Airport Lounge Access
We often get questions in the Travel on Point(s) Facebook group about which lounges folks can access when flying. The answer always depends on many factors. These include the airline and class of service you're flying and which credit cards you have. In this post, we walk you through how to assess whether you have any airport lounge access.
Step 1: Are you flying in a premium cabin internationally?
Let's start simple. If you're flying premium cabin (business or first class) internationally, you will almost always have some sort of lounge access with your boarding pass. If the airline you're flying has a lounge at your departure airport, you will have access to that lounge. For example, if you're flying Air France business class out of Washington Dulles (IAD), you will have access to the Air France/KLM lounge. It's as simple as that.
If you don't know whether your airline has a lounge at your departure airport, check the airline's website. Airlines have helpful information about their own lounges on their websites.
If the airline you're flying does not have a lounge at your departure airport, then you will likely have access to a partner's lounge at that airport. For example, if you're flying Iberia business class out of Miami (MIA), Iberia does not have a lounge at MIA. But you will have access to the American Airlines lounges at MIA since Iberia and American are Oneworld partners. Again, the airline's website is a helpful resource for figuring this out.
The great thing about flying in premium cabin is that the airport lounge access is based on your ticket. You don't need any elite status or any special credit card for this. Just show up with your boarding pass. It's that easy!
Step 2: Do you have Priority Pass access?
Priority Pass is a network of lounges (and restaurants) to which members have access, regardless of what airline or cabin they are flying. For example, if you're flying a domestic flight on Southwest out of Washington Dulles (IAD), you can still access the Priority Pass lounges at IAD. (You will still need to show your boarding pass to confirm you're indeed flying that day.)
Many credit cards offer Priority Pass membership as a perk. But not all Priority Pass memberships are created equal. Some allow for multiple guests to join you in the lounge. Others offer restaurant benefits, meaning you can use your Priority Pass card to cover food and drinks at select restaurants in the Priority Pass network.
To learn about the different types of Priority Pass membership and which cards offer them, check out this post. To learn more information about specific Priority Pass lounge locations visit the website or download the mobile app.
Step 3: Do your credit cards offer any lounge access on their own?
Some premium credit cards offer access to their own lounges. Amex, Chase, and Capital One have each launched their own lounge networks. Access to each of these lounges is based on which credit card you hold, regardless of airline or cabin of service you're flying.
Amex Centurion and Escape Lounges
Amex led the way with airport lounges, opening the first Centurion Lounge in 2013. The Centurion Lounge footprint has expanded steadily in the US (and also includes locations in London and Hong Kong).
Amex has also been rolling out Escape Lounges at smaller airports throughout the country. These lounges are smaller and offer fewer amenities, but tend to be less crowded than the Centurion Lounges.
Access to Centurion and Escape lounges is available to Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cardholders. Guests aged 18+ cost $50 per guest. Those aged between 2 and 17 are $30 per guest. Guests below age 2 are free.
To check whether you have lounge access at your airport, search the Amex app. It allows you to search for airport lounge access by proximity.
American Express Global Lounge Collection
Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cardholders also have access to Amex's Global Lounge Collection. This program offers complimentary access to the Centurion and Escape lounges discussed above, Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club lounges (more on this below), and the following lounge networks:
- AirSpace Lounge
- Plaza Premium Lounge
- Lufthansa (when flying Lufthansa, SWISS, or Austrian airlines)
Chase Sapphire Lounges
Chase is the latest card issuer to launch its own lounge network, named the Chase Sapphire Lounge, by The Club. The first lounge has opened at Boston Logan (BOS) and many others are in the works. Access to the Sapphire lounges is available to holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, J.P. Morgan Reserve, and Chase Ritz-Carlton cards.
Priority Pass holders also may access the Sapphire Lounge once per calendar year. Additional visits and any guest visits cost US$75 per person, per visit, payable to the lounge.
Chase also offers the Sapphire Terrace at Austin's airport (AUS). Access to the Sapphire Terrace is limited to holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve, with a maximum of two guests.
Capital One has also launched its own network of Capital One Lounges. The first lounge is located at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).
Venture X cardholders receive complimentary access, including for up to two guests. Additional guests cost $45 per guest.
Venture and Spark Miles cardholders receive two complimentary visits per year. Additional visits cost $45 per visit. Cardholders can use their complimentary visits on guests or bring guests in for $45 per guest. So if you have a Venture X and a Venture or Spark Miles card and you want to bring more than 2 guests, you should be able to use the complimentary visit from the Venture or Spark Miles card for your third guest.
Delta Sky Club Lounges
Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cardholders have access to Delta Sky Club lounges when flying Delta, as do holders of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business cards from Amex. Meanwhile, holders of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum and the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business cards can access Delta Sky Club lounges for $50 per person per visit when flying Delta.
United Club Lounges
The United Club Infinite and United Club Business cards from Chase offer complimentary United Club membership to primary cardholders. United Club members receive complimentary access to United Club lounges when flying United. Also, United Explorer cardholders receive two United Club passes annually as a card benefit.
American Airlines Admirals Club Lounges
The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard offers complimentary Admirals Club membership to cardholders (including authorized users). Admirals Club members received complimentary access to Admirals Club lounges when flying American.
Step 4: Other Ways to Access Airport Lounges
A handful of other ways to access airport lounges exist. If you absolutely need to access a lounge, many lounges will sell you a one-time pass. Another method to access airport lounges is by having certain elite status with different airlines. The rules governing lounge access based on status are quite complicated and beyond the scope of this article.
Airport Lounge Access: ToP Thoughts
Understanding how and when you can access airport lounges can help you escape the hustle and bustle of the concourse and make your next trip more enjoyable. The right credit card can be a great tool to gain you lounge access when you're not flying a premium cabin.