You no longer have to be an elite traveler, a frequent flier, or even a passenger of a specific airline to enjoy the stress-free haven of an airport lounge. Over the past few years, several independent companies have nabbed real estate in the country’s busiest airports, bringing comfy armchairs, Wi-Fi, workspaces, snacks and drinks, and even spas and showers to anyone passing through the terminal with a few extra dollars to spare, usually between $25 and $50. And it’s not just travelers who’ve taken notice; airlines have upped their lounge game in response, with several opening their retreats to regular folks too. These lounges can be a life (and sanity) saver any time you have a long layover. And they are especially useful during the holiday season, when crowds are thick and weather delays common. Download the LoungeBuddy app (as well as other essential apps for holiday travel), and you’ll always know where to find the closest one.
Here are a few of the non-airline-affiliated lounges to look for. As for airline lounges, you can find one in most airports, and sometimes you can buy a day pass, even if you’re not flying that airline!
Fee: Starts at $19
What’s included: Lounge Pass is a booking site for day passes to more than 350 airport lounges in more than 100 countries. Prices start at $19 and the amenities vary by location.
Locations: There are too many list to here, but the website makes it easy to find the options in the airports you need.
Fee: Annual membership from $99; free membership for Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige card holders (among others).
What’s included: Priority Pass is like Lounge Pass, but it requires a membership fee up front—which then gives you free access. Amenities vary widely, but most lounges have complimentary Wi-Fi and snacks, outlets, TVs, and places to work; some have spas and private conference room. Members also receive discounts at airport restaurants and retail shops.
Locations: The Priority Pass network includes more than 1,300 lounges in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America.
Fee: Free to AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests.
What’s included: Elaborate food and drink, often prepared by well-known chefs; Wi-Fi; video games; lots of couches and private nooks; assistance with dinner reservations, flight info, event tickets, and more; printers, fax machines, copiers; TVs, magazines and newspapers; conference rooms at some locations; spa services at some locations; showers at some locations; luggage lockers at some locations.
Locations: Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH),Las Vegas (LAS), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco (SFO). Coming soon to Denver (DEN), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), London (LHR), Charlotte (CLT), and Phoenix (PHX).
What’s included: Wi-Fi; snacks and drinks (including wine, beer, and liquor); workstations, printers, fax machines, phones; TVs, magazines and newspapers; showers; conference rooms for an additional fee. Purchase day passes to The Club’s locations via the Lounge Pass website (see below).
Locations: Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL), Boston (BOS), Buffalo (BUF), Baltimore (BWI), Charleston (CHS), Cincinnati (CVG), Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW), Jacksonville (JAX), Las Vegas McCarran (LAS), London (LGW), London (LHR), Orlando (MCO), Pittsburgh (PIT), Seattle (SEA), and San José (SJC) airports.
Fee: From $20 (price varies depending on time of day); free entry for AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests.
What’s included: Wi-Fi; computers; power outlets at every seat; a credit for a free meal or alcoholic beverage (additional snacks, soft drinks, and coffees are available for free as well); printers, scanners; showers at the San Diego airport.
Locations: Cleveland Hopkins (CLE) and San Diego (SAN).
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I’m surprised that there was no mention of Priority Pass. I bought one prior to recent trip through Hong Kong and it was a life saver as we had a 9 hour layover. I was able to buy a discounted version of the pass for $49 for 1 year with each visit to a lounge costing $25 but there are other options. They have over 200 lounges world-wide.
Gary, there are two reasons I didn’t mention Priority Pass in this article. First, Priority Pass is geared to international fliers, and this article was geared to U.S. fliers. I wrote it right before the Thanksgiving holiday and was writing it specifically for the huge numbers of people flying within the U.S. over the busy Thanksgiving weekend (which can easily turn into travel hell at U.S. airports). The tactics I cited would help more than a Priority Pass membership would. (International Thanksgiving travelers would not have had time to get a Priority Pass membership before their flights anyway.) Second, I’ve heard a number of complaints about the quality of Priority Pass lounges. As an example, read the comment from reader Richard B. Altman here: