5 Reasons to Skip that Airline Lounge Program Invitation

 In News, Travel

colorfulairportloungeAirport lounge programs are becoming increasingly popular for frequent travelers because they offer a reprieve from the chaotic hustle and bustle of other passengers, vendors and airport staff. All of this can be overwhelming and add to your travel anxiety if you’re in airports often or encounter long layovers. We recently came across an in-depth post on the ins and outs of choosing a travel lounge program on TravelSkills.com that we wanted to share.

Before taking the plunge into buying a pricey airport lounge membership, consider both your frequency of travel and more specifically which airports. Try the smartphone app LoungeBuddy to help with the logistics of domestic and international lounge locations as well as the amenities they offer.

With so many new alternatives to annual memberships, you’ll likely find better ways to gain lounge access depending on your travel needs and budget.

First off, airline lounge memberships are not for the budget-friendly. There is often discount pricing available to elite status members, but if you are among the rest of the traveling hoard, be prepared to pay around $500 for annual membership. To make matters worse, some programs, such as Delta Sky Club, no longer include complimentary guest privileges for their basic membership. So if you’re traveling with a coworker or friend, they can’t join you in the luxury retreat – there is an additional charge!

The next important point is that while U.S. airline lounge programs provide access to their lounges regardless of the carrier you are flying, be aware that you still have to be able to physically access their locations within the terminals. This means that if travel plans change during the year and you are forced to start flying a different airline, you could be stuck at an airport or terminal without the program lounges you need. And don’t expect airlines to refund a portion of your membership fees!

Also, if you are a frequent flyer with mid or top-tier elite status, and your travels are mainly international, there may be no need to purchase an airline lounge membership since you likely have access to a network of worldwide alliance lounges already. The downside is that when traveling within the U.S., lounge access is typically not granted to domestic lounges, except on select transcontinental routes in premium cabins, or if your elite status is provided by an international carrier.

Many credit cards offer lounge access for a comparable annual fee. They may also provide added perks like free checked bags or premiere access. This might sweeten the pot to go that route vs buying your membership directly. And keep in mind that you cannot expense the cost. While business travelers can often expense one-off travel costs such as airline tickets, hotel costs, and meals, one thing that most business travelers can’t expense is the cost of an airline lounge membership or even the annual fee on a credit card. In these cases, it may be wiser to look for alternative (and expensable) options for lounge access, such as one-time passes.

Plenty of airlines and independent lounges offer one-time passes for $25-$75, so if you don’t plan on frequent visits, don’t bother with an airline lounge membership. Third party lounge operators like The Centurion Lounge, The Club, Plaza Premium, and Servisair are growing ever more popular, providing travelers with a premium airport lounge experience regardless of airline or class of service.

smarttravelappWith so many different lounge choices available, along with their unique rule intricacies, determining which lounges you have access to can be challenging. By utilizing a smartphone app like LoungeBuddy, the guesswork is taken out of the equation. Simply enter your elite statuses, lounge memberships, and the credit cards you have, and LoungeBuddy will show you the lounges you can access for free or for a one-time fee. Best of all, the app provides detailed lounge profiles with reviews, photos, and amenities, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s a business center to catch up on work, a refreshing shower, or a well-deserved cocktail.

As airlines further unbundle their services, a topic we’ve covered in a previous post, and the cost of airport amenities continue to rise, lounge access represents one of the best added values travelers can invest in these days. Depending on your travel pattern, budget, and amenity preferences, an à la carte strategy of one-time passes may help you come out ahead in the end.

Share how you get into airport lounges with us on Twitter @SmartCars1 using hashtag #airportlounge. Maybe your ‘insider’ knowledge will be a benefit to another frequent flyer.



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