Airport lounge

An airport lounge is a hospitality facility operated at many airports. Airport lounges offer, for selected passengers, comforts beyond those afforded in the airport terminal itself, such as more comfortable seating,[1][2] quieter environments, and often better access to customer service representatives. Other accommodations may include private meeting rooms, telephones,[1] wireless internet access[1][2] and other business services, along with provisions to enhance passenger comfort, such as free drinks and snacks.[1][2]

The American Airlines Admirals Club was the first airport lounge when it opened at New York City's La Guardia Airport in 1939. Then AA president C. R. Smith conceived it as a promotional tool.[3]

Types of lounges

Airline lounges

A standard SAS business lounge at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, Finland

Airlines operate airline lounges as a service to premium passengers, usually those flying first and business class, and to very frequent fliers.

Most major carriers have one or more lounges in their hubs and focus cities as well as in the major airports they serve. The major US airlines—American (Admirals Club), Delta (SkyClub) and United (United Club)—operate dozens of lounges, while smaller airlines like Alaska Airlines (Board Room) tend to only operate a handful of lounges in their hub and focus cities.

Airlines outside of North America and Australia generally do not sell lounge membership, instead reserving lounge access exclusively for very frequent flyers and passengers in premium cabins. However, if one has a lounge membership in an airline in one of the three major airline alliances (Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance), they may have access to the lounges of the other members of that alliance. For example, Qantas Club membership provides access to the Admirals Club lounges due to a reciprocal arrangement with American Airlines; a member of the United Club can access lounges of Air Canada and Air New Zealand, as can all Star Alliance members.

It is however not uncommon for non-alliance members to agree individually to allow usage of each other's lounges. Although Alaska Airlines operates just five Board Rooms,[4] its members have access to American Airlines Admirals Club (and vice versa). Board Room members cannot, however, access the lounges of other Oneworld members, such as British Airways or Japan Airlines.

Pay-per-use lounges

Private companies, such as Plaza Premium Lounge and Swissport, also operate generic pay-per-use lounges.[2] In contrast to airline lounges, these facilities are open to any traveller traversing the airport, regardless of class of ticket or airline, subject to payment of a fee.[2] Most only offer day passes, but some also offer yearly and lifetime memberships.[5] Access to the lounges can be booked via online platforms such as LoungeBuddy or, in limited cases, one day pass can be purchased directly at the lounge entrance.

First class airline lounges

Delta Sky Club Lounge at the Narita International Airport Japan

For many airlines, a first class lounge will also be offered to international first class and top-tier passengers. First class lounges are usually more exclusive and will feature extra amenities over business class that are more in line with the European/Asian concept of an airport lounge. In the few cases where an amenity is offered only in the business class lounge, first class passengers are permitted to use the business lounge if they wish. In any case, anyone with first class lounge access almost automatically has access to the business class lounge—such as if a traveling companion is not in first class and cannot be brought into the first class lounge as a guest—though lounge agents may get confused when passengers choose to use a lesser amenity than that to which they are entitled. In most cases, airlines will offer first class passengers a free pass to their standard airport club. Some airlines offer "arrival lounges" for passengers to shower, rest, and eat after a long-haul international flight.[6]

Access to lounges

Entrance to the Dan Lounge in Ben Gurion Airport, Israel. The Dan Lounge is accessible to passengers of various airlines, holders of various membership schemes - and paying passengers.

Access to airport lounges may be obtained in several ways.[7] In Australia, Canada, and the United States, a common method to gain access is by purchasing an annual or a lifetime membership, while in Asia and Europe this is usually impossible. Membership fees are sometimes discounted for elite members of an airline's frequent flyer program, and may often be paid using miles. Certain high-end credit cards associated with an airline, such as the Delta Reserve Credit Card and the United MilagePlus Club card, include membership to the lounges for as long as one owns the card.[8]

Lounge access can also be attained with an airline status card, which is common in Europe. The top frequent-flyer levels often offer access to any of an airline's lounges or partner airlines' lounges, when traveling in any class of travel on any of the partner airlines (usually it is required for the cardholder to be booked on one of the carrier's flights within the next 24 hours). Most airlines also usually offer free lounge access to anyone in their premium cabins (first class or business class) on their days of travel; in North America this is usually only usually only available to passengers on intercontinental or transcontinental flights.

Independent programs such as Priority Pass offer access to selected airline lounges for an annual fee, while Go Simply, Holiday Extras and LoungePass offer prebookable access without need for membership. Premium credit and charge cards[9][10] such as Diners Club International, American Express Platinum and Centurion Card charge cards offer lounge programs for members. Some banks like HSBC and ABN Amro offer lounge access for premium clients.[11] American Express also offers access to lounges belonging to Priority Pass and is expanding its own line of lounges.[12]


Computer work stations at the Asiana business class lounge at Gimhae International Airport in South Korea
Refreshments served at the Delta Sky Club Lounge in the Narita International Airport

Besides offering more comfortable seating, lounges usually provide complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and light snacks[1] such as fruit, cheese, soup, pastries and breakfast items. In the United States and Canada, nearly all domestic lounges offer an open bar for domestic beer, house wine and well liquor, with premium beverages such as imported beer, top-shelf liquor, high end wines and champagne available for purchase.[13][14] In US states where open bars are prohibited by law, non-premium beverages may be sold at a token rate (e.g. $1 per drink).

Other amenities typically include flight information monitors, televisions, newspapers, and magazines,[1] plus business centers with desks, internet workstations, telephones,[1] photocopiers and fax services. Complimentary wireless Internet access for patrons is also common.[2][15]

In Asia, Europe and the Middle East, lounges (especially those for first class passengers) can be quite luxurious, offering an extensive premium open bar, full hot and cold buffet meals,[2] cigar rooms, spa and massage services, fitness centers, private cabanas,[16] nap suites[2] and showers.[2][17]

Some lounges have pool tables as amenities.[13][18]

There are wireless charging stations in lounges, at some airports in London, installed by Nokia.[19]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ed Perkins, (2 May 2013). "Airport lounges 101: Why to use them and how to get in". USA Today.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Airport Lounges". Sleeping in Airports.
  3. "Admirals Club History". American Airlines.
  4. "Alaska Boardrooms Locations and Hours". Alaska Air.
  5. Joe Sharkey (11 March 2013). "Airport Lounge Perks Become a Priority". The New York Times.
  6. "Arrivals lounges". British Airways. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  7. Harriet Baskas (21 July 2011). "More - and cheaper - ways to access airport lounges". USA Today.
  8. "Seven Ways to Score Airport Lounge Access".
  9. Curtis Arnold (23 August 2012). "Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access". Forbes.
  10. Curtis Arnold (16 October 2012). "Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access". Huffington Post.
  11. "How To Get Airport Lounge Access – The Ultimate Guide". 5 July 2016.
  12. "American Express Centurion Lounge network expansion underway". 22 May 2015.
  13. 1 2 Nancy Trejos (10 April 2012). "Airport lounges upgraded with new amenities, better food". USA Today.
  14. Harriet Baskas (14 December 2013). "Best new airport amenities in 2013". USA Today.
  15. CNET Australia staff (31 May 2006). "Virgin Blue touts free Wi-Fi in airport lounge battle". CNET.
  16. "British Airways Concorde Lounge at London Heathrow".
  17. Christine Negroni (19 December 2011). "A Flat Bed, Not on the Plane". The New York Times.
  18. "Turkish Airlines Lounge Instanbul".
  19. Jessica Dolcourt (5 September 2012). "Nokia bringing wireless charging to Virgin, Coffee Bean". CNET.
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