charlotte.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Denver.

  • Houston-Intercontinental.

  • Las Vegas.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Miami.

  • New York-John F. Kennedy.

  • New York-LaGuardia.

  • Philadelphia.

  • Phoenix.

  • San Francisco.

  • Seattle.

  • Additional locations are currently under construction in Atlanta, Newark and Washington-National.

The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet rating 

How to access American Express Centurion lounges

Holders of the following American Express cards get complimentary access to Centurion Lounges:

Terms apply.

Centurion Lounge guest access is convoluted enough to require an entire separate article.

Capital One Lounges (Multiple locations)

(Photo courtesy of Capital One)

Capital One turned heads with the debut of its first airport lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2021. After a two-year hiatus, Capital One recently opened new locations in Washington-Dulles and Denver. And these lounges have been worth the wait.

Capital One Lounges offer a buffet of tapas-style small dishes — plus fresh grab-and-go food for those in a hurry. Full-service bars offer signature cocktails, wine and even exclusive beers. Dedicated coffee bars offer cold brew and iced lattes on tap.

Relaxation, cycling, yoga and multi-faith rooms all offer a private spot in the airport to refresh, recenter or get some blood flowing. Individual bathrooms offer plenty of space to freshen up or take care of parental needs.

Capital One Lounge locations: As of May 2024, Capital One has lounges in the following three airports:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Washington-Dulles.

  • Denver.

Additional lounge locations, branded Capital One Landing lounges, will focus on upscale culinary experiences; these are planned for New York-LaGuardia and Washington-National airports.

How to access Capital One Lounges

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card holders and Capital One Venture X Business cardholders and up to two complimentary guests get unlimited access to Capital One Lounges.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

NerdWallet Rating
4.9
Annual fee

$395

For these cardholders, additional guests cost $45 each per visit.

If you don't have a qualifying Capital One travel card, you can buy a day pass to one of these excellent lounges for $65 per person per visit.

Chase Sapphire Lounges (Multiple locations)

(Photo courtesy of Chase)

Chase is the latest major card issuer to join the airport lounge market, opening its first U.S. airport lounge in May 2023.

Though new to the scene, Chase seems determined to make a splash.

Chase Sapphire Lounges offer locally inspired food and drinks, nursing and wellness rooms, shower suites, and both working and resting areas.

Chase opened its largest lounge yet in early 2024 at New York-LaGuardia, featuring the brand’s first private Reserve Suites, a children’s playroom, photo booth and arcade, as well as meditation pods and treatment rooms.

Chase Sapphire Lounge locations: A relative newcomer to airport lounges, there are only four Chase Sapphire Lounges open to travelers:

  1. New York-JFK.

  2. Hong Kong.

Plus, Chase has unveiled plans to open Sapphire-branded lounges in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Diego.

In addition to lounges, the Sapphire Terrace at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport gives eligible travelers access to grab-and-go food, drinks and games in an indoor/outdoor terrace space.

How to access Chase Sapphire Lounges

Holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, J.P. Morgan Reserve card and The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card can get unlimited complimentary access to Chase Sapphire Lounge locations.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

NerdWallet Rating
5.0
Annual fee

$550

However, cardholders will need to activate their complimentary Priority Pass membership to unlock access.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® and J.P. Morgan Reserve cardholders can bring two complimentary guests into the lounge with them.

Ritz-Carlton cardholders can bring unlimited guests.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Ritz-Carlton cardholders not only get unlimited complimentary access to Chase Sapphire Lounges, but they can bring unlimited guests with them.

Priority Pass members who do not hold one of these credit cards get one complimentary visit to a Sapphire Lounge location each calendar year. The Hong Kong location is excluded.

United Polaris Lounges (Multiple locations)

United Polaris lounge at Newark airport. (Photo courtesy of United Airlines)

United Airlines operates a series of lounges for its United Polaris business class passengers on overseas flights. These lounges include sit-down full-service meals, bartender-crafted cocktails, shower suites featuring Therabody products, and daybeds for catching a jetlag-busting nap.

United Polaris Lounge locations: Eligible travelers can enjoy the United Polaris Lounge experience in the following airports:

  • Chicago-O'Hare.

  • Houston-Intercontinental.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Newark.

  • San Francisco.

  • Washington-Dulles.

How to access United Polaris Lounges

Travelers need to be traveling the same day in United Polaris business class or in business or first class on a Star Alliance partner.

The United Club℠ Infinite Card includes United Club membership as a perk.

Chase United MileagePlus(R) Club Card Credit Card

United Club℠ Infinite Card

NerdWallet Rating
4.5
Annual fee

$525

United℠ Explorer Card holders get two passes to United Clubs annually.

Only Star Alliance first class passengers are eligible to bring a guest into the lounge with them.

American Airlines Flagship Lounges (Multiple locations)

DFW Flagship First dining. (Photo by JT Genter)

American Airlines also operates a premium set of lounges for its most valued flyers. While not quite as premium as United Polaris Lounges, Flagship Lounges offer plenty of perks that make them worth a visit. Eligible travelers can enjoy "chef-inspired" buffet meals, build-your-own cocktails and shower suites.

Additionally, exclusive full-service Flagship Dining areas are reserved for American Airlines Flagship first class travelers and passengers who purchased Flagship Business Plus fares.

American Airlines Flagship Lounge locations: American Airlines currently offers Flagship Lounges in four of its busiest hubs:

  • Chicago-O'Hare.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Miami.

Another Flagship Lounge will open soon in Philadelphia.

How to access American Airlines Flagship Lounges

Travelers can access Flagship Lounges when flying Flagship business or Flagship first class.

Additionally, American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum (and higher), Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold (and higher) and Oneworld Sapphire (and higher) elite members can visit when traveling on an Oneworld-operated intercontinental flight.

Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

NerdWallet Rating
4.6
Annual fee

$595

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®holders also get Admirals Club membership as a perk.

ConciergeKey travelers can also access Flagship Lounges with their immediate family or up to two guests.

Don't pay out-of-pocket for lounge access

Several travel credit cards include airport lounge access in their suite of benefits targeting the frequent flyer.

Cards with airport lounge access
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
Chase United MileagePlus(R) Club Card Credit Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee
$695
$595
$525
$650
$550
Lounge benefits

Access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide, including:

• The issuer's own Centurion Lounges and International American Express lounges.

Delta Sky Clubs, when flying Delta.

• Priority Pass Select lounges (enrollment required).

• Lounges in the Plaza Premium, Escape and Airspace networks.

Terms apply.

Complimentary Admirals Club membership, plus access to partner lounges with which American Airlines has a reciprocal agreement.

Access to United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.


For occasional United travelers, a different card, the United℠ Explorer Card, gives you two one-time passes to the United Club each year. That card has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95 . Read our review of that card.

• Access to Delta Sky Club when traveling with Delta, plus two one-time passes each year for guests. (Note that limits on lounge visits are scheduled to take effect in 2025. Read more about that here.)

• Access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta.

Terms apply.

Priority Pass Select membership, with access to over 1,000 airport lounges internationally and meal credits at select airport restaurants and bars.

• Access to Chase's own Sapphire Lounges, though there are currently only a couple of locations.

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Final thoughts on the best airport lounges in the U.S.

For many travelers, the best airport lounge is going to be the one in your home airport or an often-used connecting airport.

However, not all airport lounges are created equal. The airport lounges included in our list of best airport lounges in the U.S. offer fresh food, complimentary cocktails and even perks like complimentary spa services and shower suites.

If you're passing through one of the airports with these top-tier lounges, it's worth figuring out how to access them and build in time to experience one of the best airport lounges around.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Airport Lounge Cards from our Partners
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

100,000

For a limited time, earn 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $10,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
See more Airport Lounge cards
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