How to Know if You Should Buy a One-Day Airport Lounge Pass

Flying business-class or above to an international destination often includes automatic access to airline lounges or clubs, and many frequent fliers purchase annual memberships in their preferred airline’s lounges for when they fly domestic. That’s all well and good, but what about occasional travelers—say, a family on vacation—flying to a domestic destination? Even if their tickets are for first- or business-class seats, they may not get the automatic lounge or access, and may be hesitant to buy admission at the gate. 

But for a lengthy layover, or when there’s a delay, buying a day pass to a lounge can be a huge help. Here’s how to know if the $50 admission fee is worth the money. 

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1. Write down a list of everything you want in the lounge. Seriously, everything. Do you want an open bar with unlimited cocktails? Do you want food? Does it need to be a proper hot meal? Do you need a quiet working space? Do you need free Wi-Fi? Do you need a shower? Write it all down, ideally in order of importance.

2. Consider what you would settle on. Would you settle for a cash bar with unlimited beer and wine, or maybe just free sodas? Would you settle for fresh fruit and crackers instead of a hot meal? Would you settle for an open desk instead of a dedicated work environment? Decide what’s acceptable and what’s a deal-breaker.

3. Go up to the lounge desk and ask lots of questions what the lounge has. Be as specific as possible, because this is decision time. Maybe the lounge does have hot food--but it’s only soup. Is that OK? Yes, they have free Wi-Fi, but no dedicated work spaces. Can you live with that? Some lounges charge $50 just to walk in the door—everything else, including any food, drink or Wi-Fi access, is extra. Be sure you know what's included in the lounge or club. It’s the lounge agent’s job to know exactly what’s inside, and you have every right to know if you’re getting your money’s worth, so ask away. Any decision you make should be an informed one.

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4. Armed with all these answers, take a minute and think carefully about what you want and what it’s worth to you. If you have a very lengthy layover that will cover two meals, and the lounge has a complimentary hot buffet and open bar, you may actually save money by spending $50 on lounge access rather than eating those two meals at a restaurant somewhere else in the airport. Do you really need a shower after a long flight or a day spent running around? That money could go a long way toward making you feel much more relaxed and comfortable before your flight. How much is feeling relaxed and comfortable worth to you? 

5. Make your decision, confident that it’s well-informed and that you’re getting exactly what you want. If you buy the pass, you’ll know exactly what to expect inside and you’ll know that you’re going to get your money’s worth. If you choose not to, you’ll have saved yourself disappointment and aggravation of buying a pass and not getting what you wanted.