I know it sounds crazy, but I love going to the airport early. Maybe you prefer the adrenaline buzz of rushing through traffic, being irate that the security line is moving slowly and racing to your gate. Okay, maybe you donâ€™t prefer that but you are just wondering why anyone would ever want to be at the airport early. I have two words for you: Airport lounge.
“What’s an airport lounge?”, you ask. It’s only your gateway to a secret world of comfortable spacious chairs, free beverages (yes this often includes alcohol), and tasty complimentary (another word for free) snacks that will guarantee you will never want to go back to the cattle call areas where the uninformed masses congregate.
You may be surprised to find out, almost every airline has a loungeâ€¦ just not in every airport. Simply ask someone at the ticket counter where their airline lounge is and cruise over there.
Now, youâ€™re probably asking yourself, “Who do I have to blow, I mean know, to get access to such airport opulence?” When it comes to accessing the airport lounges, you have a few options. If youâ€™re lucky enough to have a First or Business class ticket, you get complimentary access on the day of your flight. Also, people who fly a lot and earn elite status are generally granted access even on an economy class ticket if they are flying internationally. For the rest of us, there are the options of day passes and yearly memberships. A day pass, which can be purchased at the airport lounge, is usually between $40-$50 USD while a year membership runs around $500(although they often run specials. I recently got one to American Airlines Lounge, The Admirals Club, for $400).
You may feel like you donâ€™t want to pay this extra fee but, for me, an airport lounge can be the difference between an awful layover with an extremely uncomfortable wait in the main airport or a chance to relax, catch up on some e-mail (using the free wi-fi or PCs), watch TV, grab a shower (yes many really do have showers), eat some snacks, have some drinks and get some business done if necessary. Some lounges, like Heathrow’s British Airways First, even have spas with masseuses!
Before you rush off to get your lounge membership, keep in mind not all lounges are created equal. International lounges have way more perks than domestic ones. Make sure you ask what amenities the lounge offers and also check which airports they have locations in so if you choose a yearly membership it can be in places you are most likely to frequent. In some lounges the food and drinks are not served gratis. You have to buy them just like you would anywhere else in the airport.
You should know that even the worst international lounges (Open Skies lounge at Paris Orly airport, for example) will often have complimentary drinks (water, juice, soda, beer, coffee drinks, liquor), snacks ranging from bags of chips, cookies, apples, etcâ€¦to small prepared finger sandwiches, private bathrooms that are cleaned far more regularly than the public airport bathrooms, comfortable club chairs and sofas, wi-fi, and are much quieter than the rest of the airport.
The best lounges (Heathrow British Airways First Class Lounge for example) have full bars, sit-down restaurants with wait staff and nice wine selections, showers, free internet, a salon with massages, complimentary haircuts and possibly other perks I have yet to discover. Remember all of the above is FREE (not sure about the massages though, as I did not schedule enough time on my layover to try that out!).
Now you know the secret and you can start your vacation even before your flight leaves.
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- Frequent Flyer Programs : The Beginnerâ€™s Guide to Travel (Part 1)
- Choosing the Right Frequent Flyer Program: Beginner’s Guide to Travel (Part 3)
- Shopping and Frequent Flyer Miles
- How to Quickly Qualify for Free Upgrades, Short Security Lines and Airport Lounge Access
- 6 Fast Ways to Earn Frequent Flyer Miles: The Beginner’s Guide to Travel (Part 2)