Airport lounges without the price tag
You needn’t fly business or first class to get into the airport lounge where the drinks are complimentary and the food is free. Refreshments are just the start of it; some lounges tote showers, quiet rooms for reading and even barbers and massage parlours.
As a general rule, airline lounges are generally much more comfortable, luxurious and are better equipped than airport lounges. This means they’re more exclusive and harder to get into. Befriending staff is sometimes a great way to find your way into one. Whether they’re worth paying for is a point for discussion, especially since some are better than others and the value of facilities depends on the user. What isn’t up for discussion is that most of us don’t fly first or business class.
Read on to find out some tips and advice on how to get on the inside without purchasing a really expensive airfare.
This is the most straightforward way to free airport lounge access. There are plenty of cards that offer a couple of lounge accesses a year, plus the usual sign up bonuses and other perks. There are a few things to consider other than which offers you the best value, such as which airport lounges around the world you’ll realistically be going to. If you’re a frequent flyer to a foreign airport then you may want to look out for a card that offers you lounge-sanctuary on the return leg of your trip. But for most of us, it’s the outward journey, the airport we’ll be using most, you’ll want included. Below are a few examples of cards that offer a range of lounge access worldwide.
The Amex Preferred Rewards Gold* card: a good starter pack choice for airport lounge access. The annual fee of £140 is waved in the first year (you receive 20,000 reward points) and you’re granted access to over 700 lounges at major airports worldwide, like the Aspire lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, whether you spend on the card or not. There’s a whole host of other perks from referring friends, to travel insurance and car hire discounts.
The American Express Platinum card: The annual fee is high at £450 but consider the perks first. You get a generous 30,000 membership points if you sign up (35,000 if you know someone who can refer you) and you’ll receive two priority pass cards to 700 lounges that also includes the likes of the Aspire Lounge in Heathrow’s terminal as well as Plaza Premium lounges in T2 and T4.Time your acquirement of this card right – by which we mean for an extra special trip – and use the discounts on luxury hotels, travel insurance for medical and car hire.
Day passes via Groupon
It can be all about going through the right channels. Day passes can be purchased for around £20 to some airport lounges. There’s an argument that this is about the same price as eating at the airport. While this might be true if you’re having a proper hot meal, drinks and snacks, it’s not so much true if you’re planning on hitting Pret. Groupon however has been known to have 50% membership discounts for Priority Pass from time to time. It’s a nice one if you know that you’ll be travelling a lot. Otherwise they have discounted day passes regularly if you don’t want to commit to an annual membership.
The kindness of strangers is always an option. First class ticket holders can often invite a guest into the lounge for free. Exploiting this airport lounge access niche is a bit tricky; you’ll need to use your wits and personable skills to convince someone to invite you in without appearing as a pest to airline staff. This involves a certain amount of subtle loitering near the lounge so you know who the marks are. Start a conversation naturally rather than jumping straight in and asking if you can be their plus one.