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23/03/08 – Airline Lounges – Are They Worth It?
Anyone who has traveled through a large airport or an airline’s “hub” airport has seen the private airline clubs that get tucked away because the thick oak doors or the subtle smoked glass doors. The simple plaque at the entrance “Members Only,” just builds the curiosity.
In all honesty, most airline lounges for US Domestic airlines are not worth the hefty price tag for the vast majority of flyers. Airline lounges used to be a quiet haven with comfortable chairs, a fully stocked complementary bar (although I don’t drink I know why people liked this), a snack and just a refuge from the stresses of traveling. Many of the lounges now are outdated, the bar is a cash bar (soft drinks are free!) and the snacks consist of apples of yogurt (Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines lounges generally have bagels with butter and cream cheese in the morning which has always made them a favourite of mine!). When you check into most lounges you should expect to pay for the Internet. If you are hungry and bring your own food some lounges will ask you to leave the food behind or eat it then return to the lounge.
A perk of some lounges is a shower, although in the U.S. these showers are few and far between, especially for domestic and trans-boarder (US/Canada) travel. I have often landed in Atlanta (ATL) and sprinted to the Delta Airlines Crown Room Club all the way out in Concourse E, the international departure concourse, to grab a shower after a red-eye in from California and a connecting flight to somewhere else to shoot something else.
For international travel the lounges outside of the United States can be fantastic and well worth the memberships. What you must keep in mind is that membership and access to many of these lounges is only available to those in the airline’s top-tier of frequent flyer program and those flying in business class or first class. This type of lounge access tends to offer a more serene environment and a better place to kick back and sleep.
While no US airline offers access to it’s lounges based on frequent flyer status for US domestic flights (most do for their top-tier flyers on international flights) many international airlines offer this to it’s frequent flyers when flying domestically and abroad. As a BMI Diamond Club “Gold” (top tier) frequent flyer I can access any Star Alliance lounge as a “Star Gold” frequent flyer. When I was a US Airways Dividend Miles Platinum frequent flyer I could not access the US Airways lounge when on domestic flights, much less any other Star Alliance lounge. So now no matter what Star Alliance airline I flying ( United Airlines, US Airways, Air Canada in North America) I just bring my boarding pass to the lounge with my BMI card and I can enter. No membership fee of more than $400, just a smile and a polite “Thank you and welcome” before I can go sit down.
So are the lounges worth it? If you fly less than 75 segments a year, or under 75,000 miles per year and you live in the United States? No, in my opinion it is not worth it. Do I use the lounges? Yes, only because I have access due to my status with BMI for Star Alliance and Air France for SkyTeam. Would I pay for it? Never did before, can’t say I would before.
Save your money, get a decent sandwich and find a quiet corner in the airport. 8-out-of-10 times you’ll be an equal experience to most US a lounges.
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