As a digital nomad, navigating the chaos of airports is a routine challenge. Airport lounges have become sanctuaries for frequent travelers like us. Let’s learn more about how to get access to these lounges, what to expect in the lounges, and some alternatives if your lounge gets too crowded.
Accessing Airport Lounges
The most straightforward way to access airport lounges is by flying business or first class. Lounge access is typically included in these premium tickets and gets you a luxurious pre-flight experience. Frequent flyers with elite status in airline loyalty programs can also enjoy lounge benefits. The higher your status, the wider the lounge access, often extending to partner airlines within alliances like Star Alliance or SkyTeam. Many credit cards, especially those branded with airlines or those designed for travel, offer lounge access. This can range from a limited number of annual passes to unlimited access, depending on the card’s tier and annual fees.
Independent lounge networks like Priority Pass or Dragon Pass allow membership access to a global network of lounges. These memberships come with varying levels of access and annual fees. For a one-time fee, many lounges offer day passes. This is a flexible option if you don’t frequently travel or prefer to pay as you go.
Credit Cards for Lounge Access
Credit cards offer one of the most versatile ways to access airport lounges. Unfortunately, many of these credit cards are only available for residents of the United States or Canada. Here are some notable examples:
- American Express Platinum Card (USA): Renowned for its extensive lounge access, the Amex Platinum Card grants entry to Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, and others within the Global Lounge Collection. This card is ideal for those seeking wide-ranging lounge options globally.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (USA): This card offers a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which allows access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide. It’s a great choice for frequent international travelers.
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card (USA): Specifically beneficial for Delta Airlines flyers, this card provides access to Delta Sky Clubs and Centurion Lounges when flying on a Delta-operated flight.
- United Explorer Card (USA): Offering a more budget-friendly option, this card includes two one-time passes to United Club lounges annually. It’s a good entry-level card for occasional lounge users.
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard (USA): For American Airlines flyers, this card grants access to Admirals Club lounges and includes a Priority Pass Select membership, making it valuable for those loyal to American Airlines.
- TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card (Canada): This Canadian option provides access to Maple Leaf Lounges, along with other travel benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags.
- Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite (Canada): Offering six passes per year to the Dragon Pass network, this card is a good middle ground in terms of annual fees and lounge access perks, especially for Canadian travelers.
Lounges are becoming increasingly crowded, especially during peak times, knowing how to navigate this situation is crucial. Arriving early at the lounge can help avoid peak time overcrowding. This also maximizes your time to enjoy the amenities. If your primary lounge choice is full, consider other lounges within the airport for which you may have access.
Be aware of the lounge’s operating hours, especially for early morning or late-night flights. Understand the specifics of your lounge access, whether through flight class, elite status, or credit cards, to avoid surprises at the lounge entrance. Be prepared to show your boarding pass and credit card or lounge access card when you enter the lounge.
Alternatives to Lounges
When lounges are inaccessible or overcrowded, consider staying in a sleeping pod or a nap cab. Many airports now offer these private, rentable spaces for rest. Look for meditation rooms, yoga spaces, or prayer rooms for a relaxing wait. Some airports also feature cultural displays or observation decks that offer entertainment and relaxation. While not as laidback as lounges, airport restaurants can offer a decent environment for a meal or to catch up on work.
For digital nomads who travel often, getting access to airport lounges may be a huge enhancement to your travel lifestyle. Many travel credit cards also include one or more guest passes, which means that you can bring your partner or digital nomad friends along. Although it is becoming a bit more difficult to get these extra passes, the lounge benefits including snacks, alcohol, showers, and sometimes even spa services can be well worth it. If you think that you may be eligible for lounge access but haven’t looked into it yet, I recommend that you give it a try.