Guide to airport lounges


David Whitley takes a look at how to get a bit of extra peace and quiet (and food) before the flight.

No-one really likes hanging around in airports. Even the better ones such as Singapore Changi and Vancouver are merely relatively pleasant rather than unmitigated hellholes. But there are cordoned-off parts of airports that make the experience of waiting for a flight a bit more pleasant.

What are airport lounges? The lounges are separate from the generic departure lounge, and access to them is restricted. Usually, entry is permitted only for those with the right sort of ticket (business class or above), the right status with the airline (gained through taking gazillions of flights) or paying.

Generally, you can’t pay to get into the ones run by airlines – these are reserved for those with status or the posh seats. But you can pay to get into those run either by the airport or third parties given the space by the airport to run a lounge there. Names to look out for in the latter category include Aspire, No 1 and Swissport. 

What can I expect inside? Standards vary pretty wildly. Some will basically be a few seats with a fairly dismal selection of free food and drink – sometimes little more than a few drab sandwiches, biscuits, a coffee machine and some cans of Sprite in a fridge. Others are considerably more lavish, with cooked to order restaurant-style meals, a big choice of wines and spirits, showers and even spa treatment rooms. The ones run by airlines tend to be more plush than those run by airports.

How much do they cost? Price varies quite a lot too, with the cheapest lounges available for about £20 and the more expensive ones nearer £50. For regular flyers, it might be worth joining a lounge access scheme like Lounge Pass or Priority Pass. The latter has various schemes, but you can pay £69 to access all 1,200-plus lounges in its networks for £15 a go, or £259 for free access to them all. 



Are they worth it?

An awful lot depends on what you want from it. If you were going to buy food in the airport or on the plane anyway, then it’ll probably not cost too much more to go into the lounge. And this is particularly the case if you were going to have a couple of drinks with it. The ones with showers can be invaluable if you’re about to go long haul after a hot, sweaty day. And sometimes just being able to find somewhere to charge your phone – lounges tend to be pretty well equipped with plug sockets, although this is by no means universal – tips the balance for the lounge being worth the cash.

As for the annual passes, whether this is worth it depends on how many flights you take, although it’s probably a good deal if you take more than 15 to 20 flight legs per year.

by David Whitley