Ah… Airport Lounge Access

Ah… Airport Lounge Access

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So you have three hours to connect between flights and you’re flying coach. What’s there to do?

Sure, you could walk around the airport aimlessly looking at overpriced magazines and bottles of water… Or, you could go into one of the many airport lounges and kick back, have some snacks, some complimentary drinks, comfortable chairs and decent WiFi. Most importantly, you’ll have three hours of relative silence from the cacophony of the airport.

Airport lounge access, however, does come with a cost.

Entrance into airport lounges always has some fee attached. Most lounges will allow you to purchase day passes at the lounge entrance counter. The fees can be a bit ridiculous:

  • Delta Sky Club – $59.00
  • American Airlines Admirals Club One-Day Pass – $50.00
  • United Club Membership One-Day Pass – $59.00
  • Alaska Airlines Board Room One-Day Pass – $$45.00

The low-cost carriers (jetBlue, Southwest, Spirit) do not operate their own lounges.

While Alaska’s is the cheapest, it would only make sense if you were flying Alaska from the West Coast. Next is American’s, which has a large lounge footprint in all of their hubs and focus cities. Same with United and Delta. So cost aside, only you can decide if the cost is worth it. If you’re flying with a companion, you’d have to purchase a one day-pass per person. That’s almost $100.00! Some one-way tickets cost that much!

There are full-year passes, but if you’re someone who flies that much, you may have elite airline status which can sometimes provide complimentary lounge access. (If you have elite status with lounge access, you probably know it!).

You will also have complimentary lounge access on international business and first class flights. Within the U.S. domestic first class (so New York to Dallas, for example) would not receive complimentary lounge access. The only flights that receive complimentary lounge access within the U.S. are the transcontinental (New York – Los Angeles / San Francisco – Miami) in business and first would receive it.


But isn’t this about credit cards?

CardLounge 1GuestsLounge 2GuestsLounge 3GuestsAnnual Fee
Citi PrestigeAdmirals club when on AA flightsUp to 2Priority Pass*Up to 2$450
Citi American Airlines ExecutiveFull Admirals Club membershipUp to 2Auth User for domestic Admirals Clubs Up to 2Up to 2$475
AMEX PlatinumDelta Sky Club$29 perPriority Pass$27 perCenturion LoungeUp to 2$450
AMEX Business PlatinumDelta Sky Club$29 perPriority Pass$27 perCenturion LoungeUp to 2$450
Chase United Club CardFull United Club membershipUp to 2Star AllianceNone$375
Chase United Mileage Explorer Plus2 Club Passes; one time use when flying on United metal NoneWaived 1st year, then $95
AMEX Delta ReserveDelta Sky ClubNone$450
AMEX Hilton SurpassPriority Pass and pay per visit ($27)None$75

(*Priority Pass is a group of 800 or so lounges around the world) 

These cards come with other benefits, but all else being equal, which one is worth it?

It really depends on what type of flyer you are and how frequently you’re flying. I’d say the day pass may be worth it, say if your flight is delayed for several hours and you’re stuck at the airport.

I personally find a lot of value in Citi’s Prestige card as I fly American airlines a lot domestically. Citi (on both of their premium products) has the most generous guesting policies, too.

On the other hand, the AMEX Platinum cards give access to the vaunted Centurion lounges. However, for a $450 annual fee, a charge to bring in guests on Delta and Priority Pass lounges, and a limited number of Centurion lounges, I could not justify the annual fee for that type of lounge access. It’s unfortunate as the Platinum cards from AMEX used to offer Admiral’s Club and complimentary guest access to the Delta Sky Clubs.

Is the $450 price tag worth it?
Is the $450 price tag worth it? – Centurion Lounge, Las Vegas Airport

It really is nice to be able to get out of the hustle and bustle that is an airport and have peace and quite for an hour or two before a flight. The complimentary drinks and food are an added benefit. But what did we all do before lounge life? We sat around the airport killing time just like everyone else. And when anyone flies Southwest (if they have that companion pass!) then you usually don’t have any type of access. So, like anyone else, you just deal.

When the time comes to pay my annual fee on the Citi Prestige card, it will be a tough call because of the lounge access provided that I’ve taken advantage of internationally, domestically and with long layovers.

So, is it worth it?

-The Miner

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