The content on this page includes affiliate links. While clicking on these links won’t cost you anything extra, we may earn a modest commission from any purchases you make.
Previously, airport lounges were exclusively limited to those travelling for business purposes. Everyday travellers were not allowed to enter these exclusive areas unless they bought a business class ticket, leading to restricted access. However, the good news is that things have now changed. Currently, airport lounges are open to all travellers through different affordable and convenient options. To learn more, check out our airport lounge guide.
Understanding Airport Lounges
Airport lounges are designated and quiet spaces for individuals to unwind before their flight. While originally intended for business travellers, this practice has now evolved. Most reputable airlines have their lounges at their main hubs, while at other airports, they outsource this service. In this piece, we will discuss affordable methods for accessing airport lounges.
The quality of airport lounges varies greatly. Some lounges may only have a limited number of basic soft chairs and snacks. However, others are elegantly designed and provide hot meals along with a wide variety of drinks. The top-of-the-line lounges may even offer a customizable menu, saunas, and other amenities for relaxation. Typically, all services in lounges are covered by the entry fee except for specialized treatments such as massages.
We think there are two good reasons to visit airport lounges: It is easy to relax and unwind before the flight, and usually, Wi-Fi can be used free of charge. The additional amenities, such as food and drinks, only add to the perfection of air travel.
What Amenities are Available in Airport Lounges?
Typically, airport lounges offer the following basic services:
- Comfortable seating
- Peaceful atmosphere
- Pleasant temperature
- Complimentary drinks, including alcoholic beverages
- Internet with free Wi-Fi
- Magazines, TVs, and a flight information screen
Some of the additional services offered by the top airport lounges include:
- Amenities for taking a shower
- Steam room, sauna or spa
- Relaxation area
- Access to printing and computer facilities
- Personalized table service and á la carte menu
Helsinki Airport’s Plaza Premium Arrival Lounge was a prime example of a lounge that offered sauna facilities. Unfortunately, it was closed in 2023. The Finnair’s non-Schengen Lounge in Helsinki also features a dedicated sauna section and this lounge is still open.
Ways to Get Access to Airport Lounges
There are various methods available for accessing airport lounges, however, most of them require a fee. In the past, passengers were limited to purchasing a business or first-class ticket to enter lounges. Nowadays, there are multiple affordable options for accessing them. Below, we outline the most frequent methods for gaining entry to airport lounges.
The most straightforward yet costly method of entering airport lounges is by paying directly at the reception counter. Generally, independent lounges allow payment in cash or credit card at the front desk. The standard entrance fee ranges from 40 to 50 euros. On the other hand, airline lounges have stricter criteria for admitting customers, and it may not be feasible to gain entry even if one is willing to pay the walk-in fee. Airlines aim to maintain exclusivity and smaller crowds in their lounges.
It is advisable to pay at the front desk for only those who are travelling for business or leisure and prefer not to make reservations beforehand or are unconcerned with expenses.
Business or First Class Tickets
The doors of the top lounges are accessible with a business or first-class boarding pass. Complimentary access to a business lounge is included in the ticket price. If the airline does not have its lounge at the airport, passengers are typically directed to their partners’ lounges. Choosing the lounge yourself is not usually an option, rather you are directed to either the airline’s lounge or their partner’s.
In certain large airports, there is a segregation of business and first-class passengers into distinct lounges. Those in first class are granted access to a superior lounge with exceptional service, while those in business class have access to lounges that are more rudimentary but still of high quality. For example, this is the way how Lufthansa does in its hubs.
Travel Class Upgrade
A significant number of travellers are enrolled in airline loyalty programs but are unable to achieve higher status levels due to a low number of flights. Despite this, they continue to accumulate award miles every time they fly. These airlines offer the option to purchase upgrades to business class using award miles. Business class tickets often include lounge access, providing an effortless means of obtaining complimentary lounge privileges. Additionally, certain airlines offer lounge vouchers that can be redeemed with award miles.
We have utilized our Finnair Plus points to upgrade ourselves to Finnair’s Business Class on multiple occasions. Additionally, we have used our Finnair Plus points to purchase lounge vouchers from Finnair. It is advisable to thoroughly assess the cost-benefit before redeeming award miles for these services. Based on our own experience, using points for upgrades is a more worthwhile option compared to purchasing award flights. This is because award flights often come with additional charges such as taxes and fuel surcharges, which decrease the value of the points.
Upgrading tickets may be possible through the use of money or through participating in upgrade auctions.
Loyalty Cards and Miles Programs
Passengers travelling in the economy class may also be invited to airline lounges if they possess a status card from the airline’s loyalty program. These programs typically consist of four levels, with the initial level not offering lounge benefits. However, these benefits are available at the silver or gold level, depending on the specific airline. The names of these levels may vary among different airlines.
To access an airline’s lounge with a status card usually requires a ticket from the same airline. In some cases, having a ticket from an airline within the same alliance may suffice. For instance, if you hold a status card with Qantas and are flying with Finnair, you may be welcomed into Finnair’s Lounge at Helsinki Airport.
Typically, individuals with status as cardholders are permitted to bring along a single guest without any additional fees. To achieve a sufficiently elevated level, it is necessary to frequently travel with the same airline that is part of the same airline alliance.
A great lounge access method for those who travel often is to buy a membership with Priority Pass. Priority Pass offers various levels of membership, with the top level granting unlimited access to lounges. In large airports, there are typically multiple lounges that accept Priority Pass memberships.
The membership of Priority Pass is beneficial, particularly for individuals who frequently travel but do not possess a status card from any airline. It grants the flexibility to select the preferred airline while still being able to utilize the amenities of airport lounges. This option caters to both business travellers and frequent vacationers. For those who desire to access airport lounge services while on the go, we highly suggest considering Priority Pass. Check out our review of Priority Pass for more information.
The cost for a Priority Pass Prestige membership, which includes unlimited access to lounges, is 459 euros per year. This membership can be purchased through the Priority Pass website and can be used immediately with a digital card. For those who travel frequently, the membership will quickly pay for itself.
In the same way as Priority Pass, DragonPass can be a suitable choice for individuals who frequently travel. Though they have some minor distinctions, Priority Pass and DragonPass are quite alike. In our analysis, we have highlighted why DragonPass may be a superior alternative to Priority Pass. However, it is worth mentioning that based on our observations, a majority of our European audience tends to favour Priority Pass over DragonPass.
The LoungeKey operates similarly to other lounge programs such as Priority Pass or DragonPass. However, unlike the others, it cannot be purchased with money. It is typically obtained through a credit card, such as Visa or Mastercard.
For those who do not travel often, a lounge membership may be too costly. However, there is a suitable option for those who still wish to access airport lounges without any long-term commitments. The solution is to purchase single-entry passes to various airport lounges, which are available through the British company, Lounge Pass. These vouchers are surprisingly affordable and can be cancelled at no extra cost. Many of our readers have already taken advantage of this valuable service, making their journeys more comfortable.
LoungeBuddy is an alternative platform for purchasing prepaid lounge vouchers. While its lounge selection differs only slightly from Lounge Pass, LoungeBuddy only accepts American Express as a form of payment.
Undoubtedly, it is a widely accepted fact that receiving things for free is enjoyable. However, the reality is that there are no such things as free meals. Nevertheless, if you have the right social connections, you might get lucky.
If your significant other holds a high status in the airline’s loyalty program, they may be able to bring you to the lounge without any additional charge while travelling together. There are also Priority Passes that offer complimentary guest access. However, gaining free access to a lounge always boils down to one factor: having the right connections. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to such connections.
Lounge Perks of Credit Cards
Many individuals may not be aware that they can obtain lounge memberships at no additional cost. High-end credit cards, such as American Express, often offer a great benefit of lounge access. For instance, American Express has its lounges in major airports, but it also collaborates with Priority Pass. By having an American Express card, one can acquire a lounge membership, similar to Priority Pass, without any additional fees.
Both Mastercard and Visa are working together with LoungeKey. Similar to Priority Pass, it cannot be purchased with cash alone. It is always linked to a payment card such as Curve Metal. LoungeKey offers a selection of approximately 1,000 lounges, while Priority Pass has a global network of 1,500 lounges or experiences.
Top Websites for Purchasing Lounge Passes
The preferred destination for purchasing lounge access among our readers is Lounge Pass. Each week, numerous readers take advantage of this option to enhance their travel experience. The great thing about Lounge Pass is that the vouchers are affordable and guarantee access to the lounge even during busy hours. Since the voucher only grants a one-time visit, there are no obligations or ongoing payments involved.
[affiliateLink? &partner=lounge-pass &linkId=5 &anchor=Lounge Pass]], a British company, offers passes for lounges across the globe. The passes can be purchased with a fee, but they can also be cancelled without any additional charges. As long as the pass is cancelled in case of changes in plans, the risk of an advance purchase is minimal. It is no wonder that people enjoy using Lounge Pass, as its interface is user-friendly and the booking process is quick and easy. Additionally, Lounge Pass is preferred over other options when one’s lounge membership is not valid.
Is It Worth Investing in Airport Lounges?
Having a relaxed start to your journey can greatly enhance your experience. For a reasonable price of approximately 40 euros or even less, you can have access to a lounge and enjoy a more tranquil environment.
It’s important to keep in mind how busy and chaotic airport restaurants can be. Additionally, many may not realize the high cost of snacks, coffee, or beer at these restaurants, and the atmosphere is often disrupted by loud noise. In contrast, airport lounges offer a peaceful atmosphere and allow you to start your journey with a calm and relaxed mindset.
It is common to receive a discounted price when reserving a lounge through [affiliateLink? &partner=lounge-pass &linkId=6 &anchor=Lounge Pass]]. Additionally, you can guarantee your lounge entry ahead of time. Opting to pay at the counter is typically the priciest option. However, this choice also comes with the drawback of potentially encountering full occupancy in busier airports.
There is no one universal solution for lounge access. We suggest examining various options and selecting the best fit for your needs.
Purchasing a business and first-class tickets are typically not a cost-effective choice. However, if someone else covers the cost of your ticket or you do not need to closely monitor your expenses, a business class ticket could be a suitable option. Not only does it grant access to the airport lounge, but it also maintains a high level of service throughout the entire trip. For most individuals, flying in business class is simply too costly, especially when travelling frequently.
For individuals travelling in economy class, finances are crucial in gaining entry to airport lounges. Make wise financial decisions! Consider carefully whether purchasing a lounge membership or a single lounge pass is more suitable for your needs. Before making a decision, verify if your airline’s loyalty program includes complimentary lounge access. Additionally, check if you can use your award miles to purchase a lounge voucher directly from the airline. In some cases, you may have enough award miles for a limited number of lounge visits, but for frequent travellers, it is advisable to invest in a lounge membership.
What is your preferred method of accessing lounges? Share your thoughts in the comments section.