VIP Airport Lounges: Airport Oasis
by Ed Perkins
For most of us, big airports are among the world's most hostile environments. Crowds, noise, long lines, inadequate seating, and garbled announcements are the norm. Fortunately, even occasional travelers can avail themselves of the road warriors' refuges: VIP airline lounges. Mostly, you'll have to pay, but an oasis of calm can be worth a few bucks.
Most large airlines maintain a chain of VIP lounges at their more important airports. Typically, they feature a quiet environment with comfortable seating; most now offer no-charge drinks and snacks. For entertainment, they provide lots of magazines and newspapers, several TV sets, computers with printers, and WiFi Internet access. If you need help, most are staffed with agents who can arrange seat assignments, upgrades, cope with missed connections, and such -- typically, more quickly than agents on the outside. Most are on the "air side" of security, near the sponsor airline's terminal or gate area, but a few are "land side" as well.
If you're a frequent traveler, you probably already know about the lounge programs of the big three domestic airlines. They pitch annual memberships, which provide unlimited access to lounges in their own system plus those of any lines belonging to their major alliance. The drawback here is a very stiff yearly fee -- typically
Fortunately, you don't have to pony up
For many of you, however, a premium credit card or an independent program may be the more useful approach:
-- Priority Pass (www.prioritypass.com) is the largest independent airport club operation, with more than 600 participating lounges at more than 300 airports worldwide, including many in the U.S. Some are airline-run lounges; others are independent VIP centers. Priority Pass offers three membership options:
-- American Express Platinum Card provides no-charge access for you and up to two guests at "participating" worldwide airport lounges operated by American, Delta, and
-- Premium credit cards from Continental and United (soon to be combined) include admission to the combined lines' lounge clubs.
In addition, many airport-run lounge clubs around the world offer one-time access. Several websites, including UK-based Lounge Pass (www.loungepass.com) and TripExtras (www.tripextras.com/airport-lounges), provide search functions listing airport lounges available on a one-time basis at major airports around the world. Participating lounges are a mix of airline and independent locations. Typical fees are in the range of
Obviously, if you're really keeping costs to a minimum, a lounge club is an extravagance. But for many of you, finding added personal service plus peace, quiet, and comfort is well worth the cost. Try it once for yourself.
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