Airport lounge access is a travel perk available with many premium credit cards, giving you the ability to escape from the crowds in the main terminal area and relax before your flight.
Keep reading to find out more about how they work.
What type of facilities can I expect in an airport lounge?
Restricted-entry airport lounges range from basic to luxuriously opulent. At the lowest end of the scale, your ‘lounge’ may actually be a bar or café on the ordinary passenger concourse, offering a discount on food and beverages to members (or single-entry pass holders) of specific lounge programs. The most opulent lounges may offer luxuries such as spa treatments, five-star dining, and personal transport between the airline’s check-in desk, the lounge, and the boarding gate.
In most lounges you will find many of the following facilities:
- Comfortable seating
- TV and movies
- Complimentary newspapers and magazines
- Complimentary food and beverages
- A dedicated working area, with desks, device charging points, free Wi-Fi, and access to a computer if you don’t have your own
- A ‘quiet area’
- Showers, with towels provided
- A screen with flight boarding information
Can I take guests into the lounge with me?
If your credit card lounge access comes in the form of two single-visit passes annually, you can normally use the second pass for someone travelling with you. Or you may be able to pay a fee (usually between $35 and $65) for your guest’s entry.
If your card gives you full membership of a specific lounge program, you may be able to admit a guest free of charge, but this is not always the case. Check the terms and conditions found either in the small print at the foot of the credit card’s web page, or in the link to a file with full terms and conditions.
How much is complimentary airport lounge access worth?
It depends on the level of access your card gives you, the quality of the lounge, and how often you travel.
Qantas lounges are mainly designed for Qantas Club members ($399 to join plus $450 per year), passengers travelling in Qantas business or first class seats, and high-tier frequent flyers. All of these lounge access methods require high expenditure, and Qantas lounges are very well-appointed, so even two single-entry passes are quite valuable.
Virgin Australia, Priority Pass and Delta SkyClub have similar programs, with joining and annual membership fees granting unlimited access.
Access to Véloce World, American Express and Diners Club lounges is limited to holders of specific credit cards, but it’s possible to argue that the value obtained is similar to that of programs with a joining and annual membership fee. For frequent travellers, membership of any program with unlimited lounge access is probably worth at least $500 per year.
Based on lounge programs which sell single-visit passes for guests or for travellers on their own linked airline, two single-visit passes are probably worth a total of between $75 and $130 per year.
Will I find a lounge affiliated with my program at every airport?
Most lounge programs belong to a network of affiliated lounges, so you will probably gain access to at least one lounge (and sometimes more) at the world’s major airports. You may not be so lucky at lesser airports.
Qantas and Virgin lounge members will have lots of choice in Australia, and also find affiliated lounges overseas. In Australia, very few airports outside the state capitals have lounges.
Single-entry passes may have restrictions, such as being only available for domestic lounges, or only for international lounges, so be sure to read the small print.
Can I rollover my unused lounge passes into the following year?
No. Single-entry passes must be used within 12 months. In a year where you aren’t travelling, and can’t use the passes, you will forfeit the benefit.
Is it worth paying a higher annual fee for a credit card with lounge access?
Frequent air travellers are very likely to find it worthwhile to pay for a card granting unlimited lounge access in one or more programs, since it saves them the cost of joining a lounge program and paying an annual fee. It is also likely that the kind of premium card which confers full lounge membership will also have other valuable complimentary benefits, such as rewards points, travel insurance and free flights or travel credits, all of which also help to justify the high annual fee.
Infrequent travellers would probably struggle to justify the cost for this kind of premium card. Even a less expensive card – one giving two single-visit passes annually – may still not justify its cost in any year where you don’t use the lounge passes and travel insurance.