So you are at the airport and are in transit or a long layover. If the airport is among the best airports in the world (Changi, Incheon, Munich etc.) with a large area, not congested and with excellent facilities for rest and recreation, then you can de-stress. If the airport does not have such amenities, then the best way to relax in an airport is at the lounge. Firstly, you get comfortable seating in a private sanctuary which is exclusive and away from the all the noise and crowds. Next, one can enjoy amenities such as complimentary beverages & snacks, Wi-Fi, newspapers & magazines and sometimes iPads / tablets for Internet access too. A lounge access is much valued by frequent flyers to get away from the travel annoyances.
Lounges are generally owned or controlled by airlines or airline alliances (Jet Airways, Emirates, Star Alliance Lounge), sometimes by hotels (Hilton Owners Access), by private contractors (Plaza Network) or by a card issuer (Amex). Entry to lounges is usually restricted to flyers with a first or business class ticket or if you have an annual membership which may cost significantly. But there are several other ways for someone with economy or coach class ticket to gain access to a lounge without coughing up double your ticket cost for that upgrade. Here are some of them:
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Your Platinum (or similar) Credit Card. So what if you pay annual fees for your credit card. If you get any one of the cards I have described before, you will get complimentary access to these lounges. To know which lounge/s you can get entry to, you should check with the card issuer or read the terms & conditions / features usually found on the respective credit card website. Complimentary access to the lounges may be limited to anything between 8 and 15 visits per year, which is good enough for a casual flyer. Some credit cards have affiliation with Priority Pass or similar lounge membership program and so the base membership is complimentary – which brings us to the next best way to gain entry to airport lounges.
Lounge Access Programs. You can get a lounge membership through a third party program which has partnered with airport lounges. The largest and most prominent among them is PriorityPass (www.prioritypass.com) which offers access to 600 lounges worldwide for an annual fee. You can choose from several membership levels starting at $99 all the way up to $399 depending on the number of free visits per year. A list of lounges is available at their website. Priority Pass also has apps for all major smartphones and tablets so you can search for the lounge suitable for you.
Get a Day Pass. You can buy a day pass for most lounges whether operated by airlines or by private contractor. In many cases if you purchase it online, you will get a discount than if you do buy at the airport. One good resource to buy a pass is www.LoungePass.com – this site allows you to search and purchase passes for over 200 lounges all over the world.
Lounge Membership Program. You can either get membership to an airline / alliance lounge or a private lounge. e.g. Plaza Network, a Hong Kong based company has lounges in many airports, including India. One can get lounge membership from these companies if it meets your requirements -say, you are a frequent flyer within Asia, then Plaza Network is a good bet.
Airline Frequent Flyer Membership. If you are loyal to an airline and have attained the elite status, you can enjoy lounge access not only in that airline lounge, but also the alliance it is part of. Therefore it makes sense to have a frequent flyer program which is part of an alliance that has a large network and has flights to maximum destinations.