There are thousands of airport lounges around the world, each with a variety of ways one can access them.
While road warriors have far more opportunities to access airport lounges, casual travelers can still enjoy hundreds of these airport sanctuaries.
A Day Pass is by far the most accessible method for gaining access to a lounge. It enables any traveler to enter by paying at the door. Many of these lounges don't even require that you fly the airline operated by the lounge. The majority of lounges that sell day passes are from US-based airlines such as American (Admirals Club), United (United Club), and Alaska Airlines (Alaska Lounge). Many independent lounges around the world, like the Plaza Premium Lounges, Servisair Lounges, No. 1 Lounges, and The Club Lounges offer day passes, as well. The cost for a day pass is usually between $29 and $75 per entry and many airline branded credit cards, such as the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa, offer two lounge passes each year you renew your credit card.
For those interested in accessing lounges by buying a day pass, LoungeBuddy currently offers over a hundred locations worldwide that you can book through our web portal. Day passes are an excellent way to enjoy a lounge without the commitment of annual memberships, paying for expensive premium class tickets, or flying tens of thousands of miles each year on a particular airline/alliance in order to get complimentary access from a particular airline (elite status). Because most airport lounges include complimentary WiFi, premium drinks, snacks, and comfortable areas for relaxation and being productive, the cost of a day pass can pay for itself quite quickly.
Your Boarding Pass can provide access if you're flying business or first class and traveling outside of the United States/Canada or when flying on select routes in the US (such as United's Premium Service: P.S. and American's Flagship Service from SFO/LAX to JFK). There are even exclusive lounges where a first class ticket is the ONLY method of entry to the lounge such as the British Airways Concorde Room in London Heathrow Airport or the Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport.
Of course, they make exceptions if you have an invitation-only elite status tier, such as Lufthansa's HON Circle or the British Airways Premier Card. For the most part, however, your paid or award first class ticket is your only method of entry for these stunning facilities. With most international first class tickets, you have the ability to bring in one guest that doesn't have to be in the same class of service as you.
Having an Elite Status with a particular airline is a very popular airport lounge access method for most frequent flyers. Nearly all airlines have multiple tiers of elite status and require that you usually reach the airline's mid-tier elite status or above before you are granted access when flying that particular airline/alliance. For example, American Airlines has three primary elite statuses: AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, and AAdvantage Executive Platinum, as well as a secret status (read more here!). In order to access Admirals Clubs and oneworld business class lounges, like the Cathay Pacific Lounge at SFO, you must reach AAdvantage Platinum or above. To access AA Flagship Lounges and oneworld first class lounges, like the Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge at HKG, you must reach AAdvantage Executive Platinum. US Carriers such as Delta, American, and United require that you have an international itinerary (excluding Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean in some cases) in order to access these lounges with your elite status. All three major alliances: oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance allow you to bring in one guest at no additional charge. With all of the alliances and partnerships, it can be quite a challenge to keep track of the lounges available for your use, along with the right lounge that have the amenities you seek. Add your elite statuses to your LoungeBuddy access methods, and we'll tell you all of the lounges you may access, along with the number of complimentary guests you may bring.
Purchasing an Annual Lounge Membership can be a great value for the road warrior. The most popular lounge memberships that can be purchased are from American, Delta, United, Air Canada, Hawaiian, Alaska Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Qantas. Your annual membership gives you access to any lounge operated by that particular airline and many partner lounges (except for some First Class lounges) regardless of the airline you are flying on that particular day.
This means that you could buy a United Club membership and access the United Club lounge even when flying on Southwest. Most lounge memberships permit you to bring in your spouse/domestic partner and your children OR two guests. While lounge memberships typically cost ~$350 - $500, they can pay for themselves quite quickly compared to day passes or spending several thousands of dollars on business/first class tickets.
Your Premium Credit Card such as an American Express Platinum Card, Centurion Card (AMEX black card), Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, or Diners Club Card can open the doors to hundreds of lounges around the world.
Your American Express Platinum/Centurion Card comes with complimentary access to their Centurion Lounge network, along with a Priority Pass Select Card, which gives you access to additional lounges (but with no free guest privileges). For more information on Priority Pass, see below. The American Express Platinum card annual fee is $550, and the Centurion Card annual fee is $2500 (with a $7500 initiation fee).
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is Chase's premier travel rewards credit card, and comes with a whole host of travel benefits, including Priority Pass Select lounge access, for an annual fee of $450.
Diners Club gives you access to several hundred lounges worldwide, but the agreements with the airlines vary with each airport. The Diners Club card has an annual fee as low as $95/year.
Priority Pass is one of the few 3rd party memberships that have a large (600+) network of airport lounges around the world. There are four membership levels: Standard, Standard Plus, Select, and Prestige. Priority Pass Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige give you access to all Priority Pass lounges. However, each version has the annual fee tied to the number of visits included with your membership. The Standard level ($99/yr) merely gives you the ability to pay $27 per visit. The Standard Plus ($249) includes 10 visits per year, while the Prestige ($399) gives you unlimited access. The only way to get a Select membership is by having a premium credit card like the American Express Platinum or Centurion Card. This Select and Prestige memberships provide similar benefits. All versions of the Priority Pass card require that you pay $27 for each guest (including family members). While 600 lounges is a big network, check to be sure there are lounges in the airports (and most importantly the terminal) in which you frequently access.
Of course, LoungeBuddy has Priority Pass lounges in our directory. Add Priority Pass to your list of LoungeBuddy access methods and we'll display all available Priority Pass lounges in the airport you choose.
Airport Lounges can remove a great deal of stress and make air travel a much more pleasurable experience. Tell us about the access method(s) you use. What methods are most beneficial to you and why?