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Exploring new destinations is usually fun and exciting, but the actual traveling part can sometimes feel like a chore. Airports typically involve long lines, crowded spaces and a lot of waiting. Thankfully, air travelers can get some relief by taking advantage of airport lounges.
Have you been thinking about visiting one but aren't sure if you'll like it? Airport lounges can make long layovers easier and perhaps make traveling more enjoyable overall. Here are a few reasons why you should be using airport lounges.
What are lounges?
Simply put, lounges are designated areas within an airport where certain travelers can enjoy benefits and comforts the exceed a typical airport terminal.
Most airport lounges fall into one of the following categories:
How do airport lounges work?
Lounges give access to passengers with specific premium flight tickets (i.e. business or first class), status levels (i.e. Star Alliance Gold) or for having certain credit cards in their wallet, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can also sometimes purchase access for a year or even just a day. Terms apply.
At the airport, you simply must show your qualifying material to the attendant in order to be given lounge access.
Keep your eye on your watch when hanging out in a lounge. You won't benefit from casually hearing the overhead announcements and boarding calls that you would at your gate.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
Why you should use airport lounges
1. It’s a calm in the middle of the storm
While traveling can be fun, most people don't love being in an airport. They're jam-packed with people, are noisy and often have limited seating. A lounge can offer the perfect hideaway from the hectic nature of the airport.
It's much quieter, and most lounges have comfortable, spacious seating — and plenty of it. You can also use the Wi-Fi and power outlets, so you're all charged up before boarding the plane. Some airport lounges even have showers, which can be great if you have a layover between long flights.
Think of airport lounges as your ticket to sanity. An airport is jam-packed with annoyed people paying too much for a bottle of water. There's commotion everywhere you turn.
» Learn More: Awesome credit cards with airport lounge access
2. You can save money on food
Most airport eateries charge high prices, so it can be cost-prohibitive to have a drink or a meal before your flight. If you have lounge access, it's a different story.
Lounges typically set food up in a way where you can help yourself as needed. They often offer free snacks and other food choices, plus drinks, including alcoholic beverages. These food and drink offerings come at no extra cost to you.
An airport lounge is a good stop if you're feeling hungry before boarding the plane and don't want to overpay for a meal.
» Learn more: When is an airport lounge day pass worth the splurge?
UNLOCK AIRPORT LOUNGES WITH THE RIGHT CARD
Major U.S. airlines operate airport lounges for high-priority customers, as do some credit card issuers, most notably American Express. A number of airports also have independently operated lounges that are accessible through networks like Priority Pass. Several credit cards provide airport lounge access, although no single card gets you into every lounge. Among cards with lounge access:
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.
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.
3. You can work while on the go
If you need to get work done before your flight, a lounge workspace can make it easier.
Most airport lounges offer a variety of seating options. In addition to comfortable chairs, they may have workstations for you to sit at and work from your laptop. You can also connect to the free Wi-Fi. Some even have printers and other business equipment for you to use.
This is a nice perk if you're traveling for work or are a freelancer or self-employed worker. It’s usually easier to be productive in an airport lounge than in a loud, crowded terminal.
» Learn more: 5 tips for long airport layovers
4. It’s a family-friendly place to be
Traveling with kids takes effort, and the busy gate area can be stressful for parents and children alike. Instead of hanging out there, you can head to an airport lounge with your family.
Lounges aren’t only for adults. These spaces are kid-friendly, and may even have kids' rooms or other amenities available. Some lounges may admit children under a certain age for free.
Like you, your kids may feel calmer in a quiet, less hectic environment.
» Learn More: How to fly with young children
5. Your travel experience may be greatly improved
Being able to enjoy airport lounge perks can change your day and improve your entire travel experience. Knowing that you'll have a comfortable and relaxing place to go after the stress of airport security may change how you feel about your trip.
For many travelers, an airport lounge experience helps to reduce anxiety and makes spending time at the airport more enjoyable — which helps to start their trip off right.
6. There are a variety of options around the globe
Whether you're flying domestically or internationally, the airport you're flying out of may have a lounge for you to use. Most major airports have several lounges.
You also have options when it comes to the type of lounges that you use. If you're loyal to a particular airline, it may make sense to use their lounges. Another option is to get a membership through a company that offers a network of lounges — like Priority Pass.
» Learn more: The best Priority Pass lounges in the United States
How to score airport lounge access
Are you ready to experience the airport lounge life?
Get a day pass. Some lounges offer a daily pass that you can purchase at the check-in desk. Alternatively, you can use a mobile app like LoungeBuddy to buy a day pass while on the go.
Show proof of membership. You can purchase lounge access for an airline lounge through your airline of choice. Some offer a yearly membership to access a network of lounges, like Priority Pass. This company has multiple membership options available for purchase.
Earn elite status or fly in a premium class. You may also be able to get access by being an elite status member or by flying with an eligible first class or business class ticket.
Carry the right card. If you have a travel credit card, it may include lounge access as a benefit. While most credit cards with this perk require you to pay an annual fee, they offer an easy way to access lounges while traveling.
If you’re thinking of visiting an airport lounge
There are many reasons to use airport lounges. If you value comfort, fewer crowds and like to have time to relax before your flight, you may want to visit an airport lounge the next time you fly.
Be sure to check out the airports you’re traveling through and find out which lounges are available to you. Whether you have access through your credit card, elite status with an airline or just opt to purchase a day pass to find out what it’s like, visiting an airport lounge is likely easier than you might think.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card