Airport lounges: worth the splurge?


Like many Australians, Trav has never enjoyed the pleasure of an airport lounge. He wants to, though, and in Travel SOS, he’s asked Lee Mylne which one is worth the splurge.

Q. Trav
I fly quite often but always use the cheapest route/airline, which means I never really have enough frequent flyer points or status credits to get me into lounges or to take advantage of some of the other perks, such as early boarding. I know you can join lounge networks for a fee – are they worth the money and if so, is there a particular one you would recommend?

A. Most airport lounges that we hear about are those belonging to the major airlines, which are available to travellers in Business Class or First Class, or by joining – at some considerable expense – an airline lounge club. But yes, there is a way to enjoy the benefits of a lounge without that – and I reckon it’s worth it, if you are on a long-haul flight or have a lengthy transit time between flights.


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This is also a good way to go if you are not ‘loyal’ to one airline or airline alliance network such as OneWorld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance, or if you are not a ‘frequent enough’ traveller to see the value in paying several hundred dollars up front. So lounge networks allow you to use independent lounges, which offer the same kinds of facilities as the airline lounges. Most of them have free food and drinks – including alcohol – and free wifi, as well as that most important thing during a long-haul flight: a shower!


Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program, giving access to more than 1000 airport lounges in more than 500 cities. It has three different membership plans to suit all types of traveller – Standard (US$99 per year), Standard Plus (US$249) and Prestige (US$399). In Standard and Standard Plus, you pay US$27 per visit and you can take a guest for the same price.  Standard Plus members get 10 free visits before the fee kicks in, and Prestige members always get free entry (but not for their guests).


Another good source of information about lounge access is Lounge Buddy, a website that has a comprehensive listing of lounges and what they offer, along with useful filters and a trip planning tool that shows which credit cards, fare classes, or elite status give you free access (or how much it will cost you).  You can also download the Lounge Buddy app to use while you’re on the go, and make instant bookings at about 100 lounges, in some of the busiest airports in the world.


What you pay will differ depending on the airport. For example, Lounge Buddy lists two Australian airports – Brisbane (Plaza Premium lounge costs $66 for access) and Sydney ($71 for access to the SkyTeam Lounge).


In some of the large and busiest airports – such as London’s Heathrow – you have a choice of lounge that grants access for a fee, ranging from $39 to $131.


Closer to home, a friend of mine recently paid for lounge access while travelling domestically – at Brisbane, she paid $39 and at Cairns $45.


Trav, don’t forget to also check with your credit card company, as some include lounge access as a benefit of being a cardholder. These include some levels of Westpac and ANZ cards and American Express.


Do you have a travel question for Lee? If so, email your Travel SOS to [email protected]

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