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Airport Lounge Access: Compare Traditional, LoungeBuddy, Priority Pass

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Anyone who has ever had a long layover or waited in a crowded gate area with no seating knows the trials of air travel. Luckily, there is a solution to these problems: airport lounges . With Wi-Fi, food, alcohol, ample outlets, seating and pockets of silence, these semi-private spaces are a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of airport terminals.

These days, airport lounges are more accessible than ever, with apps like LoungeBuddy and subscription-based services like Priority Pass democratizing the lounge experience previously reserved for airline elite status holders.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the easiest ways to gain admission to the oasis of calm that is an airline lounge.

The airline-specific lounge

Major airlines allow travelers with premium class tickets to enter their airport lounges. The rules vary depending on the airline and class code of your ticket, so you will always want to confirm availability before travel. Airline-specific lounges can also have reciprocal agreements with their partner airlines. For example, if you have elite status with oneworld, the airline partnership that includes American Airlines, you may have access to a host of partner airline lounges during your travels.

As there are many ways to gain admission to a traditional airline lounge, the cost varies widely. Beyond frequent flyer elite status and premium tickets, which often offer lounge visits as a free perk, most airlines provide the option to buy a daily or annual access pass to their lounges. Some airline-specific credit cards offer lounge access as a perk. Many of these types of cards carry high annual fees.

» Learn more: When is an airport lounge day pass worth the splurge?

If a lounge begins to fill up, travelers with premium class tickets on that airline are less likely to be turned away than those trying to enter with day passes or using subscription-based lounge services.

Often, you can enter airline lounges only if you’re flying that airline or one of its partners. For example, to access the Delta Sky Club with an eligible credit card, you still need to show a Delta boarding pass.

Other airlines have elite lounges designated only for passengers traveling in premium cabins. For example, the United Polaris lounge is only accessible to those traveling in United Polaris business class on international flights. If you’re flying in ordinary United business class, you’ll be relegated to the less swanky United lounges. The only exception is for travelers flying international first or business class on a partner airline. Those passengers can access the United Polaris lounge at their international departure airport only.

LoungeBuddy

LoungeBuddy is primarily app-based. With no annual subscription fee, LoungeBuddy allows you to quickly search nearby airport lounges, assess available amenities and buy a day pass. American Express acquired LoungeBuddy in 2019, and, as of April 1, 2019, only American Express cardholders could use LoungeBuddy’s reservation platform.

LoungeBuddy is an aggregator of available airport lounges, which are priced individually. While access can be as low as $25 a visit, many lounges are in the $40-60 range.

» Learn more: Everything you need to know about AmEx Centurion Lounges

LoungeBuddy provides reviews and detailed entry information for all airport lounges, not just the ones you can book with them. It’s a one-stop shop to see if your flight ticket or status can grant you access to an airline lounge, and it provides the information you need to determine if a lounge you’re considering visiting has the complimentary amenities to make the visit worthwhile for your wallet. Furthermore, the app makes it convenient to reserve spaces in those lounges, provided you use an American Express card for payment.

The visit fee for each lounge varies, making it harder to budget for your lounge visit. Since American Express’ acquisition, you’ll need an AmEx card to book through LoungeBuddy, which makes the platform less accessible.

» Learn more: Loungebuddy versus Priority Pass

Priority Pass

Priority Pass is a subscription-based service that offers lounge access to a network of over 1,200 lounges throughout the world. Along with entry to lounges, the Priority Pass app provides discounts at airport retail shops, restaurants and spas, though the restaurant discount will be going away in August 2019.

» Learn more: 5 Priority Pass lounges that are worth a visit

In the U.S., Priority Pass subscriptions range from $99 to $429 a year. With the $99 standard plan, you will also be paying a per-visit fee of $35. The standard plus plan is $299 annually but includes 10 free visits before charging a $35 per-visit fee.

The prestige plan at $429 has no visit fee, meaning if you’re likely to stop into 14 Priority Pass lounges each year, you will come out ahead with the elite tier. That doesn’t include the perks you can use, such as discounts at retail shops and spas while you’re waiting for your flight.

There are many different ways to get a Priority Pass membership. If you aren’t sure about paying for a subscription, you can get access with select credit cards. With AmEx’s never-ending quest to expand its lounge program, it’s no surprise that Priority Pass is included in its Global Lounge Collection. Still, even for those without an American Express card, Priority Pass is one of the most flexible options for getting airport lounge access.

The U.S.-based lounges are more limited than expected, and the perks at airport restaurants can be disappointing. Some airport restaurants, such as the American Tap Room at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, will charge you a lounge fee in return for money off your bill. So it’s important to review the terms of each lounge.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024 :

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Credit cards with airport lounge access NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards 5 reasons why you should be using airport lounges

Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

1x Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

70,000 Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

1x-10x Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

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How to Access Airport Lounges (Without Flying First or Business Class)

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How to Access Airport Lounges (Without Flying First or Business Class)

Table of Contents

Airport lounges: what’s the big deal, thousands of airport lounges worldwide, final thoughts.

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Airport lounges — what’s so special about them anyway?

For starters, airport lounges are great for removing most of the stress of air travel and making it an all-around more pleasurable experience. Excellent food and cocktails in a comfortably sumptuous atmosphere will do that!

It’s also because most of them include not only snacks and premium drinks, but complimentary Wi-Fi and some exceptionally comfortable spaces that promote relaxation and/or productivity.

First, let’s go through the perks of a basic airline lounge to see if you find the benefits worth having:

  • Personalized assistance with your itinerary
  • Comfortable seating
  • Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Complimentary snacks
  • Complimentary fax or phone services
  • Conference seating
  • Dedicated restrooms
  • Complimentary newspapers and television

In more premium lounges, you will have upgraded amenities:

  • Table service dining or buffet-style food
  • Complimentary premium alcohol selection
  • Showers and private cabanas available
  • Complimentary massages or other spa services
  • Direct gate access through private corridors
  • Private transfer ability
  • Partitioned sections for first or business class passengers

Hot Tip: One of the biggest differences between regular airport lounges and premium or first class lounges is the food selection — it’s often MUCH better in the higher end lounges.

There are thousands of lounges worldwide, and there are a number of ways to get into them without having to fly first class or business class .

While frequent flyers may have a lot more opportunities to get into airport lounges, the casual traveler can enjoy many of these airport sanctuaries too.

To that end, here are some of our best ways for accessing the airport lounge of your choice without having to fly first class.

Premium Credit Cards

There are several premium credit cards with lounge access :

*The information regarding the American Express ®  Green Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

The Platinum Card ® from American Express or Centurion ® Card from American Express give complimentary access to the Amex Centurion Lounge network. It’s worth noting that both of these cards come with large annual fees, so consider if a credit card is how you will get lounge access.

Hot Tip:  Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus offer of up to 125k (or 150k) points with the Amex Platinum. The current public offer is 80,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

If you have a Priority Pass Select Card, you’ll also gain access to additional lounges (though without free guest privileges).

Chase’s premier travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve ® , comes complete with tons of travel benefits for a steep annual fee that also includes access to Priority Pass Select lounges .

And last but not least, a Diners Club card can give you access to hundreds of lounges worldwide for a $95 annual fee. Note that you may have to pay per visit after a certain threshold, which can get expensive depending on the card you have.

Bottom Line: Centurion Lounges are probably the nicest of these premium credit card offerings. They include a premium bar and buffet food, in addition to spa services at select airports. These lounges are typically very crowded due to their popularity.

Priority Pass

This is a third-party membership program that has a large network of more than 600 airport lounges worldwide. It offers 4 membership levels:

  • Standard Plus

Centurion Lounge Exterior

The Standard, Prestige, and Standard Plus passes allow access to all Priority Pass lounges. Each version carries an annual fee that is determined by the number of visits that are included:

  • Standard : $99 per year — $27 per visit
  • Standard Plus : $249 — 10 visits per year
  • Prestige: $399 — unlimited access

Select membership requires having a premium credit card , such as the Amex Platinum Card or Amex Centurion Card. Your Select membership benefits are similar to those of the Prestige level, and all of the Priority Pass levels require payment of $27 for each guest.

Hot Tip: Although 600 lounges is a major network, we recommend checking to ensure that there’s a lounge in the terminal at the airport where you’ll be flying.

Elite Status

Having elite status with a specific airline is a popular way to access lounges for many frequent flyers.

Almost all airlines have several tiers of elite status, and they usually require that you meet or exceed their mid-tier elite status before getting lounge access when you fly their airline/alliance.

For example, American Airlines has 4 public elite statuses that are open to all flyers who meet the requirements:

  • AAdvantage Gold
  • AAdvantage Platinum (Oneworld Sapphire)
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro (Oneworld Emerald)
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum (Oneworld Emerald)

To access both the Admirals Clubs and the Oneworld business class lounges (such as SFO’s Cathay Pacific Lounge), you have to reach AAdvantage Platinum or better. And travelers must be AAdvantage Executive Platinum to use AA Flagship Lounges or Oneworld first class lounges (such as HKG’s Cathay Pacific the Pier First Class Lounge ).

Some U.S. carriers, like United and Delta Air Lines, are now requiring an international itinerary to access lounges even with elite status (in some cases, this excludes Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean). But many of them — including Oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam — will let you bring a guest for no additional charge.

Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney

On Star Alliance carriers , Star Alliance Gold members flying domestically can access any Star Alliance Lounge in the system, including in the continental U.S. (except domestic United Clubs, where you need a membership).

This is a terrific benefit, and it comes in handy at airports like Washington Dulles, where there is a United hub and also a Turkish Airlines lounge. (For you United flyers, you’d have Star Alliance Gold if you’re a United Gold, Platinum, 1K or Global Services.)

On SkyTeam carriers , you can access other SkyTeam lounges across the world, too – but if you’re a domestic Delta flyer, you won’t have access to these lounges within the United States .

SkyTeam uses the SkyTeam Elite Plus designation for those who are allowed access. On Delta, this would be for Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion , and Diamond Medallion members.

When it comes to elite status lounge access, I think there are 2 main favorites:

  • Oneworld for access to first class lounges around the world , such as the famed Qantas First Lounge in Sydney
  • Star Alliance for access to all Star Alliance Lounges in the domestic U.S. (with the exception of United Clubs)

Bottom Line: Oneworld has a great selection of first class lounges, while Star Alliance allows domestic U.S. lounge access.

Purchase an Annual Lounge Membership

This could be an excellent value if you fly a lot. The most popular annual lounge memberships are:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • United Airlines

Your annual membership fee allows access to any of the lounges that are operated by that airline, as well as a number of partner lounges (excluding some first class lounges). This access is regardless of whatever airline you may be flying that day .

That means you can purchase a United Club membership and access their lounge even if you’re flying on Southwest at the time. The majority of these lounge memberships will also allow you to bring your spouse, domestic partner, and/or children with you (or 2 other guests total).

Lounge memberships usually run between $350 and $500 annually, but they could quickly pay for themselves in comparison to day passes (or having to spend thousands on business or first class tickets).

Emirates Lounge Los Angeles Beverages

If you have an Alaska Club membership or a Qantas Club membership, interestingly enough, you’re also allowed to access American Airlines Admirals Clubs across the globe.

(The reciprocal is true for Admirals Club holders who wish to access Alaska Lounges or Qantas Clubs too.)

These lounge memberships can be purchased outright with cash, you can use miles to buy them (usually a bad value!), or you can use the airline’s business program currency to negate the fee.

Typical benefits at a paid U.S. lounge include:

  • Complimentary snacks, like cheese cubes or cookies
  • Personalized assistance with reservations or ticketing
  • Private bathrooms
  • A bar stocked with well drinks and premium liquors

As you enter lounges internationally, you’ll experience much better benefits (even for a paid membership). Qantas Clubs in Australia, for example, include sandwiches you can make, a barista, and fresh salads.

Bottom Line: Everyone can access airline lounges with a paid membership. Sometimes these paid memberships allow you reciprocal access to other airline lounges, too.

Woman Working in Airport Lounge

This is the most accessible method for gaining lounge access: simply pay at the door. Many lounges don’t even require that you be flying their airline!

Most of the lounges that sell day passes belong to U.S.-based airlines like Alaska Airlines ( Alaska Lounge ), American ( Admirals Club ), and United ( United Club ). There are also numerous independent lounges worldwide that sell day passes, including:

  • The Club Lounges
  • No. 1 Lounges
  • Plaza Premium Lounges
  • Servisair Lounges

Day passes generally run between $29 and $79 per entry. However, some airline-branded credit cards give you 2 free lounge passes for every year that you renew your card (like the United SM Explorer Card ).

These passes are a great way to enjoy airport lounges without paying for annual memberships, buying expensive first class tickets, or having to fly thousands of miles annually with a particular airline.

You can also inquire in the individual airline clubs directly regarding access, including the legacy carriers within the United States. Day passes are sold by United and American in an attempt to entice non-members to visit the lounge in advance of their flight, even if they aren’t flying business class.

Hot Tip: Day passes can get expensive, so if you think you’ll be using them often, you may want to consider an annual membership!

LoungeBuddy

LoungeBuddy is an airport lounge booking service that gives you the ability to purchase access to airport lounges anywhere regardless of your class of service, lounge memberships, or elite status. They currently have more than 280 worldwide lounge partners.

Besides seeing the lounges that you can access free of charge, you can also buy access to a lounge from the LoungeBuddy app. And if you add any of your elite statuses, LoungeBuddy will tell you all the lounges you can access, as well as how many complimentary guests you’re allowed to bring in.

Using LoungeBuddy, you can purchase access into lounges you don’t already have access to for a nominal fee (usually as low as $20). Once you buy access, you’ll be given a barcode you scan when you arrive at the lounge.

Alaska Lounge, SEA

Super-Exclusive Lounge Access

There are a few very exclusive lounges where a first class ticket seems to be the only way to gain entry , including the Lufthansa First Class Terminal at the Frankfurt Airport and the British Airways Concorde Room at London’s Heathrow Airport.

However, there are exceptions even then if you’re an invitation-only elite status tier member, like British Airways Executive Club Premier or Lufthansa’s HON Circle.

For the most part, though, the majority of international first class tickets will let you access these lounges with the ability to bring 1 guest (who doesn’t need to be a first class ticket holder).

Etihad Lounge Sydney Bar

Now that you know a few of the best methods for accessing airline lounges when you travel, you can relax more and stress less.

No more waiting endlessly for a watered-down overpriced drink at the crowded airport bar. No more lousy airport food and crowded seating while you wait for your flight.

Instead, you can enjoy peace, tranquility, and everything else you thought only first-class passengers were entitled to!

The information regarding the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. The information regarding the Centurion ® Card from American Express was independently collected by Upgraded Points and was not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.  The information for the Citi Prestige ® Card has been collected independently by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. The information regarding the American Express ® Green Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card ® from American Express, click here . For rates and fees for The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass ® Card, click here .

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest way to get airport lounge access.

The easiest way to get airport lounge access is through one of the many travel rewards cards that offer access to various lounge program, like Priority Pass .

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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The Best Ways to Gain Airport Lounge Access

The Best Ways to Gain Airport Lounge Access

There’s no denying it: Being in an airport terminal is draining. The crowds, the often subpar food options, and the lack of adequate seating make for a tedious and uncomfortable experience.

But fortunately, most airports have lounges, where travelers can ease these woes with complimentary craft cocktails, comfy armchairs, and buffets of gourmet food. In some of the more modern spaces, there are even tranquility areas for meditating or napping, cycling and yoga rooms, and shower suites for freshening up.

There are more ways than ever to access these sanctuaries amid the airport bedlam, but each tactic is becoming more expensive and competitive as airlines and credit card companies try to solve overcrowding issues across their lounge networks.

The most infamous example is probably the recent changes Delta made to lounge access rules as part of a larger redesign of its loyalty program. To the chagrin of fliers, the airline is capping the annual number of visits credit cardholders can have to its Sky Clubs in 2025. (It’s not clear yet how many visits each credit cardholder will be allotted per year—Delta is tweaking the numbers after severe backlash from customers.) Additionally, any passenger flying in basic economy won’t be allowed in the lounges beginning in 2024.

Suffice it to say that the lounge game is getting more cutthroat. But even with ever-growing restrictions, you should be able to find a way to score a coveted spot in one of these peaceful havens—as long as you plan ahead. Here are some useful strategies for accessing airport lounges around the world, no matter where you’re flying next.

  • Fly in a premium cabin

Premium credit cards

  • Priority Pass memberships
  • Annual passes

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Fly in premium cabins

The most obvious way to gain entry into an airline lounge is to buy a ticket in a premium cabin. Some airlines reserve spaces aside for business class or first class passengers only (and occasionally travelers in the upper echelons of their loyalty schemes), ensuring these lounges still feel exclusive and not overcrowded.

United Polaris lounges, for instance, only allow fliers with tickets in its long-haul business class cabin to enter the rarefied spaces, which are at six US airports and are some of the slickest lounges around. Other ultra-exclusive lounges include British Airways’ Concorde Room, Air France’s La Premiere, Cathay Pacific’s The Pier, which all limit access to first-class passengers or the very top-tier status members.

But you don’t necessarily need to splash out on the most expensive seats to enjoy a lounge: A growing number of airlines are offering access to passengers in their premium economy cabins . The perk helps further distinguish this popular fare class from the regular economy class. Scandinavian Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines , and LATAM all bestow complimentary lounge access to premium economy passengers across their networks of lounges. Be sure to check with your airline that you’ll have lounge access on your route before you book a premium economy ticket, as some carriers limit premium economy passengers to specific locations.

Holding the right travel credit card is a savvy way of ensuring you’ll have entry to a wide scope of airport lounges. Lounge access is now a standard—and beloved—perk on most premium reward cards, so much so that a growing number of credit card companies are launching their own concepts to entice cardmembers.

One of the best credit card options to secure airport lounge access is The Platinum Card from American Express (which carries a $695 annual fee, see rates and fee details ). This card will grant you complimentary access to the coveted Centurion Lounges, which are something of a gold standard. These high-end spaces offer travelers a glamorous respite from chaotic terminals, with many offering amenities like shower suites, spas, and tranquility areas for relaxing or napping.

There are currently 13 of these swanky lounges in the US and 14 locations in airports abroad, though the network is rapidly expanding, with new Centurions slated to open in busy hubs like Atlanta and Washington, DC (DCA), in coming months. AmEx also recently announced that a Centurion location will be opening in New Jersey’s Newark Airport Terminal A in 2026, complete with a jazz-era cocktail bar and a piano lounge with live music.

Centurion loyalists love the spaces for their focus on an upscale atmosphere and delectable food and craft cocktails that are inspired by the local cuisine. In fact, there are so many fans of the lounges that overcrowding has been a problem. To rectify the issue, AmEx tightened up the guest policy in Centurion lounges back in February 2023: Guests are now charged $50 per visit (kids two and under are $30, with proof of age); previously, cardholders were allowed to bring in two friends or family members for free. The only way to avoid those guest fees is to spend at least $75,000 on your card annually.

Platinum cardholders also have access to Delta Sky Clubs and thousands of other airport lounges through Priority Pass Select (enrollment required, terms apply). Additionally, the Platinum card comes with a raft of generous travel credits, including a $200 Uber credit (enrollment required, terms apply) and TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership credit.

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The bar inside London Heathrow's Centurion Lounge.

Another solid credit card option for lounge access is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chase has been launching its own network of lounges called Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club. So far, two of the spaces have debuted in Hong Kong and Boston. Similar to Centurions’ spaces, Chase’s lounges feature perks like specialty cocktail bars, local cuisine like dim sum, and “relaxation areas” for lounging. Six more locations are set to open soon at the Las Vegas airport, New York-LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, and Washington-Dulles.

Aside from Sapphire Reserve cardholders, travelers with the J.P. Morgan Reserve card and The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card can also access the lounges. Priority Pass members get one free visit per year. Travelers with the Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve cards can bring up to two guests for free, while those with the Ritz-Carlton Credit Card are allowed unlimited complimentary guests. No matter which card you have, make sure to activate your card’s complimentary Priority Pass membership in order to access the lounges.

Capital One has also been busy rolling out its own lounge products across airports. Starting in 2021, the company launched Capital One Lounge network, debuting the first location at Dallas Fort Worth. Most recently, a new location opened at Washington Dulles International Airport in September 2023. (A new Capital One Lounge at Denver International Airport is expected to open soon, but no date is available as of yet.)

Capital One says it designed the spaces to be a “modern airport oasis,” featuring luxe amenities like cycling and yoga rooms, shower suites, and a relaxation room. On the culinary side of things, there’s a focus on health-conscious cuisine that can be enjoyed on-site or taken to-go.

Access to the sleek spaces is complimentary for Capital One Venture X Rewards cardholders and up to two guests; Venture Rewards and Spark Miles for Business cardholders, meanwhile, receive a range of special entry offers.

Aside from its main lounge product, Capital One is also launching an additional culinary-focused concept called Capital One Landing. Through a partnership with celebrity chef José Andrés , the lounges will offer “top-notch food for travelers,” according to a release. Locations of the gourmet spaces are planned for LaGuardia’s Terminal B and Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport. Specific lounge access details and entry fees will be released closer to the opening dates (which are also not yet released); however, travelers with certain Capital One cards, like the Venture Card , will be eligible for special entry rates.

And don’t forget about airline credit cards, too. They’re another sure way to score a spot in some exclusive lounges. The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card , which has an annual fee of $550 per year ( see rates and fees ), has similar benefits to the Platinum card, plus complimentary access to Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (though it doesn’t offer Priority Pass membership). However, keep in mind the changes to lounge access Delta has been making recently; more on that below.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which comes with a $595 annual fee, bestows complimentary American Airlines Admirals Club access to the cardholder, their immediate family, or two guests.

Several other premium credit cards, including the Citi Prestige and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express cards (both have an annual fee: $495 and $650, respectively), come with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

The Best Ways to Gain Airport Lounge Access

Buy a Priority Pass membership

If a premium travel card isn’t an option, consider buying a lounge membership directly with Priority Pass , which opens the door to more than 1,400 airport lounges worldwide that you can access through Priority Pass's mobile app. In the US, most participating lounges are independently operated. A handful of top business class airline lounges participate at select airports. Airlines with Priority Pass–accessible lounges in US airports include Korean Air, Air France, Lufthansa , Turkish Airlines, and British Airways.

There are three tiers of membership, and at the entry level (Priority Pass Standard) you’ll pay a $99 annual membership and then $35 per lounge visit (members can also bring a guest for $35). If you visit 10 or more lounges per year, then your sweet spot is Priority Pass Standard Plus, which has a $329 annual membership fee that includes 10 free lounge visits—translating to about $33 a pop. Beyond 10 visits, you pay $35 for each visit and $35 per guest, too. The top tier is Priority Pass Prestige, with a $469 annual fee that gets you unlimited lounge visits per year (but you’ll need to pay $35 for guest passes). This becomes a better deal than Standard Plus when you hit 14 or more lounge visits in one year.

One caveat: When lounges get very crowded, Priority Pass members can be turned away—which is a more common occurrence these days.

If you don’t have the right credit card or a Priority Pass and you’re not flying in a premium cabin, you may still be able to buy your way into a nice lounge. Nearly every large airport has spaces offering day passes that any traveler can purchase for a single visit.

Escape Lounges are a good example: They have a network of 23 lounges across the US and UK and offer day passes that cost $40 when booked 24 hours in advance, or $45 at the door. Entry fees cover food selections like Thai shrimp salad or braised short ribs with polenta, plus local craft brews, wine, and handcrafted cocktails. Expect plenty of seating and free Wi-Fi, too. AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders also get free entry to Escape Lounges (plus two guests), while AmEx Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card members get free access.

Another reliable option is Minute Suites , which offers small private rooms ideal for napping or working. Individual rooms are rented in 15-minute increments (with a one-hour minimum) and include a daybed, workstation, and television—in some locations, you can pay extra for a shower. Prices start at $48 for the first hour.

Some airlines also offer the opportunity to purchase day passes to some of their clubs, depending on capacity. Both United Club and Alaska Lounge accept walk-ins for day passes, as does American Airlines' Admirals Club. You must be flying with each respective airline or a carrier in their alliance—like Oneworld or Star Alliance—to buy access to their lounges. Prices generally range from $50 to $80. Many airlines are limiting the sale of lounge day passes due to overcrowding: Alaska no longer offers them at its Seattle or Anchorage hubs, and Delta discontinued the ability to purchase general day passes at its Sky Clubs several years ago. If you try to show up and buy one at the door, you could be denied if the space is filling up. Purchasing a day pass in advance of travel, rather than at the door, is highly recommended. That way your spot is secure when you land. Having that guarantee in the current travel landscape, where overcrowding is still a problem in many lounges, will provide added peace of mind when you show up at the airport.

Apps like LoungeBuddy sell advance day passes to lounges of all stripes—and also help to track whether you're eligible for entry based on factors like your airline or travel credit cards in your wallet. (In fact, a credit card is now one requirement to use LoungeBuddy's service: Since it was sold to American Express in 2019, you must be an AmEx cardholder to book through the site.)

Annual airline lounge passes

Let’s say you fly regularly on short-haul flights that don’t accrue a ton of miles. Or maybe you’ve racked up a lot of miles on Southwest or JetBlue, airlines that don’t have their own lounges. A branded airline pass provides access to the lounges of that carrier and its partners, regardless of which airline you’re flying on any given day. So you could, for instance, fly JetBlue but use American’s Admirals Club.

Be aware that airlines are continually making these memberships more expensive as they try to clamp down on the rampant overcrowding problems across most airport lounges. Average current rates range from $500 to $850 per year for an individual membership, depending on the airline and whether you have elite status. (The higher your status, the cheaper the membership becomes—Delta limits the ability to purchase memberships to Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion elite status fliers.)

Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, and United all offer options to buy annual lounge memberships.

Whether or not such membership programs end up being a deal depends on your personal circumstances and how much you fly—you’ll have to crunch the numbers and assess accordingly. As an example, an annual pass with unlimited access to Alaska lounges (as well as partner airlines) costs $500. Since a day pass costs $60, you break even when you visit an Alaska lounge or partner lounge at least eight times per year.

See rates and fees for the American Express cards listed: Delta SkyMiles Reserve ; the Platinum Card ; the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express

This story has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

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A comprehensive guide to airport lounges: access, amenities & etiquette.

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  • Airport lounges can be accessed through airlines based on class/status or third-party memberships.
  • Lounge access methods include premium ticket purchases, elite status, US-based airline lounge memberships, and third-party lounge membership programs.
  • Amenities in lounges can range from quiet spaces to premium food, drinks, showers, and spa services.

Airport lounges provide an alternative for those who would rather not wait for their next flight among a crowd or who would like a little pampering during a long connection. They can provide a bit of peace and quiet, an easy meal, or an even more luxurious experience like a massage, in the midst of an otherwise chaotic travel day.

For those who have not had the opportunity to utilize airport lounges, the concept may seem a bit foreign, though. Who can get in, and how? What is actually behind those fancy-looking doors? What should a person do once they are there? Lounges these days are open to many more people than in the past - and access is certainly not just for expensive paid premium cabin tickets.

Access to lounges through airlines

There are several different types of airport lounges and several different ways to access them. Broadly speaking, lounges can be categorized into two categories: lounges offered by airlines based on travel class or status and lounges managed by third-party companies with access independent of the airline you are flying.

Airline lounges are the most obvious type - and the ones that have been around the longest. Access is not as straightforward as you might think - it is not just for business and first class passengers. Ways to access the lounge include:

  • Paid business or first class ticket . This is the traditional and simplest way to get into a lounge. Most airlines outside North America include lounge access with all paid business or first class tickets. There are exceptions, however. Most US airlines do not offer lounge access on domestic or regional First tickets. Also, more and more airlines are starting to sell discount or basic business class fares that exclude lounge access (Qatar Airways and Finnair are just two examples of this).
  • Access lounges based on elite status. Lounge access is a valuable benefit of mid or top tier status with most airline loyalty programs. Members with the right status level will get access to the lounge regardless of the cabin flown. With alliance membership, this benefit will extend to all airlines within the alliance. Again, there are exceptions here for major US-based loyalty programs (for own flights).

For more on the alliance-wide status benefits on offer, see our guides to one world , SkyTeam , and Star Alliance .

  • Join the lounge program (mainly in the US) . US-based airlines tend to operate domestic and regional lounges differently. Instead of granting access based on cabin or elite status, they offer paid lounge membership programs. For example, with American Airlines, an annual AAdmirals Club membership costs $700 to $850, depending on the membership type. Premium co-branded airline credit cards may help here as well.

How To Get Into An American Airlines Admirals Club In 2024

There are seven ways to get an Admirals Club membership in 2024 and the perks are worth the expenses for frequent flyers.

  • Pay for lounge access. The final option is to simply pay for access. This is usually an option with US airlines and their lounge program, but less common in other countries. Access to an AAdmirals Club lounge, for example, currently costs $79 (or you can pay with 7,900 AAdvantage miles).

Love learning about points and miles? Read more of our loyalty news and guides here .

Access to third-party lounges

Look around any large airport, and you will quickly notice that airline-branded lounges are not the only option. In some airports, there is a wide choice of additional lounges, which you access regardless of the airline or cabin you are flying. Access to these lounges is either based on a membership system or pay-as-you-go use.

  • Pay per entry. The simplest way to access lounges is to pay per entry. This is possible in most airports these days, with several choices in major airports. As the popularity of lounges has increased, many have added advance reservations and premium payments for better services or seating areas.
  • Lounge pass/membership. If you visit lounges more frequently, a paid membership would make sense. Several programs offer this - including Priority Pass , Lounge, Lounge Pass, and DragonPass. These have several options for multiple or unlimited visits. Priority Pass, for example, costs up to $459 for annual unlimited use.

Worldwide Lounge Access: Everything You Need To Know About Priority Pass

What is this program all about?

  • Access as a credit card benefit. High-end credit cards, such as the American Express Platinum card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, often offer lounge access as a perk. The American Express Platinum card , for example, offers an unlimited Priority Pass membership plus access to additional lounges, including Plaza Premium lounges and American Express-operated Centurion lounges.

Lounge amenities on offer

What travelers can expect to find in a lounge can vary widely. At the most basic level, an airport lounge will generally provide a space to sit that is more spacious and quiet than the gate in the terminal. Be sure to still research lounges ahead of time to get an idea of how crowded they might be, as on busy travel days, some can still get quite crowded.

Most lounges offer some form of food, ranging from a basic selection of snacks to multi-course meal options. These often come in the form of a buffet, although some higher-end lounges offer sit-down food service provided by a waitstaff. Many lounges also offer a premium drink selection that may either be a cash bar, an honor bar, or, in premium lounges, an open bar.

Many lounges have their own separate bathrooms, and some even provide showers and places to change, which may be particularly appealing to those who are connecting after an especially long flight. Others offer desks, cubicles, or conference rooms to get work done in, play areas for kids, and even spa services and massages in some high-end lounges.

Many of our trip reports contain lounge details and reviews - click here to explore!

First class airline lounges are where it can get really luxurious. The top airlines have some amazing lounges at their hubs, accessible to first class tickets holders or sometimes top-tier elite members. Some examples include:

  • Cathay Pacific's first class lounges in Hong Kong. There are two lounges, with facilities including a full-length bar, waiter-service restaurant, message service, and cabanas with full baths. The gallery below has some pictures of these lounges.
  • British Airways offers the exclusive Concorde Room at Heathrow, open to ticketed first class passengers.
  • Qatar Airways' Al Safwa First Lounge in Doha.

Lounge Etiquette

Since airport lounges can include such a wide range of offerings and because passengers often have the ability to choose between multiple lounges at any given airport, it is important to do a little homework ahead of time to decide which one to go to. Doing this will help avoid bouncing around between lounge desks, and will ensure the chosen lounge will actually meet expectations.

Also, be aware that lounge access granted by a business class or first class ticket will usually only be good before boarding the last flight of the trip. Although there is such a thing as an arrival lounge, most lounges will not grant access before leaving the airport after the last leg of a trip.

After entering a lounge, it is a good idea to walk around the space. Some lounges can be relatively large and not every amenity may be right up front, nor may the best place to sit be right at the entrance. Take a moment to take it all in.

Once seated and comfortable, avoid spending any unnecessary time talking on the phone, and always listen to any form of audio using headphones or earbuds. Be respectful of others’ shared desire for a calm and peaceful environment.

5 Airport Lounges Worth Visiting In 2024

We explore some of the fanciest airport lounges.

Many lounges offer free food, and some may provide free alcoholic drinks as well. While free drinks are certainly a nice benefit, only indulge to a reasonable point. Don’t be the guest who goes overboard and gets kicked out of the lounge or, even worse, denied entry on their next flight.

If enjoyed in a responsible and respectful way, airport lounge access can be a game changer for making long trips much more enjoyable and comfortable.

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What do you look for in a lounge? Which lounges have you found to have the best amenities? Let us know in the comments section below.

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How to Get Airport Lounge Access: The Best Memberships to Sign Up For

Here are the best memberships—and credit cards—that will get you into airport lounges around the world..

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The Plaza Premium Lounge at Orlando International Airport decorated with artwork and photography on loan from the Orlando Museum of Art

To enter the Plaza Premium Lounge at Orlando International Airport, you’ll need a Priority Pass membership.

Courtesy of Plaza Premium Group

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Airports can be stressful to navigate, especially the busiest ones . The best way to find calm within the chaos—and generally enhance your preflight experience—is to seek refuge in an airport lounge. In addition to personal space, power outlets, and free Wi-Fi, airport lounges may offer amenities like full-service cocktail bars, gourmet food spreads, showers, micro-spas, design-forward relaxation areas, and dedicated work zones.

Once upon a time, airport lounge access was exclusive to those holding business- or first-class tickets. But times have changed. Nowadays, entry is granted by simply having the right credit card or buying your way in. To make your next preflight experience or layover an enjoyable one, here are the best airport lounge memberships and passes out there—and how to get them.

Best general airport lounge membership: Priority Pass

As the world’s largest independent airport lounge program, Priority Pass offers access to more than 1,400 lounges in more than 600 cities across 148 countries, making it the most worthwhile lounge membership. (The network’s app makes it easy to search for lounges by global airport code and terminals.)

Priority Pass does not actually own and operate airport lounges but rather consolidates them through a single membership program. Making things a bit complicated, about 100 of the Priority Pass lounges are part of another cohort called Plaza Premium Group (PPG) . PPG operates its own network of lounges plus numerous airline-branded lounges. PPG’s proprietary lounges are bundled into Priority Pass membership, but these lounges can also be accessed by purchasing day passes for those who don’t have a Priority Pass membership.

There are two main ways to become a member of Priority Pass . The first is buying a membership outright. There are three levels of membership—Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige—all of which have an annual membership fee and charge for guests.

The second—and more optimal—way of obtaining a Priority Pass membership is getting complimentary membership through a credit card. This second avenue is far more cost-effective. Why? The cost of Prestige membership is in the ballpark of the annual fee commanded by most premium credit cards (while credit card membership also allows two guests free of charge versus $35 apiece). In fact, many high-fee travel credit cards offer airport lounge access as a primary perk of being a cardholder. Lounge access varies by card, but at a minimum, most top-tier travel credit cards provide a form of Priority Pass Select membership that allows unlimited entry to the more than 1,400 airport lounges in the Priority Pass network globally. Entrance is granted on the flight date, regardless of airline or class flown, with up to two guests complimentary.

The credit cards include:

  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card ($395 annual fee)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® ($550 annual fee)
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee—see rates and fees )

These three cards also grant access to their own proprietary branded lounges in addition to those in the Priority Pass network. So getting Priority Pass through one of these cards yields far greater worth than buying membership outright.

Best credit card lounge memberships

As previously mentioned, some credit cards include memberships to their own snazzy proprietary airport lounges like the ones Capital One, Chase, and American Express have invested heavily in over the past few years. These credit card–branded lounges are some of the world’s best and put a whole lot of glamour back into the airport experience—especially at domestic terminals.

Beyond Priority Pass and Plaza Premium lounges, those with the Platinum Card from American Express can enter Amex-branded Centurion Lounges free of charge as well as Amex-branded Escape Lounges, Delta Sky Club airline lounges, AirSpace lounges, and Lufthansa lounges. Holders of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card have access to Capital One’s growing network of amenity-rich branded lounges, which currently include outposts in Dallas , Denver , and Washington Dulles . Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get unlimited entry to Chase’s lounges and terraces at airports in Austin, Boston , and Hong Kong.

Best airline lounge memberships

Legacy airlines like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have their own lounge networks , which can be accessed through annual memberships. While pricing can vary based on elite status or being an active cardholder of a cobranded credit card, here are the starting annual membership fees for non-elite fliers:

  • Alaska Airlines Alaska Lounge Membership: $650
  • American Airlines Admirals Club Membership: $850
  • Delta Sky Club Membership: $695
  • United Airlines United Club Membership: $650

Note that while Alaska lounges allow members to enter when flying same-day ticketed air travel on any airline, the other legacy carriers require same-day ticketed air travel on their metal or their partner airlines.

It’s important to point out that the annual fees for lounge membership with American, United, and Delta are higher than the annual fees of their respective premium credit cards, all of which come with lounge membership. So, for frequent fliers of these three airlines considering a lounge membership, it’s worth getting a premium airline-specific credit card with lounge benefits. The United Club℠ Infinite Card ($525 annual fee), for example, comes with United Club membership while the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® ($595 annual fee) comes with access to Admirals Club lounges, and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($650 annual fee—see rates and fees ) provides entry to Delta Sky Clubs. (Starting February 1, 2025, Reserve cardholders will receive 15 visits per year to the Delta Sky Club.) By getting lounge membership through a credit card versus purchasing it outright, you’ll save $125 with United, $145 with Delta, and $255 with American.

Best ways to get a day pass to an airport lounge

It’s possible to get airport lounge access by buying a day pass to select lounges within the Priority Pass network, all Plaza Premium lounges, and some airline-branded lounges.

One great way to find out which lounges offer day passes is by downloading the LoungeBuddy app or visiting the website. The app and website contain helpful information about almost every lounge worldwide and indicate which can be accessed for one-time use and for how much. At press time, due to overcrowding, far fewer lounges are available for day passes than in the past.

Type Boston Logan (BOS), for example, on LoungeBuddy, and the page will populate with details on each of the airport’s 13 lounges, including 2 that can be booked through LoungeBuddy: the Lufthansa Lounge in Terminal E for $49 per person and the Lounge BOS in Terminal 3 for $50 per person. Before booking, be sure to note your departure terminal and ensure that you can physically access the lounge via your terminal’s designated security checkpoints.

Although LoungeBuddy is a handy tool, it does not sell day passes to legacy airline lounges. Those seeking entrance to a United Club for one-time use can do so for $59 through the United app. American also sells day passes to its Admirals Club through its website for $79. Alaska Lounge day passes can be purchased directly at its Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York–JFK lounges for $60 per person. Delta does not sell day passes.

It’s also possible in select cases to get day passes as part of the perks package of low-fee credit cards. For example, the $95 per year Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card grants two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through the Partner Lounge Network. Meanwhile, the United℠ Explorer Card (no intro annual fee the first year, then it’s $95) gives cardholders two, one-time passes to United Clubs each year.

Get airport lounge access by flying long-haul business or first class

Sometimes buying a membership or day pass isn’t necessary. In fact, a boarding pass for a long-haul international flight in business or first class can still be the ticket to some of the world’s best airport lounges—ones that aren’t accessible to credit card holders or Priority Pass members. For example, the only way into Air France’s La Première lounge is with a first-class ticket on Air France.

One of our favorite lounges on the planet, Qatar Airways’ spacious Al Mourjan Business Lounge at Doha Airport, is included for passengers flying Qatar Airways First Class and Business Class (Elite, Comfort & Classic) and oneworld First Class and Business Class passengers. However, those flying Business Class (Lite) and economy class on Qatar Airways can also prepurchase lounge entry (at press time the price fluctuates around $100).

However, keep in mind that in some cases, a business- or first-class ticket no longer guarantees lounge access. This rings true for domestic tickets within the United States as well as short-haul international flights from the United States to the likes of the Caribbean and Central America.

Get lounge access by achieving top elite status and flying internationally

In general, achieving top elite status no longer equates to complimentary airport lounge access. There are a few outliers, however. For example, those with Delta Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion Status are considered SkyTeam Elite Plus and have access to SkyTeam lounges for international flights, even on economy tickets. United Airlines’ MileagePlus Gold, Platinum, and 1K members (all of whom qualify for Star Alliance Gold Status) can enter United lounges with a same-day international United boarding pass, regardless of class flown, as well as Star Alliance partner lounges when flying Star Alliance member airlines outside the United States. These exceptions are nice, but the bottom line here is that if you’re chasing elite status in hopes of lounge entry, you’ll be disappointed in many circumstances.

It’s possible to get access to top airport lounges through either membership or day passes obtained through credit cards, lounge apps, or elite status. But the best—and most cost-effective—airport lounge memberships are obtained through the right credit card.

This article was originally published in 2022; it was updated on November 29, 2023, with current information.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

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Airport Lounge Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Becca

Updated on April 26th, 2024

The interior of a restaurant with tables and chairs.

Is lounge access worth it? Discover all the kinds of airport lounges, the best ways to get into airport lounges and the amenities and benefits of lounge access during travel.

This article may contain affiliate links. We earn a small commissions when you purchase via those links — and it's free for you. It's only us (Becca & Dan) working on this website, so we value your support! Read our privacy policy and learn more about us .

Airport Lounge Guide

  • Are there different types of airport lounges?
  • How to get into an airport lounge
  • How long can you stay in an airline lounge?
  • What to wear to an airport lounge
  • Do airport lounges have food?
  • How to get into airline lounges for free

Airport lounges in the US vs international lounges

  • What kind of amenities do airline lounges have?
  • Is it worth paying for a lounge?

Airport lounges are something Dan and I look forward to. If we know we have a connecting flight in a new airport, we’ll go on a hunt to find out which lounges are available for hanging out in while we wait.

We also get excited about going back to airport lounges we really like, and trying multiple airport lounges in the same airport.

Are airport lounges worth it? I think so, personally. To see if airport lounges might be for you, read on to see my experience on how I learned about lounges so that you can enjoy one soon.

Inside of an airport lounge

Are there different types of airport lounges?

Yes, airport lounges came in many forms. Some airport lounges exude luxury (most are outside the US) and some are basic.

Throughout our travels around the world, we’ve seen airport lounges that were ones we hardly wanted to leave, to ones in which we counted the minutes til our flight (still better than sitting in uncomfortable seats at the gate, though).

With our Priority Pass membership , we’ve been to airport lounges with unlimited buffet meals and massages, to “lounges” that were really just simple private rooms with a TV, chair, snacks for purchase and some outlets.

A person with a Priority Pass member card.

Next, there are some airport lounges owned by airlines. For example, we have been to the United Lounge in Newark Airport, the Alaskan Airlines lounge in LAX and the Avianca lounges in Medellin and Bogota, Colombia .

A group of people sitting at tables in an airport.

Then, some lounges are owned by private companies. Others might be owned by banks, or credit card companies, like the Capital One lounges that are popping up across the US. Lastly, some lounges may in fact be spas, or private rooms for hire like the Minute Suites Express at LGA in NYC.

A circular ceiling in the middle of the room.

How to get into an airport lounge

There are a few ways to get into an airport lounge. For starters, it depends on the type of lounge, and we recommend being familiar with what the lounge offers in terms of amenities.

Can you do a walk-in?

Yes, you can, for the most part; however, it will depend on if the lounge accepts passengers who don’t fall into the selected type of member. For example, United lounges may only accept passengers flying on United flights, or partner airlines from the Star Alliance group of airlines.

Most airport lounges have a check-in desk, and this is where personnel will check your boarding pass, membership type (whether Priority Pass , credit card membership or airline status card).

Less “elite” lounges allow walk-ins, so it’s worth checking in advance online, if you plan to rely on having lounge access during a layover or before a flight, if you need a nap, shower, WiFi or dedicated meeting space.

A group of people sitting at a table in an airport.

What are the fees like for walk-ins?

Fees for walk-in access to airport lounges may be anywhere between $25 to $75, depending on the type of lounge, location, country you’re in and the level of amenities the lounge has.

For us, with a third party membership to international airport lounge access like Priority Pass , a simple one-year fee covers access to all lounges in the Priority Pass network. We’ve never paid a fee for a walk-in. We use lounge networks instead, to save money while traveling .

A group of people sitting at tables in an airport.

How long can you stay in an airline lounge?

This is a great question because some lounges have time limits, whereas others do not keep tabs on how long you’re staying.

We typically use the Priority Pass website to look at the different stipulations for various lounges. Some may list a time limit per passenger of two hours, whereas some may not list any sort of time limit.

We’ve been in lounges when a flight was delayed, sometimes one, or two hours, and luckily, we’ve been able to hang around and keep eating, resting and enjoying WiFi and power outlets for charging our phones and electronics.

The interior of a restaurant with tables and chairs.

We’ve never been kicked out of an airport lounge (or, not yet). Luckily, most either do flight announcements (the one in Cancun does this) or will have a flight board showing departure times and updates.

Two monitors showing flight information on a wall.

What to wear to an airport lounge

I think that the days of dressing up for travel are somewhat gone (unless you are on a strict business trip ). Because of this, I personally love traveling in my favorite athleisure, which typically consists of any of my favorite travel pants for women , my Aviator merino wool hoodie , comfortable Birkenstock sandals and any travel T-shirt .

So, this is what I wind up wearing when I head into an airport lounge, and Dan is right alongside me in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt.

Before I ever stepped foot in an airline lounge, I presumed they must be fancy places where everyone is in a suit or a blazer, sipping on wine or whiskey, and looking at laptops holding business meetings.

In reality, airport lounges are a place for every type of traveler. I’ve gone to airport lounges in my pajamas on overnight layovers , and I’ve certainly showed up with my full set of backpacker gear, like my handy and beat-up Quechua backpack .

A backpack with a lot of different flags on it.

In some instances, you may feel underdressed, especially if you’re an airport lounge that caters to business travelers and you are there on a weekday. On weekends though, when business travel kind of halts, you’ll see families, young travelers, solo travelers, couples and elderly folks.

Person standing in front of barrels

Do airport lounges have food?

Yes, about 98% of the time. We’ve had some absolutely excellent food in airport lounges, like in Hong Kong , Guatemala City and more.

Buffet style

The airport lounges that stands out most in my mind are the various lounges at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). If you’ve ever flown through or around Asia, maybe you’ve even wound up there!

Thanks to our Priority Pass membership , we were able to research our lounge options ahead of time, according to our airline and terminal, and wound up being able to try two different lounges in HKG during our trip to Hong Kong and Sri Lanka .

The food at the lounges in Hong Kong Airport is top notch and should not be missed. Buffet-style is a common way to serve food at most lounges because it lowers costs, but they are not all like that!

Here’s what the food looks like at the United Lounge at Newark International Airport.

A buffet with a lot of food on it.

Here’s what it looks like at the United Lounge in Boston Logan:

A table with a lot of food on it.

Set meals from a menu

In Mexico City , Cancun and Guatemala City, most memorably, we received a menu upon arriving and were able to order a small (or large) meal, brought out by waitstaff to our seat in a few minutes.

Yes, this type of food is included in the flat fee cost of entering the lounge! And it’s pretty incredible.

A plate of chicken salad with chips and drinks on a table.

Some lounges don’t have food

Some lounges do not have food. The Minute Suites Express at LaGuardia Airport in NYC is one of these, and I tried it for the first time a few months ago. Upon entering with my Priority Pass card in my Apple Wallet, the staff at the desk reminded me that there was no food, and all the lounge consisted of was a private room with a TV, desk and chair.

For my purposes, that was fine! I just needed some private space to rest and chill out, because it was 6:45 am!

How to get into airline lounges for free

“Free” is a tricky word, but we can tell you how to get into airport lounges for “almost free.”

Perks from credit cards for lounges

Over the years, we’ve learned more and more about perks from travel credit cards for airport lounge access.

United Mileage Plus

Right now, we have the United Mileage Plus credit card , so that gives each of us two United lounge passes to use within two years.

If we’re traveling together (and most of the time we do), we’ll get to use one of our two lounge passes together, on the same day.

The only time these don’t work is if a lounge is so packed full of people that they put a limit or a stop on people who want to use the one-time lounge passes. In those cases, you either have to wait, or you can’t go to the lounge.

Capital One Venture X

With our Capital One Venture X credit card, we can get access into a Capital One airport lounge (there are a few in the US as of now and we have yet to try one). Our friends Joel and Matt at How to Money recommend this card as well, in their guide to the best travel credit cards , saying it gets you into Capital One airport lounges with 2 guests, too.

Remember that cards like these are ideal if you want to get into travel hacking with credit cards .

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Lastly, with our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards, one of the best member benefit perks is the complimentary enrollment into the Priority Pass program .

With the Priority Pass membership as a “free” benefit of the credit card perks, this is where our enjoyment of lounges began. (Note: many credit cards offering Priority Pass as a benefit will have an annual fee, like $550 for the year as with Chase Sapphire Reserve).

American Express & Centurion Network

The Centurion Network is a lounge network of more than 40 lounge partners worldwide for eligible American Express card members. The network is complimentary access for the AmEx global Platinum Card, Delta Skymiles Reserve Card and Centurion Members.

The lounges in this network are exclusive to the holders of these AmEx credit cards. It’s the most luxe and exclusive offering yet from AmEx, so if you’re into these types of perks, check out opening one of the travel credit cards that would get you into Centurion.

Priority Pass

We’re pretty obsessed with Priority Pass . It’s what you could call a global lounge membership network, and by presenting our Priority Pass membership at partner lounges around the world, we get instant access to WiFi, snacks, drinks, outlets, desk space to work at and more.

Screenshot of the Priority Pass app displaying New York.

We have used Priority Pass more times than we can count, and the more we fly during a single trip, the more lounges we’ll visit. We’ve sometimes stayed in airport lounges for three hours, making something like our Priority Pass memberhip an essential thing to have for long flight days .

When we flew from NYC to Hong Kong and then round-trip to Sri Lanka and back to Hong Kong (and home to NYC), we enjoyed lounge access during every layover and before every flight.

As mentioned above, we have always received Priority Pass as a member benefit for our travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Venture X , but it’s not to say you can’t sign up on your own: you totally can, and you can sign up for Priority Pass here.

Other worldwide lounge memberships

Other possible airport lounge memberships include DragonPass , a Chinese lounge network in East Asia that will help you out if you often travel there.

Another helpful tool that’s not a membership per se is the LoungeBuddy app, which can show you all possible lounges at the airport where you’ll be, with information on amenities, reviews, opening hours and how to get access.

In being very honest with you, we’ve found that lounges outside the US have rated better than lounges within the US. That’s just our opinion. Let us know if you feel otherwise. Of course, this isn’t a blanket statement, as the airport lounge in Ukraine International Airport had nothing on the luxury lounges of Hong Kong International.

What are the best airport lounges?

The best airport lounges are by far in East Asia. The lounges in Hong Kong are incredible, with never-ending buffets of delightful cuisine and desserts. In Beijing International Airport, you’ll have access to unlimited drinks, dessert carts and buns and dumplings.

Then, in Guatemala City, I went to an airport lounge that was more like a rum den, where my access with Priority Pass got me and one guest each a cocktail, a lunch meal and what seemed like unlimited time to spend in comfortable seats and tables.

(This photo here was taken at the lounge in Beijing International Airport, where the WiFi didn’t completely work, to my recollection.)

A plate of fruit and a beer on a table.

What kind of amenities do airline lounges have?

Airline lounges come in lots of shapes and sizes, so the list of amenities varies greatly.

As discussed above, some lounges have delicious buffets that change throughout the day (so it may pay to have your flight delayed, so you can keep eating!), to complimentary cocktails.

A plate with a lot of food on it.

Some have very basic food (Ukraine airport) like cereal and chocolate. Some, like the minute suites in LGA, have no food at all, and they’re very clear about that.

A table full of food and drinks on a wooden table.

Drinks is another aspect that has a lot of variety when it comes to lounges around the world. Lounges may offer unlimited alcohol (this is more common in Asia, from my experience), to one drink per person included (and the rest billable when you leave), to no alcohol or soft drinks at all.

Many lounges will have a bar, where you can order a drink and pay out of pocket, or get a complimentary beverage, depending on the stipulations of your lounge pass or membership.

A group of people sitting at a bar in an airport.

Some airline lounges will have a set drink menu, showing you in a brief online menu what’s included in your pass, and what would be an extra charge.

Screenshot of United Club menu.

You can use the Priority Pass app or website, or the LoungeBuddy app, to figure out these things in advance if you’d like to know.

A person holding a box of hulo juice.

Most lounges nowadays have WiFi. It’s one of the biggest draws to going into a lounge at all, especially if you wind up in an airport where the airport WiFi network a) is not free, b) does not work at all or c) requires a local domestic phone number to sign up for WiFi service.

A group of people sitting at tables in an airport.

The most memorable nap rooms were those in the airport lounge in Lisbon, Portugal . These come in really handy if you arrive at 3 am and your flight out isn’t until 11 am!

Some lounges have showers that you can use to freshen up during a long layover . The desk staff will typically be able to provide towels for you to use. We’ve rarely used these types of showers and used our travel towel because the desk didn’t have anything to use.

Outlets for charging

Most lounges nowadays have outlets for charging your phone or portable devices. We do recommend having adapters for the country to which you’re headed, in case the lounge does not have US-style plugs.

Outdoor space

Some lounges have outdoor space! The Sala Galdos lounge in Gran Canaria Las Palmas had an outdoor patio connected to the lounge, and it was so nice to be able to get some fresh air (with really loud sounds of airplanes) before our flight.

Family Suites & Meeting Rooms

Lounges in airports are always coming out with more ways to please passengers. Some of those include family rooms (rooms where you could let your children take a rest) and meeting rooms, which are designated small office-style rooms, great for if you need to take a meeting with a desk.

A group of people sitting at desks in a room.

Is it worth paying for a lounge?

If you don’t have Priority Pass or access to a lounge with your credit card, is it worth paying? Ultimately, this depends on you and your budget.

If you had an endless budget, or are able to expense the price of the lounge if you’re traveling for work, then sure!

For us, rather than forking over $50 each, we’re frugal, and we’d rather sit in the general waiting area for a few hours than pay a high fee.

However, there are some exceptions when we might want to actually pay…

A laptop is sitting on a wooden table.

Long layovers

During long layovers, paying for a lounge might be worth it.

Let’s say you are stuck in an airport for more than 8 hours. Getting access to a lounge will mean you get several meals and drinks, a comfortable place to sit (and maybe nap) and access to plenty of outlets to charge your things.

Some airports aren’t designed to have the best waiting areas, and if you can find an all-star lounge where you’ll get comfort and peace of mind, then go for it.

It’s worth mentioning to do your research about the lounge before committing. We’ve been in some lounges that barely have food and are not fun to hang out in (lounges in JFK, Kuala Lumpur and Ukraine come to mind). We wouldn’t normally pay for these.

A room full of blue and yellow couches.

There are other lounges that have it all. Showers, lots of great food, nap pods, great natural light and outdoor space are perks that make it worth it to pay for a lounge if you want to elevate your travel experience.

We would totally pay for these types of lounges during long layovers .

Needing some quiet time to do work

There have been times when we’ve gotten to the airport several hours early, with the exact focus in mind of needing to get work done. Mostly, this happened during the year when we worked remotely and traveled , but it happens time and again these days as well, especially if we’re in the middle of working on this website .

If we need WiFi that doesn’t tap out after 30 min, and designated desk space, going to an airport lounge is well worth the short-term investment if it’ll let you work in peace and confidence.

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  • Sapphire Reserve offers
  • Sapphire Reserve benefits
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Welcome to Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club

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Local flavor with a side of city-inspired design

At Sapphire Lounge by The Club, you're treated to locally inspired menus, a curated selection of beverages and an atmosphere to remember.

Sapphire Reserve cardmembers may access the Sapphire Lounge with up to two guests. To enter, show your activated, complimentary Priority Pass TM membership that comes with your Reserve card and a valid boarding pass, up to three hours before your departing flight.

To activate your complimentary Priority Pass membership, go to  chase.com/MyCardBenefits .

Amenities may vary by location

Find a Sapphire airport lounge in these cities

Each lounge features thoughtfully crafted spaces and amenities designed to reflect the character and energy of its host city.

Boston_Lounge

Boston (BOS)

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Boston Logan International Airport, near gate B40

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5 a . m . –11 p . m . daily (Hours may change)

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Boston Logan International Airport, near gate B40, Find lounge

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Complimentary amenities

Local food and beverages

  • Taproom with local draft beers *
  • Fresh, seasonal and chef-inspired dining options from Douglass Williams
  • Craft cocktails and curated wine list *
  • Local coffee from Atomic Coffee Roasters and a selection of teas  

* Only non-alcoholic beverages are available before 8:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and before 10:00 a.m. Sunday.

  • Spaces for working or relaxing
  • Wellness area with bookable private rest pods and anti-gravity massage chairs, plus meditations from Devi Brown
  • Private bathrooms with showers
  • Nursing room
  • Family room  
  • High-speed wi-fi
  • Curated artwork, including local talent
  • Digital experience to enhance your stay with a la carte ordering and access to magazines and newspapers

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Sample locally inspired bites from Chef Douglass Williams

Play the video to hear Chef Williams' inspiration for the lounge menu >

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Explore the complete guide to the Boston Sapphire Lounge

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A local’s guide to Boston

Hong_Kong_Lounge

Hong Kong (HKG)

Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1

6 a . m . –12 a . m . daily (Hours may change)

Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1,  Find lounge

  • Fresh, seasonal dining options
  • Artisanal cocktails, local beer and curated wine list
  • Local coffee and a selection of teas  
  • Private bathrooms
  • Nursing room  

Bostom slide 1

New York City (LGA)

LaGuardia Airport, Terminal B  

4 : 30 a . m . –9 : 30 p . m . daily (Hours may change)

LaGuardia Airport, Terminal B,  Find lounge

  • Fresh and seasonal menus, including select chef-created items from NYC restaurant Joseph Leonard
  • Craft cocktails by Apotheke and curated wine list from Parcelle *
  • Self-serve and barista-made offerings from NYC-based Joe Coffee and a selection of teas  

* Only non-alcoholic beverages are available before 6:00 a . m .   Monday through Saturday and before 10:00 a . m . Sunday.

  • Spaces for working or relaxing on two levels
  • Wellness area featuring facial treatments from Face Haus, meditations from Devi Brown and private rest pods
  • Private and accessible bathrooms
  • Artworks curated by the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection

New York City (LGA) slide 1

Indulge in elevated travel at LGA

The Reserve Suites by Chase

Reserve cardmembers, treat yourself to The Reserve Suites at the Sapphire Lounge at LaGuardia Airport in Terminal B. Each of the three suites feature:

  • Dedicated host for a seamless experience
  • Signature caviar service on arrival
  • Exclusive menus from Jeffrey's Grocery
  • Special selection of wine from Parcelle
  • Private, quiet space to relax or work
  • TV with speaker for entertainment or meetings
  • Private bathrooms with spa showers

Sapphire Reserve cardmembers can book a suite for up to 8 people for a fee up until 72 hours prior to flight departure. Find details on the Chase Mobile ® app in Benefits & Travel. The Reserve Suites are limited and subject to availability.

LGA slide 1

Explore local tastemakers

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Joseph Leonard

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Jeffrey's Grocery

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Discover other partners in the lounge

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Artist Eugenia Mello, based in NYC

Get inspired by nyc.

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The Infatuation's favorite NYC food and drink spots are landing at LaGuardia

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Five things you don't want to miss at the Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club at LaGuardia Airport

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A local's guide to New York City

JFK_Lounge

New York City (JFK)

John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 4

Sapphire Lounge by The Club with Etihad Airways

John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 4 post- security in the mezzanine on Level 4 located above gate A2

  • Fresh, seasonal dining options, including halal food offerings
  • Local coffee from Joe Coffee and a selection of teas  
  • Reflection rooms  

New York City (JFK) slide 1

Las Vegas (LAS)

Coming soon

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Philadelphia (PHL)

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Phoenix (PHX)

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San Diego (SAN)

Access even more airport experiences.

Sapphire-Terrace-Austin

Sapphire Terrace at Austin (AUS)

Enjoy convenient grab-and-go bites, local beverages, games, and indoor and outdoor seating on the Sapphire Terrace at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). Sapphire Reserve cardmembers are invited to show their card to enter with up to two guests.

Learn more about Priority Pass Digital membership card benefits

1,300+ Priority Pass lounges

Enroll in your complimentary Priority Pass TM Select membership to visit over 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounges, plus every Sapphire Lounge by The Club. Once enrolled, find your Priority Pass Digital Membership Card in the Chase Mobile ® app: Go to Benefits > Travel > Explore Lounges. Then save your card to your mobile wallet and show for entry.

IAD tile image

The Etihad Lounge at Dulles Airport (IAD)

Sapphire Reserve cardmembers can now access The Etihad Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. To enter, show your activated Priority Pass membership and valid boarding pass. Make sure you've activated your complimentary Priority Pass Select membership before you visit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Access policy, which chase customers have complimentary access to sapphire lounge by the club.

Chase Sapphire Reserve, J.P. Morgan Reserve and The Ritz-Carlton TM Credit Card primary cardmembers and authorized users have lounge access with their complimentary Priority Pass TM membership.

Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve cardmembers may bring up to two guests per visit for free, and additional guests for $27. There's no additional charge for children under two. Ritz-Carlton cardmembers may bring unlimited guests at no charge.

How can I access Sapphire Lounge by The Club if I don't have a Sapphire Reserve, J.P. Morgan Reserve or The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card?

If you don't have one of these Chase-issued credit cards but you have a Priority Pass  membership, you receive one complimentary visit to a Sapphire Lounge by The Club per calendar year. (At the Sapphire Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, Priority Pass members have unlimited access.) To enter a Sapphire Lounge, show your Priority Pass membership card and valid boarding pass within three hours of your departing flight.

For additional information, see the lounge location listings or FAQs  on the Priority Pass  website.

I'm a Sapphire Preferred cardmember. Can I access Sapphire Lounge by The Club?

No, complimentary lounge access is not a benefit for Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you would like to upgrade to Sapphire Reserve, call the number on the back of your card. Learn more about the Sapphire Reserve card here .

For additional questions regarding your Priority Pass membership, please visit the Priority Pass website for more information.

Requirements to enter

How do chase sapphire reserve, j.p. morgan reserve and the ritz-carlton credit card cardmembers access sapphire lounge by the club.

Cardmembers can access the Sapphire Lounge by showing the physical or digital membership card that comes with their complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with their Chase card and a valid boarding pass within three hours of their departing flight.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers must activate their Priority Pass membership before visiting the lounge by signing in to their Sapphire Reserve account at chase.com/MyCardBenefits or by calling the number on the back of their card. J.P. Morgan Reserve and Ritz-Carlton cardmembers are automatically enrolled in their Priority Pass membership.

Your Priority Pass Digital Membership Card can be found in the Chase Mobile ® app in Benefits > Travel > Explore Lounges. You can save your card to your mobile wallet for easier access.

Please visit Priority Pass for full details on Sapphire Lounge location listings and FAQs .

What are the conditions to access?

Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club is managed and operated by Airport Dimensions on behalf of itself and JPMorgan Chase. Please visit their conditions of use for full details.

Are animals allowed in the Sapphire Lounge?

Authorized service animals, pets and emotional support animals are permitted in the Lounges. Lounge staff may prohibit animals in certain areas of any Lounge. Authorized service animals are permitted in buffet lines, but all other animals must be kept in appropriate pet carriers at all times while in a Lounge. Animals are not permitted on the furniture in the Lounges. Animals must not engage in disruptive behavior, such as roaming freely, barking or biting. Guests are responsible for all damage and disruption caused by their animals.

Locations and amenities

Where can i find a sapphire lounge by the club.

To see the locations of Sapphire Lounge by The Club, return to this page. Sapphire Reserve, J.P. Morgan Reserve and Ritz-Carlton cardmembers can also search for lounges in the Chase Mobile ® app in Benefits > Travel > Explore Lounges. Priority Pass members who are non-Chase cardmembers can search on the Priority Pass app or website for lounges and details .

What amenities and features can I find in Sapphire Lounge by The Club?

At Sapphire Lounge by The Club you'll find thoughtfully crafted spaces and amenities designed to reflect the character and energy of its host city. Amenities may vary by location and include:

  • Self-serve and/or made-to-order food options
  • A digital platform for ordering food and beverage, digital media and booking amenities, where available
  • Signature cocktails and local beverage options
  • Comfortable seating designed for working or relaxing
  • Wellness offerings in select locations

All amenities and features of the lounge are included with entry. There are no additional fees once you're in the lounge. The Reserve Suites are bookable for a fee.

What do The Reserve Suites by Chase at LGA include?

The Reserve Suites by Chase are located in the Sapphire Lounge by The Club at LGA and can be reserved for a fee by Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve cardmembers at least 72 hours prior to your flight departure. Find details on the Chase Mobile ® app in Benefits & Travel.

Your Reserve Suite reservation includes:

  • A dedicated host
  • Exclusive menu from Jeffrey's Grocery
  • In-suite entertainment, including TV and speaker
  • Private bathroom with spa shower

You will also get access to everything included in the Sapphire Lounge at LGA. The Reserve Suites are limited and subject to availability.

What is the Chase Sapphire Terrace at AUS? How do I get in and what is included?

The Chase Sapphire Terrace at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is an indoor and outdoor experience located on the mezzanine level of the Barbara Jordan Terminal. Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve cardmembers can enter with up to two guests by showing their Reserve credit card, government issued ID and eligible boarding pass within three hours of their departing flight. Visitors can enjoy grab-and-go bites, local beverages, games and indoor and outdoor seating on the terrace, included with entry. To learn more, visit chase.com/sapphireterraceaus .

There's so much for you

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There’s so much more to make yours—top benefits, offers and experiences for Sapphire Reserve cardmembers.  

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Reserved by Sapphire SM

Your Sapphire Reserve card opens new doors to more flavors, sights and sounds. Explore the extraordinary lineup of experiences—including culinary, sports, music and entertainment.  

Learn more about referring friends to Sapphire card

Refer-A-Friend

Earn up to 75,000 bonus points per year by referring friends to either Chase Sapphire ® card.  

Are you ready for your next trip?

Find inspiration for new destinations and book your next getaway through Chase Travel.

Not a Sapphire Reserve cardmember yet?

We’re glad you’re here. Learn more about getting a Sapphire Reserve card.

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Washington Dulles International Airport, Concourse A, adjacent to Gate A14

6 a . m . –10 p . m . daily (Hours may change)

  • Craft cocktails with curated wine list
  • Local coffee from Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters and a selection of teas  
  • Private bathrooms and spa shower
  • Reflection room
  • Digital experience to enhance your stay

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What is credit card airport lounge access?

February 15, 2024 | 3 min read

Airport lounges can be a smart way to escape the crowds while you’re waiting to board your flight. They can help make travel simpler and more enjoyable by providing a relaxing place to work or recharge.

Your credit card could be the key that unlocks access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world. Learn more about how it might work for you.

Key takeaways

  • Some credit card issuers, including Capital One, offer airport lounge access to eligible cardholders. 
  • Airport lounges may be part of Priority Pass™ or our partner network, owned by airlines or other credit card issuers.
  • When choosing a credit card with airport lounge access, you can consider all its benefits, terms and conditions to help determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Where will Venture X take you?

How does airport lounge access work.

To access an airport lounge, you can typically purchase a membership or day pass. Generally, there are a few different types of lounges and memberships:

  • Airline lounges: Some airport lounges are owned and operated by specific airlines. Airline travel rewards credit cards might also come with lounge membership.
  • Priority Pass network lounges: Priority Pass is an independent network of airport lounges around the world. There are hundreds of lounges within this network, and you don’t have to fly with a certain airline to access them. To become a Priority Pass member, you can either purchase an annual membership or choose a credit card that offers a Priority Pass membership as one of its benefits.
  • Card issuer lounges: Some credit card issuers have their own airport lounges. For example, Capital One has Capital One Lounges at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Denver International Airport (DEN) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

How to get into airport lounges using a credit card

Some types of credit cards, particularly travel credit cards , offer airport lounge access as one of their cardholder benefits. The type of access you get depends on the card issuer.

Capital One credit card airport lounge access

Eligible Capital One cardholders may be able to access airport lounges in a few ways.

Eligible Capital One Venture X and Venture X Business cardholders can enjoy unlimited complimentary access plus complimentary entry for two guests per visit and special pricing of $45 per visit for additional guests to the all-inclusive Capital One Lounges , where travelers can recharge with luxurious amenities like relaxation rooms, shower suites and healthy, chef-inspired food.

Cardholders also have access to lounges worldwide with Capital One’s Partner Lounge Network , which includes Priority Pass and 100+ Plaza Premium Lounge locations. For Priority Pass, enrollment is required with an eligible Venture X credit card through the Capital One Priority Pass page. Additional terms and conditions apply.*

Kids under 2 are welcome for free, and all other travelers can enter Capital One Lounges for $65 per visit.

How to choose a credit card with airport lounge access

When choosing a credit card that provides access to airport lounges, it’s a good idea to consider what else you’re looking for in a card. You might ask yourself whether the card comes with additional travel-related benefits, how you redeem rewards or if the card comes with an annual fee . 

For example, Venture X comes with a $395 annual fee. View important rates and disclosures . Some of the card’s benefits include:

  • 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases during the first three months after account opening
  • $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel
  • Flexible redemption and transfer options
  • Unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars when you book through Capital One Travel 
  • Unlimited 5X miles on flights when you book through Capital One Travel.
  • Unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases every day.

Airport lounge access credit cards in a nutshell

Airport lounges can provide a comfortable and relaxing environment on stressful flying days. Some credit cards include lounge access as one of their cardholder benefits.

If you’re ready to apply for a credit card that grants unlimited complimentary lounge access, you can consider checking out the Capital One Venture X travel rewards card .

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Go inside the most exclusive airport lounges in America

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Airlines and credit card companies now strive to make the airport a part of a traveler’s vacation experience

Image for article titled Go inside the most exclusive airport lounges in America

The stated goal of the Delta One Lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport is to ensure that a traveler’s “journey begins before [they] leave the ground.”

While airports have long offered quieter lounges, with better amenities, for premium guests, lounges like the Delta One offer clientele a step beyond the typical airport oasis. Airlines and credit card companies now strive to make the airport part of a traveler’s vacation experience – instead of simply a place to wait for their flight to take off.

“Our teams have spared no detail to ensure Delta One Lounge guests receive a truly memorable experience,” said Claude Roussel, Vice President – Delta Sky Clubs and Lounge Experience, in a statement , ahead of the facility’s late June launch.

“We want our guests to feel the difference here; moreover, we want them to feel welcomed and valued from the moment they step through the door.”

The lounge is open to same day departing or arriving Delta One ticketed passengers, Delta 360 Members with first class tickets and people with same-day departing or connecting flights with certain affiliated airlines. Eligible guests are also allowed to bring immediate family members or companions for a $100 fee.

The Delta One Lounge pays tribute to its home city with an art-deco bar reminiscent of Radio City Music Hall and a dining area that pulls design elements from New York’s beloved delicatessen counters.

“The penny-round ceiling over the food counter is a hat-tip to the original JFK terminal, designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen. The iconic overlapping strands of the Brooklyn Bridge provided inspiration for the suspended lighting fixture in the dining room,” the airline explained in a statement.

“These unique design touches create a space that is like no other: one that is modern while rooted in the city’s past.”

Read on to learn more about the most luxurious airport lounges in the United States.

United Polaris Lounge (various locations)

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United Airlines travelers at six airports have the option to unwind and refresh in the airline’s Polaris Lounges – so long as they’ve booked a corresponding flight package. Each lounge offers “spa-like shower facilities,” private rest areas and a choice of a sit down meal or a full buffet. The spaces are meticulously designed to match their airport – for example, the Chicago O’Hare International Airport facility features an art installation designed to pay tribute to the Windy City’s night sky.

Capital One Lounges (various locations)

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Eligible Venture X and Venture X Business cardholders can access the Capital One Lounges at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Denver International Airport and Dulles International Airport.

Each lounge offers unique amenities including Peloton bikes at DFW, semi private work areas at Dulles and relaxation rooms designed to simulate the night sky in Denver. Each airport has locally brewed beers, signature cocktails and small plate dining stations.

American Airlines/British Airways Joint Lounges (JFK)

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The joint American Airlines/British Airways lounges at John F. Kennedy International Airport evoke the spirits of both countries through their three themed premium spaces. Named after neighborhoods that exist in both London and New York – SoHo, Greenwich and Chelsea – access to each lounge is contingent upon guests’ American Airlines Advantage status and the ticket they purchased for their travels.

The Chelsea features a champagne bar and a fireside lounge; the SoHo boasts a library and special sleeping area and the Greenwich has a premium wine table and a self-service cocktail bar.

Reserve Suites by Chase (LGA)

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Secluded in the Chase Sapphire Lounge at LaGuardia International Airport, there are three special suites that Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can book for themselves and their guests – for a fee that runs between $2,200 and $3,000 per three hour booking.

Upon entering the private rooms, guests are greeted with a signature caviar dish and a selection of Parcelle wines. The suites resemble a high-end hotel, complete with a full bathroom, a bar, and a television with gaming consoles.

PS (LAX/ATL)

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High profile guests at Los Angeles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport can go a step beyond a simple airport lounge through P/S – formerly known as the Private Suite.

“PS is not at the airport, it is a ‘back door’ to the airport,” the service’s website explains. Guests enter a special terminal, separate from the traffic and crowds of a normal airport, where they undergo private TSA and Customs screenings, before being driven directly to their flights.

While waiting for their flights to take off, guests have access to several high-quality amenities including restaurant-quality meals, spa treatments and access to both private suites and a luxurious salon. P/S offers two membership options, with the priciest package going for $4,850 a year plus additional fees for the lounge’s amenities.

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Do you love airport lounges? Airlines are stepping it up for you. | Cruising Altitude

airport lounge visit

  • Airport lounges have become increasingly important to many travelers in the past decade or two.
  • Airlines have to work harder both to stand out and meet travelers' ever-evolving expectations.
  • Many airline-branded credit cards include access to the affiliated carrier’s lower-tier lounges.

Delta Air Lines opened the newest lounge in its network last month, the Delta One Lounge at JFK in New York. It’s a departure from the airline’s existing Sky Clubs. It caters only to premium cabin passengers and has much stricter access requirements than the airline’s other lounges – sorry, American Express Platinum cardholders. 

While I don’t always think a lounge visit is the best use of a traveler’s time , I’ll also freely admit that if I wind up getting to the airport early and have lounge access at my disposal, I’ll usually go anyway.

Experts and executives across the airline industry say lounge offerings have become increasingly important to many travelers in the past decade or two, and airlines have to work harder both to stand out and meet travelers' ever-evolving expectations.

“We are focusing on the hospitality, on the genuine care of our people, on the service they provide, and the culture we have created in the lounge,” Claude Roussel, Delta’s vice president of Sky Clubs and lounge experience told me. “The culture of service, the culture of ensuring every guest is taken care of.” 

In some ways, the evolution of airline lounges mirrors the evolution of airplane cabins , with premium offerings becoming more ostentatious in some ways but also more accessible to the average traveler in others. Achievable luxury and tiered, differentiated products for different price points seem to be the driving philosophy at most major carriers both in the air and on the ground these days.

A brief history of airport lounges

According to Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, a travel industry analytics firm, American Airlines opened the first airport lounge in the U.S. in the late 1930s at LaGuardia Airport in New York. But there was little innovation or access in the first decades, even as other airlines followed American’s model.

“These lounges were pleasant but almost utilitarian by today's standards,” he said. “Until 1972, airport lounges were restricted to travelers who were flying in the premium cabin, or, in the U.S., they were invitation-only.” 

Harteveldt said some basic food and beverage offerings were standard in most lounges, and in the early days of widespread internet use, they were often among the first places in airports to get Wi-Fi.

For nearly 60 years, however, lounges have been more like midmarket hotel lobbies than the luxurious escapes they have become more recently.

“Let’s fast-forward to the 1990s, and that’s when you really start to see airlines invest in the lounge experience. … Virgin (Atlantic Airways) basically said: Why should a lounge be stuffy and boring?” Harteveldt said. “Virgin had a craft cocktail program, they had a full buffet, they had spas. At the London Heathrow Clubhouse, I think there was initially a putting green and games.” 

And with that, the explosion of lounge attractions began. Delta led the charge in revitalizing U.S. airport lounges, according to Harteveldt. 

Roussel from Delta said it started with a simple directive from his boss about 10 years ago.

“Make Sky Club a reason to fly Delta,” he said he was told shortly after he joined the company. So Roussel and his team went on a mission to make lounges a more valued part of travelers’ experiences by improving the furnishings, food and beverage offerings and more.

“In my opinion, the Delta Sky Clubs played an enormous role in helping evolve its position from that of an airline to more of a lifestyle brand ,” Harteveldt said. 

Last week's Cruising Altitude: Don't fly a lot? You should still get a loyalty account. Here's why.

Why airlines care about their lounges

Many travelers just really, really want to go to the lounge before, between, or after their flights, and it’s a competitive disadvantage not to give them what they want.

According to data from Atmosphere Research Group’s 2024 first-quarter U.S. travel online study, 43% of business travelers and 37% of leisure travelers said lounge access was important to them, and about half of all travelers said they choose itineraries based on their ability to access an airline’s lounge.

“It’s a competitive necessity,” Harteveldt said. “When your competitors have something and you don’t, and it’s something that’s seen as meaningful to the traveler, you’re seen as deficient.” 

As more people are able to access lounges, either through credit card partnerships or expanded premium cabins, airlines have had to stratify their offerings. 

United introduced Polaris Lounges in 2016 for premium cabin passengers only, in addition to its Clubs, and American rolled out Flagship Lounges in 2017 in addition to its Admirals Clubs. 

Delta was a little late to the game with the Delta One Lounge, which caters to only premium cabin passengers.

“When you’re in a Sky Club in one of our hubs, you basically, we mix customers who pay $10,000 for tickets with someone who pays $500 or $600 for a ticket,” Roussel said. 

So a dedicated premium lounge functions much like the curtain between business class and premium economy on a long-haul flight. The big spenders don’t always want to deal with crowds and prefer a more exclusive space.

Airlines have also been under pressure recently as their lounges have become more crowded, and some have had long lines to get in at peak travel times. Roussel said the new Delta One Lounge has already helped alleviate some of those problems at JFK since it opened.

British Airways is also overhauling its global lounge network to address its passengers' changing demands and demographics.

“People’s travel has changed, we get to the airport earlier post-pandemic, more people flying for leisure, people want more, that means we need to adapt what we offer to meet our customers’ needs,” Calum Laming, British Airways’ chief customer officer, told me at an event the airline hosted in New York this spring to preview updates to various parts of its business. 

Laming said the airline wants to blend its British identity with local flavor in the destinations it serves to help give premium customers what they want wherever they go.

Plus, he said, “Britain is about bars. Expect a great bar” at every location as the new clubs open and old ones are revamped.

How you can get lounge access

For those who travel only once or twice a year, a lounge membership may not be worth it. But if your trip includes a long layover, day passes could be worth considering. More frequent airport visitors need to decide for themselves if the perks of the lounges available to them are worth the cost. 

Airlines increasingly reserve their most exclusive lounges, like the new Delta One Lounge, only for customers traveling in long-haul premium cabins or their most elite, invitation-only frequent flyers. (A throwback to a bygone era of lounge access, perhaps?) 

But that doesn’t mean all lounges are off-limits to the budget-conscious traveler.

Saf Dogan (@proudpassport) on Threads

Many airline-branded credit cards include access to the affiliated carrier’s lower-tier lounges. In addition, premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire and Amex Platinum come with Priority Pass membership, which unlocks a network of lounges from different airlines as well as unaffiliated lounges in many airports.

But as with most things in air travel: The more you pay, the more you get.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at [email protected].

The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more .

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Can I Use a Priority Pass Lounge on Arrival Instead of Departure?

Julian Mark Kheel

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"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

Priority Pass has grown significantly in recent years, making it one of the largest lounge networks in the world . But can you only use Priority Pass lounges before you fly? That's the question TPG reader Riley asked us in an email...

[pullquote source="TPG Reader Riley"]After I arrive from a flight, can I still use a Priority Pass lounge or do I need to have another flight?[/pullquote]

A complimentary Priority Pass Select membership is included as a travel benefit on several popular premium credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Platinum Card from American Express and the Citi Prestige, just to name a few. And the Priority Pass network has improved significantly in recent months, adding Minute Suites in several cities and incorporating a number of actual restaurants into its roster, including the Corona Beach House in Miami (MIA) and three different food establishments in Portland (PDX).

So what's the word on stopping by a Priority Pass lounge after you land, essentially treating it as an arrival lounge? Well, actually, according to the Priority Pass terms and conditions , it depends on where you're flying...

Admittance to lounges is strictly subject to cardholders and any guests, if permitted, being in possession of a valid flight ticket and travel documents for the same day of travel. Airline, airport and other travel industry employees traveling on reduced-rate tickets may not be eligible for access. Outside the US, flight tickets must be accompanied by a valid boarding pass for a departing flight, i.e. outbound passengers only.

Interesting, isn't it? If you're within the US, the terms and conditions indicate all you need is a same-day ticket, which means you should be able to enter a domestic Priority Pass lounge after you land , even if it's your final destination for the day. However, outside the US, you need a boarding pass for a departing flight, which means you cannot use non-US Priority Pass lounges upon arrival unless you have a same-day connecting flight from that airport.

airport lounge visit

Now, while this is what the terms and conditions say, in practice you'll find that a number of international Priority Pass lounges don't really mind if you come by after your flight. This definitely isn't true of all Priority Pass lounges — some will not allow you to use them as an arrivals lounge. But there are plenty of reports of other lounges not requiring a departing boarding pass even at foreign airports, and in some cases it might even depend on the discretion of the agent sitting at the lounge check-in desk at that moment. There are also some specific international arrivals lounges included in Priority Pass membership, such as the Plaza Premium Arrivals lounges at London Heathrow (LHR) in Terminals 2 and 4. So consider it a case of "your mileage may vary."

If you want to be 100% certain that you'll have a lounge available when you land and no specific Priority Pass arrivals lounge is listed at prioritypass.com for your international destination, you might be able to qualify for your airline's own arrival lounge. For example, American maintains an Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow (LHR) but you must arrive in London on an AA flight or a few select partners and be either flying in first or business, or have Executive Platinum, Concierge Key or Oneworld Emerald elite status to use it. Other airlines often have arrivals lounges in their key hub cities — SWISS Arrival in Zurich (ZRH) , Etihad's Arrivals Lounge in Abu Dhabi (AUH) , Cathay Pacific's The Arrival in Hong Kong (HKG) and United's Arrivals Lounge in San Francisco (SFO) are just a few examples, but in most cases you'll need to be flying in a premium cabin or have high-level elite status to use them.

So, Riley, on domestic trips you should be good to go, and if you're flying outside the US, you can do a little advance research to know what to expect at your destination. Thanks for the question, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy , message us on Facebook or email us at [email protected] .

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